‘NCIS’ Actor Summed Up His ‘Obsessive’ Approach with Story About a Trip to Germany

by Amy Myers

When preparing for a role, actors tend to use all kinds of tactics to become an expert of their character. That’s why NCIS actor David McCallum, who plays the beloved character, Dr. “Ducky” Mallard, admits his approach to acting can be a bit obsessive.

‘NCIS’ Actor Raised on Diligence

Prior to his role with NCIS, David McCallum grew up in a Scottish household that prioritized music and tenacity. His mother was a cellist, and his father, David McCallum, Sr., was a renowned concert violinist who led the London Philharmonic Orchestra.

“Father was unique in that his hands were really the centre [sic] of his life, and keeping his hands safe and in perfect condition was paramount,” McCallum recalls in an interview with The Scotsman. “He would practise [sic] his violin incessantly, so we had the sound of the music throughout the house all the time.”

McCallum even admits that the role of music in their household was almost mandatory. The NCIS actor reports that his father would ponder which instrument his son should take up as his profession.

“Here am I six or seven years old, and he’s choosing my profession,” McCallum says with a laugh.

However, a stage of a different kind would pique the young Scotsman’s interest instead. Around the age of eight, McCallum made his first acting appearance at a local production of Shakespeare’s King John as The Little Prince. His performance was so convincing that the future TV star received a standing ovation.

“And I said: ‘Hey, hey, hey, this is kinda cool,'” McCallum told The Scotsman. “I don’t know if I consciously thought it, but I had found the place I wanted to be: on a stage, with the lights and make-up and the people. I’m exactly the same to this day; the feeling has never left.”

McCallum’s Acting Methods Today

From that moment on a small stage, McCallum has since built a strong reputation for himself on screen. His most career-defining roles range from the defiant prisoner of war, Flight Lieutenant Simon Carter on the 1970’s British drama, Colditz, to the quirky medical examiner on NCIS today.

It is because of McCallum’s dedication to the role off-screen that enables him to fulfill such a variety of characters. Even for moments on set that he doesn’t like, the NCIS actor always takes a strategic approach.

For his character on Colditz, McCallum prepared for the show by drawing from past personal experience in the British military as well as actual visits to the German prison.

“I am known for being somewhat obsessive,” McCallum admits, “but I felt it important to go to Leipzig.”

Likewise, the NCIS actor’s preparation for a pathologist character was just as serious. In order to better understand Dr. Mallard’s findings, McCallum trained under the Los Angeles Chief Pathologist and can even perform actual autopsies off-camera.

On his extensive character research, Callum reflects, “My study of the last few years has been one of the most exciting things that’s ever happened to me. To hold a heart or have it held in front of you, and be shown the actual arteries on the outside, and see how tiny they are and how easy it would be to clog them!”