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Why CCH Pounder Almost Turned Down NCIS: New Orleans

Dr. Loretta Wade is one of the most essential characters on "NCIS: New Orleans." As the resident coroner, it's her job to examine the bodies for clues that are often essential to solving the mystery behind the deceased's death. Her work isn't easy, but somehow Loretta always seems to approach her job with a stern, but upbeat attitude.

Since "NCIS: New Orleans" began, Loretta has been a constant presence, and an invaluable part of the team. But one of the primary reasons the character is so fascinating to watch is because she's portrayed by four-time Emmy nominee CCH Pounder. After taking on a number of cop and doctor roles on shows like "ER," "The Shield," and "Law & Order: SVU," the acclaimed actress knows her way around a fictional crime scene and a hospital.

That makes her particularly well-suited to bring a character like Loretta to life. Whether she's dealing with the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic or being a loving mother to her two adopted sons, the character is always a strong presence on the show. But in a 2018 interview with AARP, Pounder revealed she had reservations about taking on the role of Loretta in the beginning.

One of the primary reasons she was uncertain about joining "NCIS: New Orleans" is because she thought CBS may have hit its "NCIS" spinoff quota. "I'll be honest. I just didn't think that CBS could sustain yet another 'NCIS,'" she said. Thankfully, Pounder's fears were unfounded: "NCIS: New Orleans" went on to air a healthy seven seasons before ending in 2021. But her other fear about signing on for another procedural role was far more personal.

CCH Pounder wasn't sure NCIS: New Orleans would allow her to flesh out the character of Loretta

As Black woman who has been working in Hollywood since at least 1979, Pounder has found that she often gets cast in authoritative roles where her character's only personality trait is that she's tough. Since "NCIS: New Orleans" is a procedural, she was initially concerned Loretta would never become a fully realized character, which made her hesitant about signing on to the series.

"We play a person in authority, but with no relations, no daughter, no husband, no nothing. Just a judge or a policeman sitting behind a desk," Pounder explained to AARP. "Give them a family member, give them a flaw, give them something else to create the humanness of the character!"

However, Loretta was a well-rounded character right from the start, and she only gained more depth as the series progressed. In fact, Season 7 saw Pounder take center stage as the COVID crisis and her son's desire to become involved in the Black Lives Matter movement shined a light on just how tough 2020 was for Black women, especially. In a December 2020 interview with TV Insider, the actress discussed just how realistic the storyline felt for her.

"She's not Superwoman," Pounder said of Loretta. "I think this is one of the things we tend to assume about strength — particularly about women of color. You're so accustomed to the stalwart, the stoic. When she starts to crack, it makes you frightened."

Loretta's journey on "NCIS: New Orleans" was a remarkable one, and it's hard to imagine an alternate reality where Pounder may have turned down the chance to play such a wonderfully complex character.