‘NCIS’ Star David McCallum Reflects on the Evolution of Ducky

by Megan Molseed

When thinking back through his time portraying the quirky NCIS medical examiner Dr. Donald “Ducky” Mallard on the popular TV series, actor David McCallum remembers one particular component about the character that showrunners insisted on: Ducky’s hat. However, notes McCallum in a discussion with The Television Academy, this was not the only big thing about the character. In fact, the actor notes, the NCIS character has had quite an interesting evolution over the years.

David McCallum remembers how he felt that after years of Dr. Donald “Ducky” Mallard serving as the NCIS medical examiner, it was time for the character to retire. And, the actor notes, he was ready to do so as well. After all, what would Ducky be doing if he wasn’t leading the examination teams on the popular crime-drama series? Well, it turns out, there’s a lot Ducky could be doing.

“I sort of realized the character [Ducky] was becoming a little redundant,” David McCallum recalls of the character’s recent retirement from his medical examiner role.

“And I sort of decided to leave the show,” McCallum adds. However, the showrunners saw a new path for Ducky. And they convinced McCallum to remain in the series…this time giving Ducky a new role.

“They said ‘no, we’d like to make you the historian so that you’re just still a part of the show,'” the NCIS star remembers of the discussions.

“Which was very gratifying,” the actor adds. “Cause it meant that CBS liked that I was around!”

Ducky’s Signature NCIS Style Was A Last-Minute Addition To The Beloved Character

During his discussion with The Television Academy, NCIS star David McCallum remembers how the showrunners of the popular procedural drama turned to him – just moments before he shot his first scene for the series – with a big idea. However, McCallum notes that this caused a bit of last-minute panic for him on set!

“They said ‘he’s got to wear a hat,'” David McCallum remembers the NCIS showrunners telling him while filming that first installment for the popular series.

“I said, ‘we’re shooting in two minutes,'” the actor recalls with a laugh. McCallum remembers how the showrunner responded simply by saying “‘well get a hat!”

“I went out to the wardrobe,” McCallum relates, remembering how he sorted through a variety of options including “top hats and clown hats.”

“I found that hat,” he says. “Which is still, 20 years later, Ducky’s hat.”