It’s hard to imagine NCIS without Donald “Ducky” Mallard. Outside of having a very memorable name, the character has been one of the steadiest and most reliable investigators in the entire series. He was top-notch medical examiner, and he helped the NCIS team by being a crackerjack historian as well.
Sadly, “Ducky” will not be appearing in season 21. David McCallum, the actor who played him, has died at the age of 90. TV Line broke the news in September, just as the show was celebrating its twentieth anniversary on the air. McCallum reportedly died from natural causes at the New York Presbyterian Hospital.
Will David McCallum be in NCIS season 21?
Before his death, McCallum weighed in on the fact that he’s seen lots of cast turnover in the last couple years. “The show of NCIS that I did with Mark Harmon and Cote de Pablo and a whole bunch of them, they’ve all moved on to other things”, McCallum told RadioTimes.
"“So when I go there it’s like being in a different show and it doesn’t quite make sense any more. But I have a wonderful relationship with my assistant Jimmy Palmer. Brian Dietzen [who plays Jimmy] is a wonderful actor. He’s just been a rock, a tremendous guy to work with.”"
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In the same interview, which was conducted in November 2022, McCallum did reveal that he was nearing the end of his NCIS contract. There have not any been reports of any contract renewals in recent months, but during the oral history that was published by The Hollywood Reporter, NCIS producer Charles Floyd Johnson admitted that there was increasingly less for McCallum to do on the set.
“David [just turned 90], and he lives in New York”, Johnson said at the time. “He may come back and do four or five episodes. It’s much too hard on him now, and I think he’s ready to retire. But he was amazing from the day he came on.” It was encouraging to know that Ducky still had a place in the show’s future, even if it was in a diminished capacity. As fans have come to realize over the years, a little Ducky goes a long way.
Sadly, due to the writers and actors strike, production on NCIS season 21 was delayed by several months. The show would have normally started filming during the summer, and been set for a fall release, but the actors strike stretching all the way to November meant that McCallum was not able to film any of his planned appearances before his death.
It’s not clear how NCIS plans on addressing McCallum’s, and by extension, Ducky’s death, but we do know that the character will not be appearing in any new footage. McCallum is survived by his four children and wife, Katherine McCallum.
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