Why Did Lauren Holly Leave Ncis? Jenny Shepard Character’S Exit Explored


In the sprawling saga of CBS’s NCIS, few departures have sparked as much conversation as the dramatic exit of Director Jenny Shepard, played by Lauren Holly. Jenny Shepard’s tenure was marked by a blend of stern leadership and a complicated personal history, particularly with the show’s protagonist, Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs.

Beginning with the third season of the show, Lauren Holly joined the NCIS family, and her casting was nothing short of a casting coup. She gave Director Jenny Shepard a fierce will and a subtle fragility that the audience connected with, solidifying her place as a beloved figure. Her quick rise to the top of the fandom made the show’s daring narrative shift all the more stunning. Season five brought a sinister turn to the story, which left Shepard with a terrifying epilogue. The show’s most captivating character, Holly, abruptly and brutally passed away, leaving the audience stunned by her violent and unexpected death. Holly was recognized for her imposing presence.

The heart of Jenny Shpard’s departure from NCIS

Holly’s own analysis points to a convergence where life is dictating art, or art copying life. Back in 2009, the actress discussed her dissatisfaction with her directing job on her own website, which aligned with the show’s artistic direction to bring Jenny Shepard’s story to a close. Holly didn’t seem devastated by the decision; rather, she seemed to be in agreement with the writers’ vision and was fairly pragmatic about the artistic decision to kill her character.

“To be honest, now that the work bug had bitten me again, I got bored with my part of the ‘Director.’ Then the decision was made to kill me, and boy did they. About five different ways!”

Holly’s words aptly punctuate the definitive nature of Jenny Shepard’s departure.

Digging into the storylines of NCIS, Jenny Shepard was a character with an intricate past, woven deeply with Gibbs’. The pair shared a professional and personal history, having been entangled romantically during a European undercover operation. With Shepard’s appointment as NCIS director, their relationship added layers of tension and unresolved emotion to the series.


Their dynamic continued to evolve until Jenny Shepard’s storyline reached a crescendo in a fateful showdown in an abandoned diner (Season 5 Episode 18). Accompanied by Gibbs’ mentor, Mike Franks, Shepard engaged in a deadly shootout with hitmen, succumbing to her injuries. The discovery of her body by NCIS agents Tony DiNozzo and Ziva David delivered a poignant blow to the team, particularly Gibbs.

Final Thoughts

Holly’s tenure on NCIS, albeit brief in the grand scheme of the series, left an unforgettable mark on the narrative. Following her exit, she made sporadic appearances, haunting Gibbs in a series of visions and dreams, with her last cameo alongside Mark Harmon occurring in 2015. Beyond the confines of the NCIS universe, Holly has not slowed down, her post-Director Shepard years have seen her grace various roles across an array of television series. From her involvement in Motive and Hailey Dean Mystery to more recent ventures such as Designated Survivor and Tiny Pretty Things, Holly continues to demonstrate her versatility and passion for her craft.

Rocky Carroll’s character, Leon Vance, took over as NCIS director after Holly’s character was replaced, and he has been in charge of the Washington section ever since.

With a cast of frequently changing individuals offering new stories and captivating viewers for an astounding twenty seasons, the show has prospered on change. Holly’s departure serves as a reminder of how the program, like the careers of its varied ensemble, may change and surprise viewers. As the show progresses and bravely forges ahead, viewers may expect even more surprises and turns.