Henrietta "Hetty" Lange is the operations manager for the Naval Criminal Investigative Service's Office of Special Projects, Los Angeles Office.
She also oversees the "backroom" support staff, tasked with providing everything the agents may need: from micro-surveillance cameras to cars. It was revealed in the episode "Disorder" that she had been assigned to the Los Angeles office some time prior to December of 2008.
In spite of her small stature, the other characters find her intimidating, not least of all because of her colorful past; she has had many encounters, liaisons, and relationships with past agents (referenced in Missing) and Hollywood greats such as George Hamilton and Frank Sinatra.
Possessed of a gruff, no nonsense temperament, Lange nonetheless demonstrates a degree of affection for G. Callen and the rest of the OSP team. Hetty sometimes exhibits a maternal instinct towards her agents.
When her agents were in serious danger in the episodes "Ambush" and "Found", she used her considerable political capital and her aforementioned contacts to pull out all the stops in rescuing them (such as convincing SECAF to authorize a F-22 Raptor fly-over of the militia camp).
Like Eric Beale , she is fond of Abigail Sciuto , and when the latter visited the OSP operations center, Hetty points out to the other agents Abby's ability to "be functional and stylish at the same time". When Deeks was shot and there was no one to call, Hetty told him to put her down as his next of kin in the future.
Hetty is deeply affected by the line-of-duty death of an agent, and has twice resigned (albeit unsuccessfully) from NCIS. The first was in 1999, when a promising young NCIS Agent (Sullivan) she had personally recruited was later killed when attempting to infiltrate a militia group.
The second time was following the death of Agent Dominic Vail in the Season One episode "Found". Although she delivers her resignation letter to Director Vance personally, it is later returned to her by Callen , who had picked the Director's pocket to recover the letter. Hetty does eventually resign in the penultimate episode of season two, and is replaced by Senior Agent Lauren Hunter as the new Operations Manager. She also subscribes to an older unwritten code of conduct, evidenced by her disgust at the new generation of Russian agents who have "broken all the rules" by killing innocents (Season 2 episode "Deliverance").
She is a fan of Lady Gaga, stating that she "will forever love the Gaga."
According to Hetty's NCIS personnel file which is accessed by Nell and appears onscreen in the second season finale "Familia",Hetty:
- is fluent in Russian, German, Mandarin, Spanish, Czech, Romanian, Hebrew, Arabic, Hungarian, and Pashto;
- is skilled in Hapkido, Wushu, and Eskrima;
- earned a Master of Fine Arts degree from the Sorbonne;
- is a graduate of the Ecole de la chambre syndicale de la couture parisienne;
- attended the Defense Language Institute;
- won a bronze medal competing in the small-bore rifle event at the 1964 Summer Olympics, held in Tokyo, Japan (note that in real life this was not a shooting event at the 1964 Summer Olympics);
- is a recipient of the Defense Intelligence Agency Award of Merit, and a CIA Intelligence Star;
- is a member of the Order of Orange Nassau;
- had a prior career in motion picture and stage costuming;
- is a published novelist;
- is a pilot;
- holds the women's senior division record for the ascent of K2; and was born on February 29, 1948.
One of the last surviving Cold Warriors, Hetty has unparalleled access to contacts throughout the intelligence and defense communities, which she does not hesitate to exploit when required for the success of a mission or to protect the lives of her agents.
Her reputation has taken on an almost legendary aspect; it is such that the mere mention of her name is often enough to strike fear into those who have heard of, but never met her, the most notable being Hawaii Five-0 Detective Sergeant Danny Williams.
In addition to the many languages listed in her personnel file to which she is fluent, she has also been heard speaking and understanding Romani and Chechan, as well; she spoke Romani with Marcel Janvier after he was brought to the Boathouse for interrogation, and she helped Callen practice his Chechan skills, and corrected his grammar before he left to go undercover in a Chechan terrorist ring.
She has an extensive list of aliases, as evidenced by multiple driver's licenses seen in a locked drawer of her desk, as well as several others hidden in a private safe deposit box.
In the season two finale, it is revealed that Hetty has familial ties to the Comescu family, and possesses the same tattoo as the mysterious man who gave a toy soldier to Callen as a child.
In the Season three opening episode, "Lange, H", it was revealed that Hetty is not a member of the Comescu family but in fact had spent decades trying to infiltrate their ranks to protect Callen. At the end of the episode, it was shown that she had been shot and had then fallen to the ground, ending the episode in a cliffhanger, leaving her fate unknown.
In season 3, it was also revealed that Hetty knew Callen's mother Clara, who she had handled when they were both working for the CIA. She had been unable to save her from the vendetta between her family and the Comescus but had managed to track down her son and get him out of an orphanage and into foster care although it was hard for Callen was a difficult child. She also doesn't know anything about Callen's father.
In "Backstopped", having survived the shooting and then taken time off to recover, Hetty officially returned to work, resuming her duties as Operations Manager of the OSP.
In the Season 3 finale, Hetty resigns from the Operations Manager positions after Callen is arrested and Lauren Hunter and Mike Renko are both murdered.
However, in the Season 4 episode, "Endgame", it was revealed that the whole operation involving the Chamelon's death was actually staged and Hetty eventually returns to her original position as Operations Manager.