"On a September day in New York, I'm looking out my balcony, and I still miss my family," de Pablo, who is, for the first time since 2005, not in the midst of filming in Los Angeles. "But they're with me all the time, every day, and that won't change."
De Pablo, who hasn't said what prompted her to leave, over than that it was on her own terms, said it wasn't an easy decision to make.
"Leaving NCIS was not planned, so there is no plan," she said. "If I were panicking now, it would defeat the purpose. I need to get really excited about something, because for eight years I was really excited about this character. I don't want to start anything unless it's like that."
Spoiler alert: Proceed with caution if you don't want any details on Ziva's departure.
NCIS's Season 11 kicked off Tuesday, but Ziva's big goodbye is scheduled for the second episode, next week. De Pablo said the departure was "bittersweet," giving her character a chance to tie up loose ends.
"As far as the 'Tiva' fans, they'll get a resolution they've awaited for years," she said of the back-and-forth relationship between Ziva and Michael Weatherly's Tony DiNozzo. "There is a level of confession. And if it takes a big change like this to stir things up, it's all for the better. I'm a fan of the show!"
"My first scene ever in the bullpen was with Michael, and my goodbye scene was with Michael. I feel like that was a beautiful way of ending -- for now, certainly -- a beautiful chapter between these two."
Oh -- and one more thing -- that "for now" wasn't an accident.
"The greatest thing about this last episode is that Ziva doesn't die," she said. "As long as a character doesn't die, the character can always come back. Not that it would actually matter, because we bring back characters from the dead all the time on NCIS!"
But even though de Pablo was still feeling somewhat conflicted about saying goodbye, she said she was grateful for the way that it unfolded.
"As far as my decision to leave, that's a personal thing, and I'd rather leave it at that," she said. "The idea of leaving was not something I toyed around with for a long time. It was an overwhelmingly hard thing -- at times terrifying."
"Did I want to leave under those circumstances? That's another story," she said. "But I'm not of the belief that you just take off and leave fans hanging. A lot of people don't get the privilege of going back to a set and being able to say goodbye to people. I left under my terms, and that was wonderful."