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The Real Reason Duane Henry Left NCIS

CBS crime drama NCIS has seen many faces come and go over the course of its 17-season run. While every fresh addition has brought a little something different to the show, few new recruits have excited fans like the former MI6 agent who was assigned to the NCIS International Desk, Clayton Reeves (Duane Henry). The dapper Brit was a breath of fresh air, thanks in no small part to Duane Henry's charming performance.

Fans were devastated, however, when, after two seasons as a series co-star. Reeves was unexpectedly killed off. Although the character had been on the show a short time, he'd already made enough of an impression that his death left fans wanting more. His demise was especially shocking considering it happened in conjunction with longtime series regular Pauley Perrette exiting the show. This caused some suspicion about why, exactly, producers felt the need to off Reeves. As it turns out, the real reason Duane Henry left NCIS is almost as tragic as his character's death on the show.

Clayton Reeves' shocking death on NCIS

Clayton Reeves' demise came very unexpectedly toward the end of the show's 15th season, in the episode "One Step Forward." After Reeves is invited as Abby's (Pauley Perrette) plus-one to a dinner at a hip new restaurant, the two colleagues are walking home when a mugger brandishes a gun at them and demands money. Reeves complies, handing over his wallet, but Abby stutters and tells the mugger, "We can just talk, and I can help you."

That wasn't what the mugger wanted to hear. Even after Reeves thrusts Abby's purse at him, the mugger says, "You think you're better than me?" and then fires off a shot as the screen goes blank. It isn't until the following episode, "Two Steps Back," that we learn of the tragic consequences of the shooting. At the beginning of the episode, members of the NCIS team convene in the autopsy room, where Reeves' body is on the table. Apparently, he jumped in front of Abby at the last minute, saving her from the mugger's bullet, but sacrificing himself in the process.

Reeves' death has a profound effect on Abby, so much so that she announces that she is leaving NCIS for good. While Pauley Perrette's departure from the show was known to be coming for a while before Abby's last episode, the fact that both she and Henry left in such a sad manner rocked fans.

Exactly why NCIS producers killed off Clayton Reeves

Of course, as with many departures from the long-running crime procedural, there's the narrative reason why a character is no longer on the show, and then there's the real reason. In the case of Duane Henry, both of those reasons left fans saddened and stunned.

As it turns out, Clayton Reeves was the creation of Gary Glasberg, one of the showrunners of NCIS, who passed away in 2016. In an interview with TVLine after his character's death, Henry revealed what became of Reeves once his creator was no longer alive. "So when Gary passed, I was feeling a bit of panic in people's faces," he said. "I kind of got my bearings together and thought, 'What's going to happen now with the character?'"

Henry's instincts ended up being spot-on. After Glasberg's untimely death, producers simply didn't know how the character of Clayton Reeves fit into the show. Without the character's creator, they were left without a plan, and couldn't figure one out themselves. So, they ultimately decided to solve the problem by killing him off.

After the dust settled, Henry opened up about how he really felt about the fate of his character.

How Duane Henry felt about his NCIS character's death

In his interview with TVLine, Henry did speak on his feelings regarding his character's death. The actor was not only pleased with the conclusion to Reeves' arc, but said, "I have had the best exit, I think, for a show in America for somebody who's not from here...You can't ask for a better exit."

He went on to speak of his friendship with co-star Pauley Perrette, who he said took him in after finding out he was homeless and couch surfing. Henry reiterated his feelings in an emotional social media post, in which he revealed that, during the filming of NCIS, he experienced the death of both his girlfriend and his mentor. "[I] can honestly say I don't know how I would have dealt with these losses without coming into work putting [a] suit on and playing Clayton Reeves, along with an historic exit with ... Pauley Perrette, who I could not have wished for a better person to die for on the show."

In the post, he also thanked the family of Gary Glasberg, who he said, "changed my life." It seems that even though his character couldn't find his place on the show, Duane Henry left NCIS on good terms.