‘NCIS’ Star Wilmer Valderrama Looks Back on Working With ‘Inspiring’ David McCallum: ‘He Never Left Food on the Table’ | Video

The actor previews the CBS drama’s tribute episode for the beloved cast member behind Ducky

“NCIS” star Wilmer Valderrama says costar David McCallum was “inspiring” to him all the way down to his final scene on the CBS series.

The actor remembered admiring the performer behind Dr. Donald “Ducky” Mallard, a longtime series regular on the procedural since Season 1. McCallum died peacefully in his sleep on Sept. 25 at the age of 90.

“He never left food on the table. That’s one thing that I bonded with him over,” Valderrama told TheWrap ahead of the show’s Monday-night tribute episode, “The Stories We Leave Behind.” “When we were in the scenes, I could still see him swinging so hard. It was inspiring.”

Valderrama praised McCallum for the dedication he showed every day on set, remembering how McCallum would commute weekly from his home in New York to film his role on the drama series.

Earlier in 2023, the actor was made a recurring character after examiner Ducky became an NCIS historian, leaving active case work behind for Brian Dietzen’s Jimmy Palmer to inherit. His final episode was the Season 20 finale, which aired in May.

“He would not forget one single line. This guy would come in and be so off-book [and] say all this medical stuff. All the way to his last scene … It reminded me that we always have to do more.”

The Season 21 premiere ended with special agent Alden Parker (Gary Cole) receiving a distressing call as the team waited for the news with concerned looks on their faces. A logline for Monday night’s hour, written by Dietzen and Scott Williams, teased the team mourning the loss of the beloved Ducky while investigating one of his remaining open cases, involving the daughter of a marine who was dishonorably discharged.

“I’m sitting here and I’m getting goosebumps because I’ve never been in a situation where a character on the show has to play real life,” Valderrama said. “We had to mirror the reality of life and the fact that he was really gone … Brian Dietzen did a beautiful job being tasked with writing it. I could have never imagined anyone else.

“It’s humorous, it’s beautiful, it’s fun and it’s tragic,” he added. “You’re going to go through memory lane with him and you’re going to see the best of him, the most influential part of him and the reason why he was so instrumental to the legacy of ‘NCIS’ … It’s really emotional.”

“NCIS” airs Mondays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on CBS. Episodes stream on Paramount+ the day after premiere.

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