‘NCIS’ Star David McCallum Opens Up About Taking a Step Back From the Show

by Sean Griffin

NCIS star David McCallum started with the show at its inception back in 2003. Since beginning his role as Dr. Donald “Ducky” Mallard, he’s evolved into a cornerstone of the series and a fan-favorite. Recently, however, McCallum opened up about his choice to take a step back from his role on NCIS.

In recent interviews, McCallum explained his decision further. “Now he’s retired. I realized the character was becoming a little redundant.”

It’s certainly understandable how a character played for nearly twenty seasons can become overwrought or repetitive. McCallum continues, explaining the alternative that the network provided for him.

“I sort of decided to leave the show, and they said, ‘No, we’d like to make you the historian so you’re still a part of the show.'”

Show-runner Steven Binder crafted a unique role for McCallum, allowing him to return to episodes in a less frequent capacity, but still not losing the character altogether. Binder and the network didn’t want fans to miss out on future great “Ducky” moments if they had permanently retired his character. So, in the show, they wrote that Dr. Mallard retires and allows his assistant Jimmy Palmer to take over as Chief Medical Examiner. “Ducky” then takes a step back as the team’s historian.

“Because it meant that CBS liked that I was around. So I became the historian in a great episode. And one of the things that Steven Binder did, an extraordinary writer, he actually at one point had Ducky imagining his younger self.”

The character of Young Ducky that McCallum refers to was first introduced in Season 12 (2014-15). Young Ducky was portrayed by Adam Campbell in the episode “So It Goes.”

David McCallum’s Famous Role as a Spy

David McCallum grew up in Glasgow, Scotland. At age 18, he entered the military and joined the British Army’s 3rd Battalion, the Middlesex Regiment. He earned the rank of Lieutenant in 1954. He joined the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art upon his departure from the military.

While his early career began with minor successes and stage managing roles, he took off to superstardom when he landed the role of Illya Kuryakin in the The Man from U.N.C.L.E. In the fictional spy TV series, McCallum turned his minor role into one that vaulted him to co-star status.

McCallum earned two Emmy nominations for his performance in the series. During an interview for a television special, McCallum reflected on the role. He revealed that he was once lucky enough to be invited to the White House. While escorted to meet the President, he claims one Secret Service agent leaned in and told him “you’re the reason I got this job.”

Outsider recently wrote about David McCallum reflecting on the once-in-a-lifetime role from The Man from U.N.C.L.E.