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The Transformation Of Pauley Perrette From Childhood To NCIS

As the longtime forensic scientist with an iconic goth style named Abby Sciuto on "NCIS," Pauley Perrette is a highly recognizable face in the acting world. But the television actress's life didn't start there, and Perrette went through quite a lot before joining CBS's hit crime procedural "NCIS."

Perrette was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, but she lived in many places around the United States throughout her childhood. According to Biography, her family moved around a lot because of her father's job, and overall she lived in at least 14 different places. Most of the time her family lived in the southern US, and she spent many of her teenage years in Atlanta, Georgia. In Perrette's author biography for Simon & Schuster, where she published the book "Donna Bell's Bake Shop: Recipes and Stories of Family, Friends, and Food," it said that the actress actually "considers Alabama her hometown."

During her childhood, Perrette developed a love of reading, with a focus on science and crime. Soon enough she was graduating from Crestwood High School, deciding to pursue her interests at Valdosta State College. Perrette continued her passion to study criminal justice and science in undergrad, before going on to get a master's degree in criminology at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City. Her dream was to become a police officer or federal agent — and in some way she achieved that through "NCIS" — but she got sidetracked when she discovered acting. 

So what led Perrette from her dream to work in criminal justice to playing someone in the field on TV?

Pauley Perrette had an early passion for criminal justice and humanitarian work

While living in NYC, Perrette got by with part-time jobs like bartending. After meeting a director through a co-worker, she started working in entertainment, booking a variety of jobs in commercials, music videos, voice work and more (CBS). This sparked a new passion in Perrette, and soon she moved to Los Angeles to continue acting.

Despite this, Perrette's interest in criminal justice didn't fade away. While acting, Perrette used her celebrity status to bring attention to cold cases like the murders of Shannon Paulk in Prattville, Alabama and Raven Jeffries in Detroit, Michigan on "America's Most Wanted" in 2007. Perrette donated $10,000 each to both cities to help in the investigations. Although more than a decade has passed since the episode aired and it's been many years since the murders occurred, there are still no answers in both cases (WSFA12, WXYZ7).

Along with bringing attention to cold cases and other criminal justice problems, Perrette has done plenty of other humanitarian work and advocating for civil rights, receiving many different awards and honors for her efforts. For example, in 2013 Perrette was awarded the Tom Mankiewicz Leadership Award for her work in global wildlife preservation (Wall Street Journal). Most recently, Perrette took on "Proposition 8, the proposed constitutional amendment that would eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry in the state of California" (Advocate).

Perrette's love of music and singing

Along with criminology and acting, Perrette also has a talent for music, and singing in particular. Long before she got the role of Abby on "NCIS," Perrette sang vocals for an all-woman rock band called "Lo-Ball." According to Last.fm, the band consisted of Perrette, under the stage name "Pauley P.", along with members J.C. on rhythm guitar, Katie on bass guitar, Lissa on lead guitar, and Claudia on drums.

In 2001, Perrette did an interview on behalf of her band with Dave Schwartz, discussing the origin of the group in April 2000 and their perspective to "just play what we love, the way we love it." The band sold out shows across the U.S., even playing at the Bryant Park fashion show and the historic Mercury Lounge in NYC. Along with that, the song "Can't Get Me Down" by "Lo-Ball" featured in the hit film "Legally Blonde."

Once she started working full-time as an actor, Perrette brought her love of singing into her work. On "NCIS," Perrette's song "Fear" appeared in Season 6, Episode 25, "Aliyah," and on the official soundtrack. In 2011, she featured on the song "Fire In Your Eyes" by hip-hop singer B. Taylor, and the song "Attention Please" by DMC (Journal Star).

The actress found success as Abby Sciuto on NCIS

When Perrette was around 34 years old, she hit the jackpot by being cast on CBS's "NCIS" series, a spinoff of the super popular "JAG" TV show. Perrette's character is Abby, a forensic scientist with a unique, goth appearance. With black hair, thick bangs, and an extremely edgy style of dress, Abby may visually stand out from her team, but she fits right in with their hardworking, intelligent style of work. Abby is extremely charming and observant, and she provides the NCIS team with key insights that help them solve each case. The role of Abby on "NCIS" brought Perrette much notoriety and fame, which the actress used to her advantage in charity work and other humanitarian efforts.

Also starring Mark Harmon, Cote de Pablo, Michael Weatherly, David McCallum, and Sean Murray, "NCIS" follows a team of special agents working for the National Criminal Investigative Service. Together, they solve various cases of major felonies within the field. Over fifteen seasons, the happy-go-lucky, optimistic Abby puts her life at risk many times. It turns out that one violent attempt at her life in Season 15 is too much for her, and Abby leaves the NCIS off-screen, moving to work with an organization in Britain. Working on the series from 2003 to 2018, Perrette officially left "NCIS" in 2018. The TV series is still a huge part of Perrette's life, as Abby made a huge mark on the show and its fans.

What led to Perrette leaving NCIS and acting

It turns out that Abby's violent experience unfortunately isn't that far off from a few events in Perrette's own life that greatly affected her. Following a tense relationship with her abusive ex-husband, Coyote Shivers, the man continued to harass Abby as they went through a terrible divorce (Fox News). In 2015, Perrette was also attacked by a homeless man outside of her home in Los Angeles, which deeply scarred her (CBSLA). But this personal turmoil wasn't what led Perrette to decide to leave the CBS crime show. Instead, it was violence on set that brought about this decision.

Deciding to leave "NCIS" in 2018, Perrette cited an altercation involving her co-star Harmon on set as a big reason for her choice. Of course, after spending 15 years on a TV show, it wasn't that surprising if one of the cast members wanted to leave. In fact, both de Pablo and Weatherly, two members of the original main cast, had already left "NCIS" on their own terms. But that wasn't the case for Perrette. In a revealing series of tweets, Perrette detailed how Harmon's dog bit a crew member on "NCIS," leaving them needing 15 stitches. Even after this happened, Harmon reportedly brought his dog back to set, leading to a lot of discomfort for the people around him, and Perrette didn't agree with this. The issue built up, leading to more and more tension between the two actors, until Perrette didn't feel safe or comfortable working on "NCIS" anymore.

After leaving the series, Perrette acted on the short-lived CBS sitcom "Broke," which ran for one season, and she has now decided to retire from acting. Late last year, the actress announced that she had no further contract with any company, and is now "happily retired" (via TVfanatic).