David James Elliott Celebrity Profile
E!: By the spring of 1996, 35-year-old David James Elliott was finally feeling a sense of security. His series JAG, was wrapping up its first season on NBC. But when the network announced their fall schedule, JAG was not on the list.
Nanci: I think we were in shock. It was moved around to three different nights that year and seemed to me to hold its own. So when it actually happened, it was right out of left field. We weren't expecting it.
E!: Executive producer Donald Bellisario was determined to save the series.
DJE: He said, "I have to go to New York. Apparently there's some interest in the show." Now I'm thinking, yeah, sure there is.
Nanci: So he got excited about new things, and then David and I were sitting at Sunset Plaza at Chin Chin's having lunch and my cell phone rang and it was Don Bellisario looking for David.
DJE: So they patched him in from the plane ... "CBS picked us up for a mid-season replacement." ... Oh beautiful!
E!: JAG earned strong ratings when the show debut on CBS in January of 1997 and the network asked producers for three additional episodes. But the news was bittersweet for Elliott. David was forced to drop out of a co-starring role in the Antonio Banderas smash Zorro.
DJE: It was a big A-list film and I thought the script was wonderful. That was a big disappointment for me.
E!: David didn't have time to dwell on his disappointment Bellisario was working hard to improve the show, making changes behind the scenes.
DJE: We went through a lot of people. It used to be, Fridays were, like, scary for the crew, 'cause somebody was going to get fired on Friday.
E!: Changes were also taking place in front of the camera. David went through two leading ladies in the first twelve months.
DJE: And then they hired Catherine Bell. And I remember Don going, "Well, don't worry, David. If it doesn't work out, we'll get someone else."
E!: Co-star Catherine Bell ...
CB: David was a little apprehensive at first because I was the third girl. I was his third co-star. So I think there was a little bit of like, "Yeah, we'll see how long you last."
E!: But Catherine persevered and made it through JAG boot camp. Bell's onscreen chemistry with Elliott translated to bigger ratings and helped the show become a frequent visitor to the top of the Nielsen chart.
CB: We hit it off and I knew that that was something they were looking for so I had felt very hopeful.
DPB: And of course, we're constantly getting e-mailed by thousands of people who want to see David and Catherine get together.
E!: JAG's constant evolution brought David many last minute scripts, filled with military jargon. Co-star John Jackson ...
JMJ: He's amazing. There are a lot of times where we'll get in that stuff and he has to rattle that stuff off and I just stare at him. I'm amazed because it takes me forever to get it and he just knocks it out like that.
E!: The long hours David put in to make JAG a hit kept him away from home. One day, David's 3-year-old daughter asked a heart-wrenching question.
DJE: She said to my wife, "Mama, can Daddy come and visit us at our house?" And she said, "What do you mean, honey? This is Daddy's house too." "No, it's not." But Daddy lives here." "No, he lives in a trailer. Yeah, he doesn't live here. Can he come and visit us soon though?"
CB: His daughter treated him like he was a stranger.
DJE: When I heard that, I just, really, I took that summer off and we went away and we just focused in on her, you know.
E!: David made family his first priority, going to great lengths to be with Nanci and Stephanie.
Nanci: Now that she's older, she goes to work with him once in a while. She skips school, and she'll spend ... she can spend 15 hours there with him and just absolutely love it. Any moment that he has, it's for her. He'll find the time.
E!: In 1998, David found a creative way to be with his wife and research his character. Elliott challenged Nanci to a mock dogfight in vintage Navy warplanes.
DJE: So we go up, and these planes are even smaller. They're not the Marchettis. They're like, I mean, this is like, oh God! It was like my tomb. It was like a coffin. I'm in there. I couldn't move at all. And I am so afraid. Nanci's like a thrill junkie. She's "Yeah! This is great!" But then we get up and she got sick and we had to turn around and come right back. I don't think we even got to fight. I won. What did you expect? [laughing, thumbs up]
E!: In June of 1999, David and Nanci made good on their pledge to renew their wedding vows. The ceremony was as much for their daughter as it was for the couple.
Nanci: And she has been waiting for a wedding for four years 'cause we've been saying, "Mommy and Daddy are going to have a big wedding." So every store we walk by, every princess dress ... that's the dress I'm gonna wear to the wedding.... I'm gonna wear that dress. And that had been going on for four years, so it got to the point were we had to have the wedding just not to let our daughter down.
E!: Good friend Faith Ford offered Nanci some advice.
Faith Ford: I mentioned to her she might want to do a white wedding, which is something that I thought was very beautiful, like a Gatsby wedding. 'Cause she wanted to have a wedding on the ocean. And that's exactly what she did. Of course, later, everyone said to me, "Was this your idea?"
E!: The elaborate ceremony was staged at a Santa Barbara estate overlooking the sea.
DJE: It was a big event and my wife produced it. I mean, it was ... she's incredible! I mean, she put this thing together. It's just phenomenal.
John Frizzell: Huge, ornate, extraordinary event. It involved horses and paths of rose petals and tents and kilt-wearing friends. Elaborate costuming. It was a big, big event.
E!: While Nanci orchestrated every detail of the wedding, David had a single, albeit peculiar, request.
DJE: I'd always wanted to wear a kilt when I got married. And she at first was like, "I don't want that! That's not what I see for this." And I said, "Well, hello! This is, like, me, okay? Can I not have one thing that I do in this wedding?"
Nanci: I just didn't get it. And I thought, oh my God! I'm going to have to dress myself around this kilt. I'm the most important thing. And it just ... I thought, what am I going to do, wear a red dress? I mean, a blue dress? I just couldn't get it! I couldn't get what to do 'cause I didn't want to wear white. And finally we got a hold of Pamela Dennis, who ended up making the dress, and we went with platinum silver.
Pat: David wore a kilt. Don't ask me what he wore underneath. I never asked.
E!: After months of planning, the grand affair culminated with David and Nanci's touching vows to each other.
Frank Lippai: When the day is done, they were just expressing their love for each other and that was the nice part.
Faith Ford: Very romantic, very touching. They just made such a beautiful couple. They looked like they should've been on a wedding cake. And it was very real, it was very honest and it was very spiritual.
Nanci: I think he was very emotional. He said he didn't think he was going to feel that way either and he really did.
E!: As they walked down the aisle, Nanci saw no sign of the uncertain suitor she dismissed nearly a decade ago.
Nanci: I remember thinking in the beginning, like I could never have a baby with this guy. He's just ... never, never, never! He's completely different. I didn't know he had it in him.
Faith Ford: I do think they have everlasting love. I think that if you've been through what they've been through, and they've struggled. And they've been through times where they didn't have, and now they have, and if you can make it through those kind of times and cross over into times like this and stay together, I think that's certainly, that's all it could be.
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