15 November 2023
Navy people, ships and aircraft added authenticity and action to NCIS: Sydney, the first international edition of the highly successful US television series.
The opening scenes filmed at Garden Island in May feature dozens of Navy extras, including the RAN Band, HMAS Canberra and an MH-60R Seahawk helicopter.
Chief of Navy Vice Admiral Mark Hammond said NCIS: Sydney provided a novel opportunity to promote Navy careers to a broad and diverse audience.
“NCIS: Sydney is a pop-culture opportunity for Navy to amplify its current recruiting campaign to attract more talented men and women to join for a meaningful career option,” Vice Admiral Hammond said.
Vice Admiral Hammond and Executive Vice President, Chief Content Officer and Head of Paramount+, Paramount ANZ, Beverley McGarvey, were guests of honour at the series launch in Walsh Bay, Sydney, on November 10.
Ms McGarvey said Navy’s provision of access to facilities, fleet and personnel amplified the production value of NCIS: Sydney beyond measure.
“We are extremely grateful for the Defence’s support of Endemol Shine Australia’s production of the first international iteration of this iconic franchise, which will take the majesty of Sydney Harbour to the world, with all the intrigue and heart that NCIS audiences have come to love,” Ms McGarvey said.
A spectacular helicopter boat chase off Garden Island in episode one required weeks of planning and coordination and plenty of Navy talent.
Pilot Lieutenant Commander Ben Martin said it was a privilege for his crew, 816 Squadron Flight 7, the Fleet Air Arm and Navy to be involved in the activity.
“Flying the Seahawk in Sydney Harbour was one of the best days flying I have had in my 18 years as a RAN pilot,” Lieutenant Commander Martin said.
“The profiles flown were similar to profiles flown during the RAN’s previous roles in the Middle East during Operations Slipper and Manitou, which I did as a lieutenant.
“It was a great opportunity to pass some of these skills onto my co-pilot, Lieutenant Riley Tonc, who also agreed it was a career highlight for him, learning some realistic and challenging flight profiles, all in front of the lights and cameras in the middle of Sydney Harbour.”
Ferry commuters, recreational boaters, multiple groups of schoolchildren on excursions and tourists at the Opera House had the best views of the low-level flying.
Leading Seaman Regan Duffy drove a fast, black inflatable boat in the initial stages of the action sequence.
“I was directed to drive the boat, as if I had stolen it, alongside Fleet Base East, and the director trusted in my skills as a boat coxswain to get the shot he needed for the show,” Leading Seaman Duffy said.
Navy personnel also staffed a 'Navy Joint Operations Centre', working alongside civilian actors and extras.
Lieutenant Miranda Webb Liddle, a weapons electrical engineer in HMAS Hobart, enjoyed the opportunity to be an extra.
“As an engineer it was a brand new experience, and the production crew were great at directing the naval personnel to look natural and hit the marks,” Lieutenant Webb Liddle said.
“We also gave the actors some advice on getting their uniform and mannerisms correct.”
NCIS: Sydney is streaming on Paramount+ in Australia and on the CBS Television Network in the US.