‘NCIS’ Star Brian Dietzen Talks David McCallum’s Return for Last Two Episodes of Season 19

by Caitlin Berard

For nearly 15 years, David McCallum played the fan-favorite NCIS character Donald “Ducky” Mallard, the fatherly, kind-hearted chief medical examiner. In 2017, however, McCallum exchanged his series regular contract for a limited role. Though he wasn’t quite ready to say goodbye to NCIS, he was over 80 years old at that point and wanted a little more time to spend with his family.

As NCIS Season 19 drew to a close, producers knew that Jimmy Palmer (Brian Dietzen), the new chief medical examiner, and Ducky’s protege, could use a little help from his old mentor. So, the beloved medical examiner returned for not one but two episodes.

In an interview with TV Line, Brian Dietzen gave his thoughts about the reunion between Palmer and Ducky. The interviewer commented on Ducky’s return for episode 19, reminding fans of the fantastic chemistry between Dietzen and McCallum. He then asked if David McCallum would return for episode 20, the season finale.

“Yes,” Dietzen replied. “We don’t get to have Palmer and Ducky in tons of scenes together for the episode because they’re not working together so much anymore. But we do get to see them together in a scene that I think is just wonderful. It’s just always so great to have David come back and it’s wonderful to see how great that guy is at his job. I love working with him and it’s always a treat.”

‘NCIS’ Star Brian Dietzen Talks Gibbs’ Departure from the Show

Season 19 of NCIS brought another unexpected, albeit far less welcome, change in Jethro Gibbs’ (Mark Harmon) departure from the show. Since the series’ inception, Gibbs acted as the keystone of the team. He was both a father figure and professional mentor to everyone (with the exception of Ducky, who was always a father figure to Gibbs). Mark Harmon’s decision to retire from NCIS left a large void, not only in canon but among the team of actors as well.

Though Brian Dietzen feels the writers of NCIS “did a wonderful job” with Gibbs’ departure, it posed a tough challenge for his character, Jimmy Palmer. Luckily, Palmer had Ducky to offer him some words of wisdom to get him through.

“Because of that, Jimmy probably has come to peace with Gibbs’ decision to leave,” Dietzen explained. “But that doesn’t mean that the guy’s not gonna miss him. He certainly has been so close with him over the years, and Gibbs has saved his bacon more than once. And NCIS, as we’ve always said, there’s such a family dynamic to it that can’t be denied. In that respect when a family member moves away and that sort of thing, that doesn’t mean they’re not a part of your life anymore. It just means they’re not a part of your day to day.”