The Transformation Of NCIS's Pauley Perrette From 27 To 52 Years Old

For 15 years, Pauley Perrette entertained and inspired a generation in her role as the gothic forensic scientist Abby Sciuto on CBS' hit procedural "NCIS." Perrette left the series in 2018, and the show handled her character's exit in the most dramatic fashion: according to Express, Abby was on the run from a hitman who had already killed one of her colleagues, MI6 agent Clayton Reeves — played by Duane Henry. For her own safety, Abby decided to leave her team at the Navy and exile in England.

After leaving "NCIS," Perrette starred in the short-lived CBS sitcom "Broke." In it, she played a single mother whose estranged sister and husband lose all their money and have to move in with her. The show aired for one season in 2020, and Perrette then announced her retirement from acting.

While she may no longer be on our TVs every week, Perrette's characters are still in many people's hearts. Let's take a look back at Parrette's life on screen and witness her transformation from a working 27-year-old to a retired 52-year-old.

Pauley Perrette became an actor by accident

Unlike many successful actors who start almost as soon as they can walk, Pauley Perrette sort of stumbled into it. She described her origin story in a 2007 interview with Pop Entertainment. Perrette had moved to New York City to pursue her Master's degree in criminal science and found herself working part-time as a bartender. While bartending, she met a director who proceeded to put her in 15 of his projects. "[He put me in] everything from commercials, music videos to short films," she said. "Then, suddenly I was in this business. I never got to finish [the Master's]. I'd still like to."

These initial projects led to a bunch of small TV roles. In 1996, she appeared in an episode of "Frasier" (pictured above at age 27) and later had a regular role alongside Jennifer Garner and Jennifer Love Hewitt in "Time of Your Life." "That was one of those that actually made it to air for like a second," she said of the short-lived "Party of Five" spinoff.

Perrette also appeared in small roles in movies like "The Ring" and "Almost Famous." Perrette spoke very highly of "Almost Famous," telling Pop Entertainment, "That is the greatest film ever made. I love that." She continued, "I'm in that movie for like five seconds, but I'm still just so proud to be a part of it."

NCIS made Pauley Perrette a star

"NCIS" began in 2003, and Pauley Perrette's Abby Sciuto quickly drew tons of attention thanks to her heavy gothic style that seemed a bit ... out of place in a forensics lab. "[My boss Don Bellisario] thought alternative lifestyle people, or even people who dress alternatively, were always portrayed on TV as junkies or thieves," she told Pop Entertainment in 2007. "He wanted to put this character out there that had cat shoes and different kind of clothes who was not at all a junkie or a thief, but is overly capable. Overly smart. Overly good at her job. That's where he came up with Abby."

As the seasons went on, Abby became one of the most beloved characters from the show. "She is both salty and sweet," "NCIS" fan Karen Port told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in 2010. Perrette fully agreed. "People adore Abby," she told the paper. "I love her. I think she's awesome. I want to be her."

In a 2018 interview on "The Talk," Perrette spoke about Abby's status as a role model for young girls, particularly ones who want to go into STEM fields. "It has been enormous and overwhelming for young girls around the world ... to have modeled themselves after this TV character. It made math and science not only a viable plan for them, but it made it accessible and fun. And it inspired these girls, which has been so heartwarming," she said (via Deadline).

Perrette left NCIS amid tension with a co-star

In an October 2017 tweet, Pauley Perrette announced she would be leaving "NCIS" at the end of the season. "It was a decision made last year," she said in the tweet. She must have gotten bored playing the same character for 15 years. Nothing to see here right? Well ...

After her final "NCIS" appearance had aired that May, Perrette made a series of cryptic tweets that alarmed fans. "There is a "machine' keeping me silent, and feeding FALSE stories about me," she wrote. "A very rich, very powerful publicity 'machine' ... He did it." She then followed up, writing, "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."

Many believed she was referencing a 2016 incident with co-star Mark Harmon. Vanity Fair reports Harmon allegedly brought his dog on set, who ended up severely biting a crew member. After the incident, he continued to bring the dog on set, making many cast and crew members uncomfortable. Most of them were afraid to confront Harmon as the show's star/executive producer, but Perrette was not. From this point onward, she and Harmon never appeared in any scenes together, or were even scheduled to work on the same days.

A month later, Perrette tweeted, "NO I AM NOT COMING BACK! EVER! (Please stop asking?) I am terrified of Harmon and him attacking me. I have nightmares about it."

Pauley Perrette briefly starred in her own sitcom

After "NCIS," Pauley Perrette landed her first major non-ensemble starring role in the new CBS sitcom "Broke." In it, she plays a single mother whose high-class sister, played by comedian Natasha Leggero, and brother-in-law, played by Jaime Camil of "Jane the Virgin," move in after going completely broke, in a similar vein to "Schitt's Creek." When asked why she decided to take on the project, Perrette told TV Insider, "I wanted to do a comedy. Either that or retire."

Although the show was canceled before the first season even finished airing, Perrette has nothing but gratitude for her experience. "This show restored my faith in people, in this industry," she tweeted. "SO GRATEFUL ... Best people I've ever worked with. Healed me. Changed me. Made me whole. So Blessed." The tweet included a video message about the upcoming episode, called "Losing My Religion." In the video, she calls the episode "the most important half-hour of television I've ever done and the thing I'm the most proud of." She continued, "I hope it touches you as much as it did me."

When TV Insider asked if she was serious about retiring, Perrette said, "I was going to drink beer with my three dogs and watch television. My family, friends and pastor didn't think it was the best idea."

Now, Pauley Perrette is happily retired

As it turned out, Pauley Perrette was very serious about retiring. She officially announced her retirement in a July 2020 tweet. "I'm HAPPILY RETIRED! Finally! Woot! All I ever wanted!" she wrote. "Actually I retired after NCIS but BROKE was important, beautiful.I did my last dance & am proud of it! Everyone that knows me knew I was retiring right after. I'm proud of my work. I love you guys! I AM FREE!!! (To be the tiny little simple human I am!)"

Perrette has spent much of her newfound free time as she spent it in the past: working for charity. In a 2013 interview, she told David Letterman that she worked with 30 charities. She still regularly tweets about her charity work, from promoting Pride sneakers for the NOH8 campaign to celebrating 25 years of the LAPD's PAL program to helping Project Angel Food deliver its 14 millionth meal.

Perrette stays visible to her fans, tweeting often, and recently began regularly uploading to her YouTube channel, which boasts almost 14,000 subscribers. As for her next big creative endeavor? She has previously hinted at wanting to write. "My dream would be to be a reclusive, miserable writer. But I haven't had time," she told Pop Entertainment in 2007. "[I'd like] to lock myself inside and write for the rest of my life, but there's just too much going on. Still, my fantasy life is ahead of me, hopefully, where I can just sit and write the whole time."