‘NCIS’ Star Would Watch Los Angeles Coroner Do Autopsies to Better Portray Role

by Jacklyn Krol
Michael Tran, FilmMagic

Which NCIS star watched real autopsies to prepare for their role?

The answer? None other than David McCallum who portrays medical examiner/pathologist Donald “Ducky” Mallard on NCIS. To prepare for the role, he watched a coroner do autopsies.

He told CNN that it was the “most exciting and astonishing. It’s two hours of learning more about the human body and what a miraculous business it is than you could ever imagine. It is quite extraordinary.”

“You can’t play a pathologist for ten years and talk about pathology without knowing what you are doing,” McCallum told Radio Times of the experience. “I got in touch with the Los Angeles coroner and he allowed me to watch through the glass as he conducted autopsies. Then after a couple of years of watching, the coroner made it possible for me to come the other side of the glass and work with a pathologist and do a full autopsy.”

The coroner held nothing back and did a typical autopsy. McCallum was fascinated to learn and work on an actual body. He holds coroners in high esteem and often gets thanked by pathologists for accurately portraying the profession.

“So for two and a half hours he basically took someone apart, and showed me everything. I watched every detail and I saw exactly how the human body works. It’s quite miraculous; it was one of the most exciting days of my life.” 

All About David’s Time on ‘NCIS’

Surprisingly, he enjoyed his new studies, so much so that he has a new nickname from his family.

“I get accused by my family – they call me Dr. Death now,” McCallum previously told Buzzy Mag. “I have yards and yards of books on the subject of death. When we started this show, I didn’t know anything about pathology and I didn’t know anything about [the real] NCIS.”

Additionally, David McCallum is an original member of the NCIS team. He currently has an estimated net worth of $10 million. Each episode, he makes $75,000.

Unlike most television shows, the NCIS atmosphere is something like a collaborative family. McCallum has worked with the creative team to steer his character in the right direction. He admits that aspects he didn’t like about Ducky, he would get resolved through communicating with the writers and directors. At the end of the day, he always wants to improve his character and performance.

“I wouldn’t suggest anything, because the writers have such wonderful minds, they come up with great stories for everybody and they would take care of it,” he told Buzzymag.