‘NCIS’ Star David McCallum Teases Season 20 Could be the End for Ducky
NCIS star David McCallum is the last remaining OG cast member on the CBS procedural. He has played the role of Dr. Donald “Ducky” Mallard since the pilot aired in 2003. In fact, he originated the character in an episode of JAG that ended up serving as the NCIS backdoor pilot. Over the years, Ducky has appeared less and less on the series — and he’s even changed jobs. Now, in season 20, McCallum has teased that this could be the end for his beloved character.
Why has David McCallum’s role been reduced on ‘NCIS’?
When NCIS premiered nearly two decades ago, Ducky was the chief medical examiner for the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. He was an important asset for Leroy Jethro Gibbs‘ (Mark Harmon) team, and he was an integral part of nearly every episode.
McCallum remained a full-time cast member for the next 15 years, and his interactions with Gibbs were the heart of NCIS. But in 2018, he decided to make some big changes. The actor requested a reduced role because of his advancing age and his desire to spend more time with his family, so they started cutting down his number of appearances each season.
The writers had Ducky retire as medical examiner in season 15 and give the job to his assistant Jimmy Palmer (Brian Dietzen). They also gave Ducky the new part-time job of NCIS historian so he could make occasional appearances. But now, at the age of 89, it appears that McCallum is ready to retire fully. And that means that season 20 could be it for Ducky.
David McCallum teases the end for Ducky could be near
Per Express, during McCallum’s latest interview, he confirmed that he only has two episodes left on his current contract. So far in season 20, he’s only appeared in two episodes — “Unearth” and “Leave No Trace.” With filming continuing until the spring, chances are those final two episodes will be part of the second half of the season.
“I’ll be going out to shoot it, health permitting, if and when they need me,” he said. “Retirement is a work in progress, shall we say!”
This isn’t a guarantee that McCallum will leave NCIS after season 20. The actor negotiates a new contract every season, and it’s possible he will agree to a few more in season 21 if CBS renews the series.
‘NCIS’ showrunner Steven D. Binder explains why Ducky missed most of season 19
It was McCallum’s decision to take on a reduced role a few years ago, but the pandemic made it even more difficult for him to work. The COVID restrictions kept him off the set even more in season 19 — and the writers were focused on Gibbs’ exit from the series.
Showrunner Steven D. Binder was hopeful that fans would see more of Ducky in season 20 now that all of that was behind them.
“One of the things that was difficult last season was it wasn’t a regular season,” Binder said.
“It opened up with all of our energies devoted to, how do we get Gibbs off the show? How do we give him the exit, for now at least? And that takes a lot of energy and it takes a lot of time and it takes a lot of oxygen.”
Fans will have to wait and see if NCIS gives Ducky a glorious exit from the series at the end of this season, just like they did for Gibbs in season 19.
NCIS airs Mondays on CBS.