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Partners in crime solving

This story was first published in The Straits Times on April 11, 2013

Crime fighting duo Kensi and Deeks of TV drama NCIS: Los Angeles have amassed thousands of fans for their love-hate relationship.

The pair, played by Portuguese beauty Daniela Ruah (Kensi) and American actor Eric Christian Olsen (Deeks), alternate between flirting with and throwing caustic words at each other in the show. Their fiery relationship has sparked numerous fan-created websites and blogs listing their favourite Kensi and Deeks moments.

Apparently, that unique relationship translates off-screen.

It is either a very well-rehearsed double act or a very connection strong between the two actors, but they tell Life! the story of how they met, in the same way, almost word-for-word - despite being in separate interview sessions.

In an office during a quick break from filming on the show's set at Paramount Studios, Los Angeles, Olsen, 35, says with a laugh: "I had just come on to the set for the very first time and I met Dani, whom I knew would be my work partner in the show. But the first thing she said to me was, 'I thought you were supposed to be tanned and muscle-ly, so what are you going to do about that?'

"And you know, I had never talked to her before. So I just said, 'I thought you were supposed to be good-looking, so what are you going to do about that?' And she just turned and walked away. I was like, wow, this is going to be work between us. But that has essentially become the relationship between our characters on the show."

In another interview, Ruah, 29, says of the incident: "We're just both really goofy people, and I didn't know anything about him. In fact, when I heard he's joining the cast, I was like, who? I looked him up on (online movie site) IMDB and was like, oh it's that guy that plays all these funny characters in the movies.

"For some reason, I just felt comfortable saying those things to him right from the start. There's this banter that we both share, which makes the chemistry between our characters work as well. It's sort of like, I love him as a friend, a brother and on all sorts of different levels."

On the series, which is now into its fourth season, Ruah plays a junior field agent while Olsen plays a liaison detective. The two are work partners and often go out to the field together.

The show, which follows the exploits of the Los Angeles-based Office Of Special Projects, an elite division of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service that specialises in undercover work, is a spin-off of the hugely popular NCIS (2003 to present).

Ruah adds with a laugh: "It's a good thing that Eric is not a sensitive guy at all. He's really unbreakable with whatever you say to him. He'll just be like, 'whatever, they're just words'."

So "insensitive" is Olsen that he often pokes fun at her comic talent, or lack thereof.

Olsen has a comedy background, having done film comedies including Not Another Teen Movie (2001), Dumb And Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd (2003) and The Hot Chick (2002).

Ruah recalls, pretending to sound annoyed: "Eric is really really great with comedy, so I told him once that I think I'll take comedy classes.

"But he's just like, 'Don't do that - you're so weird and awkward and you won't know what to do in the class.' I was like, 'Er, thank you?' But this is really just the way we always speak to each other, even when we're not acting."

The actress, on the other hand, comes from a background of Portuguese soap operas, such as Filha Do Ma (2001), and Tu E Eu (2006 to 2007).

She moved to the United States in 2007 to study acting at the Lee Strasberg Theatre And Film Institute in New York. After snagging the lead role in NCIS: Los Angeles in 2009, she has been based in the West Coast ever since.

Ruah, who is single, readily admits that she gets homesick for Portugal every now and then, especially in the months leading up to Christmas.

"At that point, I just want to go home. But then again, as soon as I get home, it's so weird because I'll want to come back to Los Angeles and see my friends and work. Basically, you're just never satisfied," she says with a chuckle.

Her "wonderful" cast mates, including rapper LL Cool J, baby-faced hunk Chris O'Donnell and Oscar-winning actress Linda Hunt (The Year Of Living Dangerously, 1983), also helped her to settle into the city, she adds.

"Everyone's become so fraternal and protective and nice. I remember my first year on the show, and it was Thanksgiving, which is something I don't celebrate. Everyone was on holiday and I had nowhere to go," she recalls.

"So Chris O'Donnell asked me to go over to his house for Thanksgiving, and I was just so touched by that gesture. It was just me, and his family, and there were all these kids running around. I felt at home immediately."

Before she gets too mushy, though, it is back to more teasing about her favourite target, Olsen.

"Did you know that Eric has a habit of making his face shown in every scene possible. Our scenes are shot with multiple cameras, and when he's done looking in one direction, he will suddenly turn and face the other camera.

"I always laugh at him for it, but it's actually a great way to always get your face on camera. It doesn't matter if it makes no sense for the scene," she says, laughing heartily.

Olsen, who is married to actress Sarah Wright, 29, and has no children, adds: "The relationship between Kensi and Deeks is just really beautiful and magical. They're both very flawed and human, and we're just really lucky to play these characters that a lot of people are emotionally invested in. I would watch these people on TV."

yipwy@sph.com.sg

This story was first published in The Straits Times on April 11, 2013

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