NCIS Drama! Wilmer Valderrama and Sean Murray Reportedly Feuding Over Who Should Be Top-Billed After Mark Harmon’s Exit
They may play buds on CBS, but Wilmer Valderrama and Sean Murray’s drama on NCIS is far from Torres and McGee’s on-screen friendship.
NCIS is CBS’ police procedural drama following a team of special agents of the Naval Criminal Investigation Service — also known as the NCIS — the United States’ Navy’s federal law-enforcement agency which investigates criminal activities involving the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps and their families. Murray joined as NCIS Senior Field Agent Timothy McGee in Season 1, while Valderrama joined as NCIS Special Agent Nicholas Torres in Season 14.
In an interview with Entertainment Tonight in May 2023, Murray and Valderrama opened up about NCIS’ 20-plus year run. “It’s amazing. I mean, the fact that we’re not only still here we’ve got the incredible support of our fans who have been with us from the get-go pretty much and are still with us and still going,” Murray said. “We’re gonna keep plugging away as long as they let us.”
Valderrama added, “The fact that this show 20 years later, can still not only be welcome in people’s homes, but be still up and running and still be swinging and everyone’s still happy to be here. Still excited to keep swinging and the writers are still keeping it fresh, and the actors are not tired is a testament to the efficiency and most importantly the love that everybody puts into this. We like it here and we have a lot of fun.”
While Torres and McGee may be close partners on NCIS, there are rumors that their fan-favorite relationship is far from the case for the actors who play them in real life. Read on for what to know about Wilmer Valderrama and Sean Murray’s drama on NCIS and how it allegedly started.
Wilmer Valderrama and Sean Murray’s drama on NCIS explained
News of Wilmer Valderrama and Sean Murray’s drama started in March 2023 when Radar Online reported that the NCIS co-stars were feuding over who should be top-billed cast member after the series’ former lead, Mark Harmon, who played Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs, left in Season 19. Murray joined as Senior Field Agent Timothy McGee in Season 1, while Valderrama joined as Special Agent Nicholas Torres in Season 14.
“There’s no denying Mark’s departure gave their characters room to grow,” the insider said. “But you now have two actors who think they should be the star of the show.” The source continued, “Wilmer considers himself the primary star, but Sean has a bone to pick with that. Sean likes to rub it in Wilmer’s face that he’s got higher billing in the credits. Wilmer’s working to change that… They may claim to be buds in public, but they tend to annoy each other behind the scenes.”
A source told Radar Online in June 2023 that Valderrama and Murray’s drama also stemmed from Valderrama’s more dramatic storylines on NCIS — including the Season 20 finale cliffhanger in which Torres goes undercover in a jail to investigate a Russian terrorist a****k — after Harmon’s exit in 2021. “They may be playing buddy-buddy in the show promos, but they have to do that,” the inside said. “They’re still as competitive as they ever were — maybe more so now that Wilmer’s got it in his head that fans love him more!”
The source continued, “He’s throwing his weight around even more — and demanding perks for next season. Sean’s popular, too, and he gets top billing.”
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter in 2018, Valderrama opened up about joining NCIS 14 seasons in. “It’s pretty intense, man. They’ve carved out a place for them in pop culture that’s been almost two decades now, and to see what they’ve done in formula and science, and the fact that they stuck with the audience, it’s kind of crazy to think about,” he said. “Big tribute to Mark Harmon and the team and everybody there who’s made such a home in people’s hearts.”
He also told The Hollywood Reporter about what he wanted to bring that was different to the show. “I think my biggest concern was, ‘What can I contribute to this ongoing train? Can I come in there and make a real splash? Can I play something that they’ve never seen?’ ” he said.“But I was very empowered by the writers and the showrunners, and their idea was to develop a character who could hopefully expand the NCIS universe a little bit.”
He continued, “They found a section off NCIS that was an undercover world and developed a character that was very dark, very multilayered and fun and funny and grumpy. It was a really cool character, and I felt like it was something really fun that I could do for work. I mean, you do 24 episodes a season. You better like the character you’re playing.”
In an interview with CBS News in 2022, Valderrama also talked about Torres’ evolution on NCIS. “Season 20 just got picked up, so we have a runway and a canvas to do some things,” he said. “With this character, we’ve done the crossover episodes and we put him through a lot of trauma. There has been a lot of fracturing that has happened to him the last couple of years. Tonight, we uncover a lot of what he’s been and what he used to be. He is going to go through a tough transition as he decides what he wants to be. We have a case from the past and there is a love story intertwined in there that he was a part of and that comes full circle. It gives him something to really fight for or something to perhaps feel really guilty about. I think there is something about that that is going to be transformative for the character and he will never be the same after tonight.”
Valderrama, who has also starred in movies like Encanto and shows like That ’70s Show, also told the outlet about how he wants to star in roles that his daughter, Nakano Oceana, can connect to when she’s older. “I had a moment of reflection during Easter because I was looking at my daughter and she is 14 months old and she is walking around for the first time and I looked back at all the roles I’ve played and all the roles I want to play tomorrow,” he said. “They are directly attached and what reality do I want her to grow up into. I want to be responsible for those characters that are contributing to where we have to go next with content. I think a lot my next chapter will be creating characters that she will see herself in and feel connected to. I hope other audiences and young people can see that.”
NCIS is available to stream on Paramount Plus.