‘NCIS’: Ducky Actor David McCallum Revealed What the Show’s ‘Secret Sauce’ Is

by Quentin Blount

What is it exactly that makes NCIS such a great show? Well, actor David McCallum believes he has that answer all figured out.

There is no question that McCallum himself is a man of many talents. The Scottish-born actor and musician first gained recognition back in the 1960s for playing secret agent Illya Kuryakin in the TV show The Man from U.N.C.L.E. However, most fans nowadays will recognize McCallum for his role as Dr. Donald “Ducky” Mallard — the medical examiner on NCIS.

With an accomplished acting career spanning more than seven decades, McCallum certainly has some insight as to just why NCIS is such a big hit. He joined Lunch Break with Tanya Rivero back in 2016 to discuss the military crime show’s “secret sauce.”

“Oh my god. I think it all starts with Don Bellisario when he created the ship that we sail in,” McCallum admitted. “And it was such a great idea. I remember they did the FBI stories way back and that put the FBI on the map. And now the NCIS is on the map as a result of the television show.”

For fans out there who don’t know, Don Bellisario is a producer and screenwriter. He created and helped write numerous episodes for shows like Magnum, P.I., Tales of the Gold Monkey, Airwolf, Quantum Leap, JAG, and, of course, NCIS. He is also the stepfather of NCIS star Sean Murray.

“And he then looked around and decided he would get together a series of dysfunctional characters played by all of these wonderful people. And it just all worked,” McCallum said.

You can watch the entire sit down with NCIS star David McCallum down below:

David McCallum Became an Expert in Forensics for His ‘NCIS’ Role

Fellow actors could take some notes from David McCallum. The longtime NCIS star has an amazing ability to not only get into character but live through the character. He brings a depth to Ducky on the show that cannot be denied.

Rivero asked McCallum as much during their interview back in 2016.

“I read that you actually became an expert in forensics for this role,” Rivero asks.

“Well, expert is rather…” McCallum laughs.

“But you do go to medical examiner conventions, don’t you?”

“I do go down to the coroner and I have been there with a full autopsy,” McCallum explained. “And I have watched many autopsies through the glass as they say.”

That certainly helps explain why McCallum seems like such a natural in the profession. As a matter of fact, he doesn’t appear to be acting at all while he’s on screen. Whenever we see Dr. Mallard on NCIS, it just seems like he is living his normal life. His dedication to the role and his ability to get into character has us all believing that he actually is his character.