NCIS' DAVID McCALLUM, THE BRAVE & BOLD MERLIN
BY JENNIFER M. CONTINO
Veteran stage and screen star David K. McCallum is lending his voice to not one, but two superhero related projects in the New Year. He's playing Merlin when Batman visits Camelot tonight in Batman: The Brave and the Bold and also voicing the father Greek god, Zeus in the Wonder Woman animated feature. McCallum, who, along with voice acting, also plays Dr. Donald "Ducky" Mallard in the popular CBS series, NCIS, took some time away from his busy holiday schedule, to answer a few questions about his upcoming magical role.
Like a lot of other little boys, McCallum read comic books and strips as a boy, but, since he's from the UK, his list of comics is slightly different from what one might expect when you hear "comic books." McCallum grew up on a steady diet of Beano, Dandy, and Dan Dare. He also read comic strips and listened to radio serials about spy, sci-fi and other mystery men types.
All of that gave him a great background for his acting. Although he's been working in the industry since his first radio broadcast in 1946, it took McCallum a little while to enter the world of cartoons. His first steady job in animation came from the popular cartoon series, The Replacements. "I worked on 52 episodes of that series over the past two years playing a snooty British ex spy car," McCallum said. "I had such fun working on that series that I took roles on other cartoons like Ben 10. Then Andrea Romano asked me to play Merlin in Batman. I did that gladly. After a while, taking on voice acting roles is like a regular booking. You're told to be at a certain place for a certain time, you just go along and do it. The interesting thing to me was the whole concept of Camelot and Batman coming together. Having this opportunity to play Merlin was just something I couldn't resist."
"There's something wonderful about playing those parts [in cartoons]," McCallum continued. "You can takes breaks and do things you normally can't do when you're acting. It's much larger than life. It's much more dramatic. You have to make a point in a very different way. I've learned a lot about how to do that over the past few years. In fact, I learn new things all the time. It was fantastic to just be with those people I've heard doing amazing voices, noises and sounds in cartoons.
McCallum said he didn't alter his voice much to bring Merlin to life. "My voice is my voice," he told THE PULSE. "Merlin is Merlin. I just put them together using the script as a means to an end. There is something wonderfully theatrical about Merlin. He's a magician, a sorcerer, a man of great powers and people with great powers don't have to push it. They can say, 'You are about to disappear' and 'poof!' away you go! In this case there is a certain Camelot resonance to the whole proceedings. I got carried away dramatically a few times."
"I played Arthur once in Camelot for twelve weeks in Chicago and worked with Merlin," he continued. "That was a lot of fun."
Many of the actors who have worked on an episode or two of Batman: The Brave and the Bold likened it to the old radio show readings. But, McCallum is one of the only ones to have first-hand knowledge of radio work, since some of his earliest work was in radio. "One of the first things I ever did was in 1946 on radio for the BBC," he told THE PULSE. "I started with voices. Now I'm playing a magician and learning some tricks of the trade.
"I watched one episodes of Batman: The Brave and the Bold a while back and thought everyone involved was doing wonderful things," he continued. "I didn't read a lot of Batman growing up. We didn't have access to many US superhero comics, we had a war going on! I'd love to work on this again, or any other cartoon. It was great fun."
You can see David McCallum as Merlin tonight on Batman: The Brave and the Bold. You can also catch him weekly on the popular CBS drama, NCIS.