The Life Story Of The Incredible Cote De Pablo


If you’re an NCIS fan, you probably know Ziva David played by Cote de Pablo. In recent years, the Chilean actress and singer has reached high levels of fame and success. So who is the woman behind the character? As it turns out, things weren’t always easy for the NCIS star. Let’s take a look at the amazing and inspiring life story of the well known Cote de Pablo.

She Started Out As A Waitress

Everyone has to start somewhere. And for Cote de Pablo, things weren’t any different. After graduating from Carnegie Mellon University (where she studied music and theater), she was jobless and thus had to find something to do.

Like many other aspiring actors, she decided to move to New York City in order to find work. While she was there, she worked as a waitress at an Indian restaurant in Manhattan. Little did she know, she’d soon be on top of the world.

She Couldn’t Find Her Place At First

Cote was born in Santiago, Chile and moved to the United States when she was ten years old. Adjusting to a new country was tough on her at first. However, once she went to a performing arts high school, she began finding her place.

In one interview she described the experience, “….my friend had the perfect saying for it: ‘You found your tribe.’ We’re not Chilean or Argentinean or Brazilian or Russian. We’re actors.” She is a member of a larger community. 

She Started Acting Already At Age 15

Cote knew from a very young age that she wanted to act and she was highly motivated to succeed. Already at age 15, she landed her first television role. This luck would sink down, befor rising to very high heights.

Before attending university, she co-hosted the Latin-American talk show Control along with Entertainment Tonight host Carlos Ponce. This was only the beginning of her successful career. One day, Cote would be huge in Hollywood.

She Originally Wanted To Be A Secretary

Believe it or not, Cote had more humble aspirations when she was younger. In fact, she wanted to be a secretary. In one interview with TV Guide, she said,  “I, believe it or not, wanted to be a secretary, much like Maggie Gyllenhaal in The Secretary. 

I had clips all over and markers, and you know, the old-fashioned typewriters… I like to follow direction… and, by the way, I became an actor, so I’m kind of doing it anyway.” She is quite an old-fashioned type of woman. 

Cote de Pablo Is Not Her Real Name

When Cote was ten years old she moved to Miami, Florida. However, people couldn’t pronounce her real name: María José de Pablo properly. So she decided to change it to “Coté” which is a Chilean nickname for her original name. 

Cote was once quoted saying, “…I told them to call me Coty. Then I found out there was a beauty line called Coty, and I hated that! So I changed it to Cote [KOH-teh]. A lot of people don’t get it, but in Chile, if your name is María José, they call you Cote.”

Her Teacher Helped Her Find Her Path

Learning English was a challenging experience for Cote. However, her fifth-grade teacher helped her find the way. One of the first words she knew in English was “run.” So this teacher helped her gain a sense of belonging by becoming a track and field star.

In one interview for The Late Show with David Letterman she described the experience: “…before I knew it, I was a little track and field star. And I remember, he would say in the middle of a competition, he would scream and get very red and scream, ‘Cote, run!’ And that’s all I knew.”

She Faced A Crossroad: Broadway Or Television?

Cote studied musical theater in high school so it only made sense for her to continue on the same path. She was offered to do The Mambo Kings Broadway show. At the same time, the opportunity for NCIS, an action television series about a team of special agents, came up.

She was at a crossroad. But then the Broadway show was canceled and so she took the part for NCIS. She hopes to return to the stage one day. In one interview she said, “it’s something still pending that I want to do.”

The Role That Changed Her life

When Cote took the role for NCIS as Ziva David, an Israeli Mossad officer who becomes an NCIS agent, she was taking a risk. She did not know if it would be a success or not. However, as it turns out, it was the role that changed her life.

It became the foundation of her successful acting career. She ended up doing the show for eight years and became one of the most favorite celebrities in the USA and definitely the greatest actress on NCIS.

She And Michael Weatherly Had Immediate Chemistry

During Cote’s audition for her role as Ziva David for NCIS, she was asked to act alongside Michael Weatherly. The network executives wanted to see if they had chemistry. And as it turns out, the chemistry was there. During the audition, Weatherly went off-script.

He brushed Cote’s hair and said, “you remind me of Salma Hayek.” Cote brushed him off. The mix of her temper and his flirtiness made for great on-screen chemistry. Their will-they, won’t-they relationship ended up being one of the most memorable parts of the series.

No Longer Missing In Action

The masses around the world are still talking about the amazing on-screen relationship between Cote De Pablo and Michael Weatherly. They have been calling for her to bring back to life the beloved character of Ziva David.

