David McCallum - Like a Ducky to water

from the Edinburgh Evening News
Published Date: 06 November 2009

By Liam Rudden

NCIS director Fiona Shepard risks her career and the life of agent Tony DiNozzo in tonight's episode of Five's popular American crime series and as ever, watching from the sidelines ready to piece together the clues as the body count mounts is the Naval Criminal Investigative Service's eccentric British chief medical examiner, Doctor Donald 'Ducky' Mallard, played by Scottish actor David McCallum.

"Obviously Ducky was in the British Army, in the Royal Army Medical Corps, and at some point was seconded to an American unit. He then went over to the States, decided to stay and applied to NCIS where he has now been for 12 or 13 years. Still, you can do anything you want with him," explains McCallum, who was approaching 70 when he landed the role.

"I had reached the stage in life where I was working off-Broadway and earning not very much money in a wonderful show that was about to close and I was about to have my 70th birthday.

"I was questioning what I might want to do for the rest of my life when I had this request to go for an audition. I went, they put a scene on tape and that went to Los Angles.

"The next day I got a call to say, 'Would I fly out to LA to CBS and Paramount?' I did. Out of that experience, I got the job."

Whether or not he had been ear-marked for the role from the start, however, is a mystery to McCallum, who admits, "One of the things that I have never tried to do is find out what the minds of producers and directors think.

"Mark Harmon, who plays Supervisory Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs, has told me that he had heard that one of the first people cast in this show was me. I did not realise that."

With a laugh he adds, "I always accept the first job that comes along, I think that's a Scottish thing – a bird in the hand and all that."

NCIS, Five, tonight, 9pm