There’s no question that NCIS actors Brian Dietzen and David McCallum have a deep and meaningful relationship thanks to the show.
Brian Dietzen has played the role of Dr. Jimmy Palmer on the show since 2004. For the first few seasons, Dr. Palmer appeared in more of a supporting role. But he was eventually promoted to a series regular in 2012, the start of the show’s tenth season. He began as Dr. Donald “Ducky” Mallard’s (played by David McCallum) assistant medical examiner.
In a 2019 interview with Starry Magazine, Dietzen talked about his relationship with McCallum and how much it means to him.
“Well, obviously on screen and off that relationship has meant a lot — both with David and between Jimmy and Duckie,” Dietzen said. “And that mentorship has been real, in front of and behind the camera.”
Eventually, Dr. Palmer takes over as the NCIS’ Acting Chief Medical Examiner in season 15. That came after Ducky takes a sabbatical from the agency to go and teach at a medical school in New York City.
But in the beginning of the show, he said that he was only supposed to be a “one-day” guest star. That changed thanks to his relationship with McCallum.
“When I first joined the show seven years ago, I was just supposed to be a one-day guest star. A lot of the reason I stuck around is because David and I had a great relationship and repartee. The writers and producers saw that and said, ‘Let’s keep that guy around. Keep him working with us,'” Dietzen explained. “It’s meant a heck of a lot to me, personally, behind the camera and in front of it.”
Dr. Mallard Helped Groom Dr. Palmer for the Medical Examiner Role on ‘NCIS’
It’s quite clear that Brian Dietzen has a deep respect and gratefulness for David McCallum, both on camera and off it. His character Dr. Palmer learned basically everything he knows from Dr. Mallard, and then eventually takes over his job. In the episode “Bears and Cubs,” Ducky officially announces his retirement from the full-time medical examiner position. And in doing so, he promotes Dr. Palmer to the position.
“Ducky is the reason why Jimmy has grown into a full-fledged medical examiner,” Dietzen continued. “Without his help and guidance, I don’t think Jimmy would have been able to do that. Not to mention the fact it’s fun to have a multigenerational friendship on television that is not a forced one.”
Speaking of a multigenerational friendship, that’s exactly what’s so unique about the relationship between the two NCIS stars.
“It’s not the father-son thing — ‘we’re related by blood; therefore we have to be pals.’ It’s a relationship where he has different experiences than I do because he comes from a different generation — neither one of them is worse than the other. It’s fun to be able to talk about and explore that on camera.”