Season 20 of NCIS will premiere this fall, marking the official start of the post-Mark Harmon (Leroy Jethro Gibbs) era. It will also be the first full season with production returning to pre-pand3mic levels, with up to 24 episodes. Eased protocols should also result in more appearances from the only remaining cast member who appeared in the NCIS pilot.
David McCallum’s role on ‘NCIS’ was severely hampered by the pand3mic.
David McCallum has played Dr. Ducky Mallard on NCIS since the show’s inception in 2003. McCallum first appeared on JAG in a two-episode special alongside Harmon’s Gibbs, Michael Weatherly’s Tony DiNozzo, and Pauley Perrette’s Abby Sciuto.
Those two JAG episodes ended up serving as the NCIS backdoor pilot, and McCallum stayed on the show for almost two decades. However, in 2017, he was demoted from series regular to featured player on the show. Ducky’s job changed at the same time, as he retired as Chief Medical Examiner and became the NCIS historian.
McCallum, who is now 88 years old, appears in only a few episodes each season. Because of the pand3mic, his role has been reduced even further over the last two seasons.
Despite Harmon’s departure, McCallum is the only cast member who appeared in the NCIS pilot. Agent Tim McGee (Sean Murray) and medical examiner Jimmy Palmer (Brian Dietzen) didn’t appear until later in the first season.
EP Steven D. Binder describes David McCallum as “magical pixie dust,” and hopes to see more of him in season 20.
McCallum’s role on NCIS has been significantly reduced since the pand3mic began — and as a result of all the cast changes over the last two seasons. NCIS executive producer Steven D. Binder, on the other hand, says that will hopefully change in season 20.
“I think it’ll be about the same, possibly more,” Binder told Express. “I always tell David McCallum, ‘you are this magical pixie dust, wherever we put you, you’re just this magical being who elevates every scene he’s in with that David McCallum gravitas.’ So we’d like to have more.”
In recent seasons, ‘NCIS’ writers have been forced to focus heavily on cast changes.
Season 19 was difficult for writers and production because of pand3mic protocols, Harmon’s departure, and the introduction of two new characters — Gary Cole’s Alden Parker and Katrina Law’s Jessica Knight.
“One of the challenges last season was that there was no regular season. It began with all of our attention focused on how to get Gibbs off the show. “How do we get him out for the time being?” Binder elaborated.
“And that requires a lot of energy, a lot of time, and a lot of oxygen.” Then we were given the task of incorporating two new characters into the show… and that requires a lot of energy and oxygen.”
Binder believes that now that they will have “a little more headspace” in season 20, fans will see more scenes with Ducky in the future. He claims that “at the very least, you’ll see him the same amount.” When fans do get more Ducky, NCIS will “use him in a more effective way, similar to Mark Harmon.”
“I think the fans can tell when we put him in things and he’s just another star on the show versus when we devote our energies to making a story more about him, which is always fantastic.” “In 20 years, he has never let us down,” Binder said.
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