So long, Mike Franks

May 13, 2011

Last year about this time, I was in North Carolina at the Gideon Film Festival to meet some of my online friends and to hopefully get a chance to meet Muse Watson, the actor who plays Mike Franks on NCIS. We had gone down the road for breakfast and then returned to the conference center and sat on the patio, enjoying the sunshine and the company when up the stairs came a group led by the long, lean, silver haired actor we’d come to see.

Muse walked over to our group, chatting with us for 45 minutes about NCIS, Shakespeare, and the real story of his missing finger. Like a proud papa, he told us about his daughter, her horseback riding, and a party she’d gone to at Danny DeVito’s home. I grew to like and to respect this man who took so much time to visit with fans.

Muse and me

Muse showed us that he still has his trigger finger.

The following September the same 3 fans met up again in Hollywood for NCIS FanFest. Muse was there and when he saw us, he told those in line waiting to meet him that we’d followed him across the country. He posed for pictures, signed the pictures we’d brought of our group we’d taken in NC, and visited for a few minutes. He meets so many people and knows no stranger.

I follow Muse on Facebook and I know that he was hoping for another chance for Mike to make the trip to visit his Probie. The fans started letter writing campaigns, but I was having trouble figuring out what story was left to tell. There are only so many things you can do with a retired NCIS agent, and with the Mexico storyline wrapped up, it seemed to me that we might have seen the last of Mike. I’d hoped maybe he’d rebuild on his little patch of heaven and live out his days napping in the sun and drinking cervesas. The alternative…well…we saw that this week.

The title of the episode, “Swan Song” was ominous. Seeing Mike’s name in the PR for the episode raised alarms. The Hamlet’s ghost-like sneak preview had me thinking there had to be a way around the obvious. I was wrong.

I’m going to miss Mike Franks. When he showed up he brought depth to Gibbs’ character. He was just starting to do the same with Tony, and I was hoping for some quality Franks/McGee interaction. But what’s more, I’m sorry that Muse lost such a great recurring gig. I’m hoping he doesn’t have to fall back on serial killer roles, especially since Mike was killed by one.

Here’s to Mike Franks. He was one of a kind. And here’s to Muse Watson. May he find another gig that is as kind to him as NCIS was.

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  1. I was shocked and dismayed at the death of Mike Franks. He was an integral part of the supporting cast and will be missed! The writers could have and should have found another story line for Mike.

  2. NCIS has a bad habit of killing off characters that are loved instead of just writing them out. We are still mad about Kate being killed only to bring in Zeva who we have never liked. Now Mike Franks, why not Leon? NCIS has lost a lot of its charm through the years and this final assassination of loved character.

    • Well, it looks like the writers of NCIS heard some of our cries and figured out a way to bring Mike Franks back into at least one more episode. I, too, don’t understand why they (writers) so frequently kill off characters rather than finding more creative ways to write them out. It would seem that being more creative would also make it easier to bring back these beloved characters periodically which would elate the many, many fans. I mean, without the fans where would these shows be?
      It’s not the ideal result, but if the only way I will be able to get periodic ‘Mike Franks’ fixes is for dream sequences or Gibbs recalling back when….. I will be happy.

  3. Ua gotta understand folks- Mike Franks was the only guy that could correct L J Gibbs. How can you lose him. Grief

  4. I really enjoyed Mike Franks, I too wonder why he was removed from the show. He was old school & reminded me of my dad in his way of doing things.

  5. Don’t give up on Mike Franks. I’ve been around the block a time or two (I’m 7 years older than Muse, and have some time of my own on stage and film*) and I know how creative writers can be (I.E. The Return of Sherlock Holmes was a classic). Mike can still appear in “flash backs” and “Ghost Visits” (“What would Frank have done/said?”). As for killing off characters, one has to remember that actors and actresses are real people with real lives outside their roles. As one can see in Muse’s credits, real actors like to play a variety of roles, and being “locked in” to a single character too long can be a death blow to an actor’s career when a series ends. I will greatly miss Ziva David, but I suspect Cote De Pablo would like to do something else. And, of course, as we have seen, so long as the actor is still alive and willing, any character can be brought back for cameo roles. *(Background talent like myself – “Extras” – rarely get “credits” so you won’t likely find me or my fellows on IMDB, but we practically “live” behind the scenes. We are the couple at the table behind the stars in a restaurant, the guy on a train behind the hero, the gal in the swimsuit that walks through the scene (and hopefully makes your eyes bug out). We are the people that “fill in the background” to make the movie look “real”. Often we work for free just to be seen and get our names on the casting directors’ list. Background talent are the unsung heroes that make movies believable. Remember that carpenter, Harrison Ford?)

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