David McCallum passed away two days ago, on Sept. 25, 2023. These days, most people know of him as “Ducky” from NCIS, and many from a prior generation remember him well from his 1960s role as the Russian agent “Illya Kuryakin” in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. If you happened to watch both shows, you might even remember a time on NCIS when “Kate” (Sasha Alexander) asks “Gibbs” (Mark Harmon): "What did Ducky look like when he was younger?” The answer: “Illya Kuryakin”.
What’s lesser known is that David was a talented, classically trained musician, as well, recording four albums in the ‘60s. Most of the tracks are instrumental reinterpretations of hits from that time, although he also wrote originals and sang on some of the songs. I found out only recently that, whether listeners realized it or not, David McCallum’s music reached a new audience when his song “The Edge” was prominently sampled in Dr. Dre’s 2001 single “The Next Episode”.
I can’t say I knew David really well but did know him, nonetheless. He was very kind and as smart as you would expect from the man who played “Ducky” - the retired medical examiner, then part-time NCIS historian and occasional consultant for the investigative team.
The last time we chatted, it was near the end of filming another successful season. Before we all parted ways for the summer, I was trying hard to get a poster fully signed by the main cast, so it could be framed during the downtime hiatus always brings. Seeing David outside one of the sound stages, I found out he had just finished filming for the day (and for the season), so I asked if he would sign my poster before leaving. He didn’t mind at all. I said I’d run and grab it from my office, but he said “Oh, that’s okay, I’ll come with you.” So we walked and talked. He signed the poster, we wished each other a great summer, and that was that.
Although David stepped a little further and further into retirement for several years, his absence will continue to be felt. I will miss him and certainly will the cast, the crew, and the fans he amassed during such a long and illustrious career.
David Keith McCallum (19 September 1933 – 25 September 2023)
"A Tribute To David McCallum" (2023)
by Justin Kilmer
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