That won’t happen, but she will reunite with Michael and become an executive producer of a new crime drama called MIA. We can expect to amazing. There are always sparks flying when you get these two together on the same set.

Her First Great Love

In 2000, Cote de Pablo had a good friend named Diego Serrano, best known for being featured on the Fox series Time of Your Life. The two hit it off and ended up dating for fifteen years. Serrano would often tell Cote, “live a little.”

In one interview Cote described their relationship, “I’ll have chicken with broccoli and he’s like. ‘What about the chocolate cake?’ If it weren’t for him, I’d be the most boring person in Los Angeles.”

One Of The Biggest Challenges During NCIS

Being an actress can be challenging at times. Especially when you have to memorize a script. However, in Cote’s case, she faced an even bigger challenge, but don’t worry, she was strong enough to overcome anything.

Two days before she was supposed to appear on the show, she was given a script of a long phone conversation. The catch? It was all in Hebrew. She had 48 hours to learn a huge Hebrew monologue. She didn’t rest or sleep for two days but ended up succeeding!

Fans Signed A Petition: Bring Ziva Back

Ziva David was one of the most loved characters of the show. So it comes as no surprise that fans were having a tough time accepting her absence. In fact, they decided to do something about it and sign an online petition. began flooding CBS with emails and letters of fans asking to bring Ziva David back. However, while CBS offered Cote a lot of money, she ended up refusing. She was over the role and wanted to take on different projects. Ziva’s mission is complete.

She Dealt With Health Struggles

While Cote had much success in her career, things didn’t always go smoothly for her. At one point, she gained fifteen pounds within two months. She wanted to get off the birth control pill since she thought she might want to get pregnant.

However, she ended up gaining a lot of weight. She described the struggle, “I gained fifteen pounds in my belly because it felt like it was pregnant. It was an eye-opener.” She had to change the way that she was living. 

On Diego Serrano: “He’s The Worst Influence That I Have Ever Had”

While Cote was in a relationship with Diego Serrano, they were a very happy couple but also very different from one another. Serrano was a party-lover while Cote loved spending time relaxing at home. It wasn’t exactly a match made in heaven.

In interviews, Cote would say that they balance each other out. Cote described how their differences affected her, “he’s the worst influence that I have ever had in my life, and I love him for it.” She had allowed herself to bloom.

The Heartbreak

Unfortunately, after fifteen years together, Cote de Pablo and Diego Serrano ended up splitting up. The reason for their break up is unknown- neither Deigo nor Cote commented on the separation. It was left in the quiet.

Cote is a very private person and so she chooses not to publicize the real reason. Since the break-up, she hasn’t been dating anyone publicly. She has put all her energy into her career and has done some very great things.

She Had A Spiritual Awakening

Cote grew up in a Catholic environment back in Chile. However, only when she was 21 years old, her connection to god solidified. At the time, Cote’s grandmother got cancer and de Pablo was devastated.

She was very angry and said to God,  “If you exist, you will take my grandmother within twenty minutes. If you don’t, I’ll never believe in you again.” Within ten minutes, her grandmother passed away. After that, Cote’s connection to religion grew stronger. 

She Is Actually Terrified Of Guns

On NCIS, de Pablo played a former Israeli special forces veteran. Her character specialized in assassinations and sabotage. However, in real life, Cote could never take up such a job. She is just a big soft soul in reality and couldn’t harm a fly.

Before the show, she never fired a gun. In fact, she is terrified of guns. Guess she is a very good actress because it sure didn’t seem that way on the show! She mastered what it was to be a very tough person.

She Does Her Own Stunts

While Cote may be afraid of guns, she is certainly not afraid of a little adrenaline rush. In fact, she used to do her own stunts on NCIS. She described the challenge, “In one episode…we had to pretend the truck was moving so we had to keep ourselves moving the whole time.”

She further stated that, “I remember my knees were all bruised up because I had to fall so many times.” However, she has stated that she enjoys coming home after a long day of filming stunts because it comes with a sense of satisfaction.

She Was Injured Several Times On NCIS

Doing your own stunts is a risky business. Cote de Pablo ended up getting injured several times while doing them on NCIS. Since stunts require creating an explosion, there is usually only one chance at shooting it.

So there was a lot of pressure to get it right. During one stunt, Cote wasn’t able to do a rehearsal and ended up hurting her neck. Luckily, she did eventually heal. That said, she would be more careful from that point on and not take such risk.

She Is Relatively Unknown In Chile

While Cote de Pablo starred in one of the most popular TV shows in the world for eight years, not many people recognize her back home in Santiago, Chile. However, Cote actually likes the feeling of being anonymous for a bit.

