Here's Why Pauley Perrette Really Left Her Role As Abby On NCIS

For a decade and a half, Pauley Perrette starred on "NCIS" in the role of Abby Sciuto, the snarky, brilliant CSI with an offbeat fashion sense. Abby frequently proved essential in solving the plethora of crimes that landed in the team's lap, and Perrette seemed happy with the character's narrative trajectory for the majority of her run. "It's a total blessing. I love my job!" she shared with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in 2010. "People adore Abby. I love her. I think she's awesome. I want to be her. I'm just proud I've been able to move forward in this industry, keep my head on straight and not lose my mind!"

Perrette also spoke passionately about the character's influence on women in STEM, who wanted to follow her example. "Abby has been this incredible role model for young women," she said in a video (via E! News). "It's her job, her education, her prowess for math and science ... and I think that all those things combined make people look up to Abby the way I look up to Abby." 

Despite Perrette's continuing fondness for her character, she was growing increasingly unhappy behind the scenes. She departed in 2017, 15 seasons into her journey as Abby. Here's why Pauley Perrette left "NCIS."

Pauley Perette and Mark Harmon didn't see eye to eye

Pauley Perrette and "NCIS" star Mark Harmon, who played Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs, shared countless scenes and had obvious onscreen chemistry during their time on the show. As it turns out, though, their relationship was quite complicated in real life. According to People, Perrette took to X (then known as Twitter) in May 2018 to blame her "NCIS" departure on "multiple physical assaults" from someone on set. "I've been supporting anti-bullying programs forever," tweeted Perrette. "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."

While Perrette didn't name Harmon in her tweets at the time, Executive Producer Charles Floyd Johnson revealed to The Hollywood Reporter that Perrette's tension with Harmon and his dog was a factor in her decision to leave. "In Pauley Perrette's case, there was an incident with the show with a dog," said Johnson. "The dog was Harmon's, and apparently the dog bit someone. Pauley was a huge, huge SPCA [Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals] animal person." Johnson also revealed that the dog's continued presence on set concerned Perrette. "By the end of that year, she just felt like it wasn't working for her anymore, and it was time to move on."

Could Pauley Perette return to 'NCIS?'

Pauley Perrette doesn't appear to have any plans on returning to "NCIS" — at least, that was the case in 2019 when she passionately addressed fan inquiry into a possible return. "NO I AM NOT COMING BACK! EVER! (Please stop asking?)" Perrette tweeted (via People). Perrette also revealed, "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!"

With that said, "NCIS" boss Steven D. Binder floated the idea of weaving Perrette's Abby character back into the story -– just as he'd done after Harmon's 2021 departure. "We are always thinking about ways to involve [Gibbs] in a way that doesn't 'rip off the scab' and doesn't ruin what I thought was the only fitting send-off for this guy," Binder shared with TV Line. "I want to start doing that with Abby's character as well. I'd like to start feeling her [presence] a little more." Binder also acknowledged that they'd waited several years to take this approach, explaining, "There are so many moving parts ... but she is still out there fighting the good fight and watching us, and she is a part of us and we're a part of her."