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The shocking reason why Pauley Perrette really left NCIS

The actress bowed out of the procedural in 2018 after 15 years on the show


 Pauley Perrette in NCIS© Adam Rose/CBS via Getty Images
Eve Crosbie
TV & Film Writer
Updated: February 12, 2024
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To say that Abby Sciuto, played by Pauley Perrette, was a fan favourite on NCIS would be something of an understatement. The forensic scientist was loved by viewers for her Gothic dress sense which contrasted with her eternally perky attitude. In fact, at one point, Pauley was one of the most popular actresses on US primetime television.

As such, it wasn't surprising that fans were devastated when she announced her decision to leave the show. So why exactly did she quit and what has she said about it? Keep reading for the lowdown...

WATCH: Pauley Perrett left NCIS back in 2018 after more than 15 years on the show

Pauley's exit at the end of season 15 of NCIS came as something of a shock to fans. On the show, her character resigned after an assassination attempt, but according to multiple reports, the real reason she left was because she had falling out with series lead Mark Harmon.

The two stars reportedly had a number of clashes behind the scenes in 2016 after the Gibbs actor brought his dog to set, where it bit a crew member leaving him needing 15 stitches. Tellingly, the pair did not share the screen together during Pauley's emotional final episode. Instead, Abby bid farewell to her other colleagues at NCIS HQ and simply delivered a letter for Gibbs and watched from the street as he read it.

ncis pauley perrette© Photo: Getty Images
Pauley depicted Abby Sciuto in the CBS drama

In the days following the episode's broadcast, Pauley took to Twitter with a series of vague tweets which seemingly referenced the incident. The first read: "I refused to go low, that's why I've never told publicly what happened. But there are tabloid articles out there that are telling total lies about me. If you believe them? Please leave me alone. You clearly don't know me. (Sorry guys, had to be said)."

The following day, she added: "Maybe I'm wrong for not 'spilling the beans.' Telling the story, THE TRUTH. I feel I have to protect my crew, jobs and so many people. But at what cost? I don't know. Just know, I'm trying to do the right thing, but maybe silence isn't the right thing about crime. I'm... Just... ?"

pauley mark 1© Photo: Getty Images
Pauley and Mark reportedly had a number of behind the scenes clashes

She continued: "There is a 'machine' keeping me silent, and feeding FALSE stories about me. A very rich, very powerful publicity 'machine'. No morals, no obligation to truth, and I'm just left here, reading the lies, trying to protect my crew. Trying to remain calm. He did it." Perrette ended that stream of tweets with one final thought: "I've been supporting ant[i]-bullying programs forever. But now I KNOW because it was ME! If it's school or work, that you're required to go to? It's horrifying. I left. Multiple Physical Assaults. I REALLY get it now. Stay safe. Nothing is worth your safety. Tell someone."

At the time, CBS released its own statement: "Pauley Perrette had a terrific run on NCIS and we are all going to miss her," it read. "Over a year ago, Pauley came to us with a workplace concern. We took the matter seriously and worked with her to find a resolution. We are committed to a safe work environment on all our shows."

"Twofer" -- NCIS is called in to investigate when the body of a missing Navy Lieutenant who disappeared a year and a half ago is located by a cemetery grounds crew while they are relocating caskets on the property. Also, Gibbs and McGee must pass a psych evaluation with Doctor Grace Confalone (Laura San Giacomo) before officially resuming all work responsibilities, on NCIS. Pictured:  David McCallum, Brian Dietzen, Pauley Perrette.© Getty Images
Pauley left the drama after 15 years

In 2019, Pauley again took to Twitter after receiving countless messages from confused and upset fans, wondering if she would ever reprise her role in the much-loved procedural. She wrote: "NO I AM NOT COMING BACK! EVER! (Please stop asking?) I am terrified of Harmon and him attacking me. I have nightmares about it. I have a new show that is SAFE AND HAPPY! You'll love it! #HappyPlace Love y'all!"

Executive producer Charles Floyd Johnson has since addressed Pauley's exit. Recalling an on-set incident that sparked tension, he told The Hollywood Reporter last year: "In Pauley Perrette's case, there was an incident with the show with a dog.

"The dog was Mark Harmon's, and apparently the dog bit someone. Pauley was a huge, huge SPCA [Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals] animal person. And then the dog kept coming with Harmon, and she felt it wasn't safe for the show. By the end of that year, she just felt like it wasn't working for her anymore, and it was time to move on."

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