‘NCIS’ Star Brian Dietzen and David McCallum Bonded Over an ‘Autopsy’

by Megan Molseed
Photo: Monty Brinton/CBS ©2018 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Fans of the popular CBS series NCIS remember well the bond between longtime NCIS medical examiner Donald “Ducky” Mallard and the most recent medical examiner on the series, Jimmy Palmer.

From the jump, Ducky and Jimmy Palmer seemed destined to work together; solving some of television’s most unique crimes and mysteries. So, it’s no surprise that the actors portraying the two beloved NCIS characters shared a similar bond.

And, notes one longtime star of the popular investigative series, the two stars developed this bond in a fashion similar to their characters, over an autopsy.

‘NCIS’ Stars Find A Connection Through Characters

In a recent interview, former NCIS star Mark Harmon remembers David McCallum, the actor who portrays Ducky in the hit series, invited Brian Dietzen – the actor who portrays Jimmy Palmer – to join him in an autopsy during Palmer’s first day of filming.

“I remember [Brian] coming in that first day, and I remember David talking to Brian a little bit,” Mark Harmon recalls.

“And I remember David at the end of whatever it was the first day, saying to Brian, ‘Hey, you wanna come with me to do an autopsy?'” Harmon continues.

The NCIS star adds that this wasn’t an entirely unusual invitation from McCallum. In fact, this meant that the man who played Ducky in the series was inviting Dietzen into the fold.

“I remember thinking, ‘Oh, David’s inviting him to an autopsy,'” Mark Harmon explains. “This is like a test, number one. But he wouldn’t invite him if he didn’t like him, and didn’t find something in him.”

Harmon adds that the partnership between the two actors was solidified as soon as Dietzen accepted McCallum’s invitation.

“And Brian right away went, ‘Absolutely!'” Mark Harmon recalls.

“And they were off,” the NCIS actor adds. “I thought, ‘Wow, commitment.’ And there they are.'”

A Guest Role – And a Friendship – Lead To Major Opportunities

When Brian Dietzen joined the NCIS team in 2004, his character wasn’t intended to be one fans would see regularly as the show continued.

In fact, Dietzen’s Jimmy Palmer was written originally written as a one-time appearance. However, this bond that developed almost immediately between Dietzen and McCallum led to Palmer becoming a core member of the NCIS team.

“I was just supposed to be a one-day guest star,” Brian Dietzen explains.

“A lot of the reason I stuck around is because David and I had a great relationship and repartee,” the NCIS star continues. “The writers and producers saw that and said, ‘Let’s keep that guy around. Keep him working with us.'”

Brian Dietzen adds that he is grateful to have the chance to develop Jimmy Palmer over the last seventeen years.

“It’s meant a heck of a lot to me,” Dietzen shares. “Personally, behind the camera and in front of it.”