by Tim Cuprisin
It's been four decades since David McCallum and Robert Vaughn fought the bad guys from THRUSH on NBC's "Man from U.N.C.L.E."
McCallum's 74 now, and working just as hard as ever on CBS' "NCIS." At least, he was working hard until the writers strike stopped production.
"I've never known a strike yet where people really gain what they lose," he said, eager to end his unexpected vacation.
The good news is that he's available to talk about the show that made him an American star, a take on the then-hot James Bond full of then-cutting-edge TV spy technology.
"Doing a television series in those days, it was nine months, I think, we shot it. We worked from dawn to dusk. On weekends you did publicity," he said. "We weren't workaholics or anything, it was just the workload."
McCallum signed on for the show - which paid him about $1,500 a week at the time - hoping to break into American films.
"I was a character actor before I came to this country," he recalled. "When I did 'U.N.C.L.E.,' my thinking was I'd come to the United States, I need film, I have to have a reel in order to show casting directors."
He thought it would last a season, maybe two. It went on for four - and he had fun with his role of Illya Kuryakin.
"I used to try and make as many literary comments in the whole thing, so that I got letters from college professors and people who picked up on these things. It was an odd sort of way that the whole thing became part of the American scene."
The show is now resurrected by current TV technology in a DVD set from Time-Life that includes all four seasons of the show.
And you can listen to the entire conversation with McCallum - including a list of some of the interesting tunes on his iPod - at www.jsonline.com/links/cuprisin.