She changed her name from Maria Jose to Cote because she found in 5th grade that many people couldn’t pronounce her real name. (Cote is a common Chilean nickname for “Maria Jose.”) She speaks fluent Spanish. “I feel like I’m Chilean and I’m American. I don’t feel I’m just one thing. I live in no man’s land in many ways because I’m not Chilean and I’m not American.”
Born in Santiago, Chile, Cote de Pablo moved to the United States when she was ten years old. In Miami she attended Arvida Middle School and the New World School of the Arts, where she studied musical theatre.
She later attended Carnegie Mellon University, where she studied music and theater. After she graduated in 2000, she moved to New York City where she worked as a waitress to pay the bills.
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“I actually never thought I’d be actress. I always though I was gonna be a singer because it was always what I did. I was a very quiet, shy kid and I was always making observations and I was always sort of hiding behind my grandmother’s skirt.”
Cote de Pablo landed on a few commercials, the soap “All My Children” and “The Jury.” But it was her role on “NCIS” that made her a star.
Cote said, “Occasionally I go out with friends, but there’s no time to really go clubbing like I used to. I have to take care of myself because if you get sick you still have to go to work. I’m not much a party animal anyway. I lay low. I like to be grounded by nature [and] go hiking.”
She won an Imagen Award in 2006 and an ALMA Award in 2011 for her work on “NCIS.”
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Though not married, Cote de Pablo is in a long-term relationship with actor Diego Serrano.
Aside from acting, she sang a portion of Tom Waits’ song “Temptation” on “NCIS,” and her performance was included on the NCIS soundtrack.
Cote de Pablo resides in Los Angeles, CA.