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Although Brian Dietzen hasn’t been on “NCIS” for its entire run, he joined early on and has become a long-standing cast member. After Gerald Jackson, Dr. Donald “Ducky” Mallard’s original assistant medical examiner, was injured by Ziva David’s half-brother Ari Haswari, Dietzen’s Jimmy Palmer took his place in the Season 1 episode “Split Decision.” Over two decades, Palmer and Ducky formed a close professional and personal bond, which extended to the actors, Dietzen and the late David McCallum, sharing memorable times on set.

Recently, Dietzen recalled a particular memory involving McCallum during an appearance on “Off Duty: An NCIS Rewatch” with hosts Michael Weatherly and Cote de Pablo. During the filming of the Season 3 episode “Switch,” where Jimmy takes a nasty tumble down a hill, McCallum offered Dietzen some unexpected advice.

In the episode, Jimmy Palmer is supposed to run down a hill and sprain his ankle. Early on, McCallum suggested, “You should ask for a stuntman for that day.” Dietzen initially thought he could handle it, but McCallum grabbed his arm and seriously said, “If you ask for a stuntman, a man who was otherwise unemployed will have a job for the day. Ask for the damn stuntman.” Dietzen complied, and although he ultimately performed the stunt himself, the stuntman hired for the day still received a day’s pay.

McCallum, with decades of acting experience in film and TV, including his iconic role as Illya Kuryakin in “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.,” knew the importance of providing work for fellow performers. He wasn’t doubting Dietzen’s ability to do the stunt but wanted to ensure a stunt double had a paid opportunity, demonstrating his admirable care for colleagues.

Ducky and Jimmy held down NCIS’ autopsy fort together until Season 15, when Ducky took a sabbatical to teach at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, leaving Jimmy in charge. Ducky later resigned as Chief Medical Examiner in Season 16, making Jimmy his official successor. McCallum continued to make occasional appearances as Ducky, now NCIS historian, until his passing in September 2023. Ducky’s death was depicted in the Season 21 episode “The Stories We Leave Behind,” co-written by Dietzen and Scott Williams.

To revisit Ducky and Jimmy’s journey, you can stream past seasons on Paramount+. “NCIS” Season 22 is set to premiere this fall on the 2024 TV schedule, alongside the new prequel series “NCIS: Origins,” focusing on a young Leroy Jethro Gibbs.

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