She can go back home and enjoy the peace for a while. Though she does admit that she also loves it when someone from Chile recognizes her and approaches her, “It is different when an American says this than someone from Santiago.”

She Is Very Private And Doesn’t Use Social Media

In today’s day and age, everyone has several social media accounts. Except for Cote de Pablo. That’s right. The NCIS star is very private and is not interested in showcasing her life online. In fact, she doesn’t use social media at all.

She claims that many celebrities nowadays complain about having no privacy yet at the same time they all constantly update their social media accounts. Hmm, maybe she has a point. She seems to have beat the system that brings everyone dismay.

Her Other Love: Singing

While Cote de Pablo never ended up doing the Broadway show The Mambo Sings, she hasn’t forgotten about her love of singing. In fact, de Pablo performed a part of Tom Waits’ song Temptation on the NCIS episode Last Man Standing.

Her performance of the full song appears on NCIS: The Official TV Soundtrack. She also sings in Roberto Pitre’s album Vivo En Vida. Many people didn’t expect her to have such an amazing singing voice, but the world was completely shocked.

Life After NCIS

Leaving NCIS was not planned for de Pablo. After the show, she stated she will only take out-of-the-box roles which give her the creative freedom she desires. She is now taking a number of roles that are different from her NCIS character.

She has done a few projects since then including the drama film The 33 and the CBS miniseries The Dovekeepers. However, she has yet to find the perfect project which will work out for her in the long term.

She Follows Her Own Path

De Pablo has made a name for herself as a strong personality. She has never been afraid to follow her own path, both career-wise and in her personal life. In one interview for Latina, she spoke about this,

“the last time I was home visiting Chile, I was grilled about having kids and about whether I would baptize a child when I have one. Our lives are just very different. I’m not sure if they agree, but I’m not giving up my opinion.” 

Her Net Worth Is $4 Million

Cote de Pablo has managed to establish herself in the industry as a very successful actress. She is multi-talented and very liked by fans. Her immense success and global recognition come with a high net-worth of $4 million.

It looks like all her hard work is paying off. It seems like a bright future is ahead of her- so we are expecting this number to continue to grow. We have to wonder what is next for Cote in the future to come.

She Is Actually An “Old Soul”

While Cote de Pablo has enjoyed the Hollywood lifestyle, deep inside she is actually “not a glamorous person”, as she has described it. Shes comes from a more conservative and traditional world.

In the past, she has described herself as an “old soul” and a “hippie.” In one interview she mentioned that she would actually make a great older character as an actress. As she is aging, she may fall right into that beautiful elderly character.

Yoga Helps Keep Her Centered

There are many benefits to practicing yoga. It helps increase flexibility, improve energy, and help our overall health. After de Pablo got a neck injury from doing a stunt on NCIS, she decided to get involved in yoga.

Nowadays, she practices flow Vinyasa, or breath synchronized yoga, four or five days a week. The sport helps keep her centered. Without her sports, she would likely face a lot of unhappiness. We’re happy she has some balance.

The Project That Hit Close To Home

One particular project de Pablo did after NCIS was the film The 33. The film is based on the true story of 33 Chilean miners who survived, for 69 days, in a collapsed mine. In the film, de Pablo plays the pregnant wife of miner Álex Vega.

The filming brought her back to her roots, she clearly remembers the incident the film is based on. In an interview for, she said: “I’m Chilean, so it really hit close to home…I saw the first, the second and the third [miners] come out and I remember I was just a mess! It was an incredible thing, and the world was glued.”

Cote De Pablo Today

Cote de Pablo has come a long way since she was fifteen years old and the host of “Control” alongside Carlos Ponce. Nowadays she is both a popular actress and singer. Her albums sold man copies both in the United States and abroad.

Her award-winning NCIS performance as Ziva David is one thing that will be remembered for years to come. It’s only a matter of time until she finds the next big project which will once again capture the attention of audiences worldwide.

The Real Reason She Left NCIS

After eight years on NCIS, de Pablo surprised fans by leaving the show. At first, it was reported that she is leaving for “undisclosed reasons.” However, later her reason was publicized: “scripts not being good enough” and “the character was not being treated with the respect that she deserved.”

In one interview for TV Guide she described her last day, “I’m horrible at saying goodbyes, because I’ve been saying goodbyes ever since I left my country [Chile] when I was 10, so even though I did not utter the word goodbye, I was able to hug them and let them know how much I loved them. And that’s all that matters.”