David McCallum’s NCIS Casting: Confirming Speculations with the Real Inside Scoop

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Just two days after celebrating the 20th anniversary of NCIS, we find ourselves bidding farewell to another beloved member of the show.

David McCallum, a distinguished actor with a career spanning over 60 years, passed away on September 25, 2023.

/Kathy Hutchins

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Best known for his portrayal of Dr. Donald “Ducky” Mallard on NCIS, McCallum held this role from the very first season through to the twentieth.

Fans of NCIS are now mourning the loss of McCallum, who peacefully passed away in a New York hospital, surrounded by his family, at the age of 90.

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Originally from Scotland, McCallum gained widespread acclaim in the mid-1960s for his role as the secret agent Illya Kuryakin in “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.”

In his early years in Britain, David depicted the real-life struggles of a Scotsman seeking stable employment and a steady income in the English film and television industry.

Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

Initially, he was not widely recognized in his homeland, and upon arriving in America in 1962, he was considered “a nobody.” However, his portrayal of Kuryakin in U.N.C.L.E propelled him to stardom. During the show’s heyday, McCallum received an astounding 35,000 fan letters from around the world.

Above all, he is cherished for his role in the long-running series NCIS, where his character, ‘Ducky,’ endeared himself to fans and played a significant role in the show’s success. As the wise, eccentric, and sometimes enigmatic chief medical examiner, McCallum earned a place among Hollywood’s most beloved actors.

A spokesperson for CBS expressed their deep sadness at McCallum’s passing and acknowledged the privilege of having him as part of the CBS family for so many years. They described him as a gifted actor and author who was beloved by many worldwide. They emphasized that his legacy would endure through his family and the countless hours of film and television that he leaves behind.

McCallum’s remarkable 18-year tenure on NCIS is a testament to his connection with the show’s audience. Such long-standing commitments from actors to a single TV series are rare, and it speaks volumes about the bond he formed with viewers.

TV Times via Getty Images

But how did David find himself on the show in the first place? Well, it turns out his audition for NCIS was quite memorable, underscoring what a remarkable person he was.

In a 2021 interview with Emmy magazine, McCallum shed light on the casting process that led to his role as Ducky in NCIS. He recalled receiving a call while walking down Park Avenue, summoning him to casting director Bonnie Timmermann’s office to audition for a character named Ducky. He creatively approached the audition, insisting on a specific camera angle to depict a dead body on the floor.

The audition process led him to Los Angeles, where he impressed casting director Susan Bluestein once again. Shortly after, he received the news that he had secured the role. And so, McCallum’s journey with the show began.

McCallum leaves behind his wife of 56 years, Katherine McCallum, and five children. In tribute to the actor, CBS aired a special 20th-anniversary-themed NCIS marathon, featuring an “in memoriam” card.

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David McCallum was a distinguished and incredibly talented actor. In my opinion, very few have surpassed his skill. Rest in peace, Dr. Mallard.