NCIS season 20: CBS boss addresses Ducky’s future on drama ‘Bare minimum’

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Donald ‘Ducky’ Mallard (played by David McCallum) has made a number of appearances in the latest seasons of NCIS, but his role has been heavily reduced since the COVID-19 pandemic. With the CBS staple gearing up to start work on its 20th season, Steven D Binder has hinted at how much we could expect to see from the team’s resident historian when the series returns.

Ducky is set to appear for at least as many episodes as the previous outing in NCIS season 20, if not more.

In this year’s finale, he showed up briefly to deliver some bad news to Agent Alden Parker (Gary Cole) along with the rest of the team.

After Parker made the impossible decision to go on the run from the FBI, Ducky then reminded the agents he’s always had their back when they consider how much they can really trust their new leader.

He was also apparently rather excited to learn about the surprising developments between Dr Jimmy Palmer (Brian Dietzen) and Agent Jessica Knight (Katrina Law).

However, fans may have still been rather disappointed by his limited screen time in the new season, so Steven has reassured them this hopefully won’t be the case next time around.

“I think it’ll be probably about the same, possibly more,” the NCIS boss confirmed.

Steven went on to explain the limitations presented by the pandemic – as well as the task of bowing out Leroy Gibbs’ (Mark Harmon) 19-year run on the series – meant some elements of the series fell by the wayside.

He explained to TV Insider: “One of the things that was difficult last season was it wasn’t a regular season.”

“It opened up with all of our energies devoted to, how do we get Gibbs off the show? How do we give him the exit, for now at least?

“And that takes a lot of energy and it takes a lot of time and it takes a lot of oxygen.

“Then we were cast with integrating two new characters into the show — [played by] Katrina Law and Gary Cole. And that also takes a lot of energy and a lot of oxygen.”

After so many departures in the last two seasons, including Gibbs, Jack Sloane (Maria Bello) and Ellie Bishop (Emily Wickersham), it took a lot of work to ensure the newcomers were naturally integrated into the existing cast.

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Thankfully, the team has been fully rounded out in time for what will undoubtedly be an exceptional celebration of NCIS’s two decades on screen, with plenty of time to check in with the fans’ old favourites.

The producer revealed his hopes to spend more time on specific characters with the next season, which should hopefully provide more opportunities for David to show off his acting chops.

He continued: “And David McCallum, I say to him all the time, ‘you are this magical pixie dust, wherever we put you, you’re just this magical being who elevates every scene he’s in with that David McCallum gravitas.’

“So we would love to have more. We’ll have a little more headspace.”

“At a bare minimum, you’ll see him the same amount and hopefully we’ll be able to, when we do see him, use him in a way that’s more effective, much like Mark Harmon.

“The fans can probably tell when we put him in things and he’s just another star on the show versus when we actually devote our energies to making a story more about him, and those are always fantastic. He’s never let us down in 20 years.”

After his brief appearances towards the end of season 19, CBS viewers could finally expect some more Ducky-centric episodes when the 20th instalment rolls around after the summer.

NCIS is available on CBS in the USA. New episodes arrive on Wednesdays on Disney+ in the UK.

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