Before his death, David McCallum revealed the sad truth about 'NCIS' co-star Cote de Pablo

Before his death, David McCallum revealed the sad truth about ‘NCIS’ co-star Cote de Pablo

David McCallum was a fantastic actor and became Dr. Donald “Ducky” Mallard worldwide through his long stint on NCIS. The talented actor was also a respected musician, making the original music to one of the most legendary hip-hop songs ever. 

Through the years on NCIS, McCallum became a loved cast member and never really had any problem with any of his colleagues. However, when Cote de Pablo left the show, “Ducky” was furious about her decision.

Cote De Pablo has pretty much disappeared, and since she doesn’t have any social media accounts, it’s hard to know what she is up to these days. While she said that the poor script was the reason she left, not everyone agrees with that. In fact, before his death, David McCallum revealed the actual reason why she left – and it might not sit well with fans.

Fans worldwide mourned the passing of David McCallum. The NCIS actor passed away on September 26, age 90, at the New York Presbyterian Hospital from natural causes, surrounded by his family.

“He was the kindest, coolest, most patient and loving father. He always put family before self. He looked forward to any chance to connect with his grandchildren, and had a unique bond with each of them,” his son, Peter McCallum, shared in a statement on behalf of the family. “He and his youngest grandson, Whit, 9, could often be found in the corner of a room at family parties having deep philosophical conversations.”

David McCallum from ‘NCIS’ dead at 90

“He was a true renaissance man—he was fascinated by science and culture and would turn those passions into knowledge,” the statement continued. “For example, he was capable of conducting a symphony orchestra and (if needed) could actually perform an autopsy, based on his decades-long studies for his role on NCIS.”

“After returning from the hospital to their apartment, I asked my mother if she was OK before she went to sleep. Her answer was simply, ‘Yes. But I do wish we had had a chance to grow old together.’ She is 79, and dad just turned 90. The honesty in that emotion shows how vibrant their beautiful relationship and daily lives were and that somehow, even at 90, Daddy never grew old.”

David McCallum had a long and successful career. Born on September 19, 1933, in Glasgow, Scotland, his parents’ musical interest forged McCallum’s path in music. In the 1960s, he landed a record deal, releasing four albums with Capitol Records, and one of his songs, The Edge, was even sampled by rap artist Dr. Dre as the intro and riff for his track The Next Episode.

“I always knew that I could turn to music if I failed as an actor,” he said.

Of course, McCallum didn’t fail at all. Instead, the 5’7″ actor became what some would describe as the film industry’s answer to Beatlemania in the US.

David McCallum
TV Times via Getty Images

Acting had always been McCallum’s passion. He got his big breakthrough when he was cast as Illya Kuryakin in the television hit show The Man From U.N.C.L.E, and success came fast. He was nominated for two Emmy Awards for his performance, and according to himself, he even got more fan mail than Elvis Presley himself.

Once, he visited the White House, and while being escorted to meet the President, a Secret Service agent told him: “You’re the reason I got this job.”

How David McCallum got the role of “Ducky” on ‘NCIS’

And fan mail wasn’t the only attention that McCallum received; vast numbers of fans were desperate to meet him in the street. Things got so crazy that he, on one occasion, even had to be rescued.

“I was rescued from Central Park by mounted police on one occasion,” he recalled. “When I went to Macy’s department store, the fans caused $25,000 worth of damage, and they had to close Herald Square to get me out of there.”

“That is pretty classic, but you just have to deal with it,” he added. “And then whoever was next came along, and you get dropped overnight, which is a relief.”

McCallum was a massive star and a fan favorite throughout the 1960s. In later years, he garnered a new, younger crowd thanks to his performances on NCIS. In 2003, he appeared on the hit show for the first time as Ducky and never left.

The same day he had his first audition, which he nailed, McCallum was offered the part – and the rest is history. David starred in a total of 457 episodes of the show, which, until today, is the most out of every cast member. But even though he knew it was a good role, he never thought it would bring him back into the spotlight as a popular actor.

David McCallum
Shutterstock/Kathy Hutchins

“NCIS has been a phenomenon, it has attracted huge audiences all over the world, and I’m now hearing from people who have watched me in programs from the 60s and 70s after first noticing me in NCIS,” he once said.

“In the old days, we used to get fan mail, but nowadays, it’s all Facebook and Twitter, and the impact of these things is remarkable. My publisher in America organized a book signing, and more than 30,000 people read it on Facebook.”

David McCallum’s relationship with ‘NCIS’ co-star Cote de Pablo

David McCallum worked with many talented actors and actresses on the show. Those included Mark Harmon and Pauley Perrette, who both shared some heartbreaking words when their beloved former co-star died.

Another popular actress on the show is Cote de Pablo, starring as the former Israeli Mossad officer and former NCIS Spmarecial Agent Ziva David. The actress stayed on the show for 12 years before sending fans into shock when she returned at the end of season 16.

Born in Chile, her mother worked in television, and Cote De Pablo followed her mother’s footsteps. In 2005, de Pablo was cast in NCIS after graduating with a degree in acting and musical theater.

“My character’s strength is like mine, to a completely different degree. Losing family members because of a war,” Cote de Pablo explained. “I have moments when I just have to hold my heart. But I also have to remember that if I played the character from my point of view, she’d be falling apart all the time. She has to keep it together–it’s the world she grew up in.”

Between 2005 and 2013, Cote de Pablo starred in 189 episodes of NCIS. She made short comebacks in both 2019 and 2020. However, she never returned as a constant cast member.

Through her stint on the show, the actress was nominated for three American Latino Media Arts Awards and won one in 2011 for Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series.

Mark Harmon and Cote de Pablo at the “NCIS” press conference at the Four Seasons Hotel on April 22, 2009 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Vera Anderson/WireImage)

But while nominations and awards might be fun to receive, other things matter more.

Criticized her for ‘walking out’ from ‘NCIS’

For Cote de Pablo, that meant doing something else, and towards the end of the 11th season of NCIS, she decided to leave the show.

“It was not an easy decision, not one taken lightly,” she told Latina then. “I feel like I am leaving my family. What I want to say most of all is thank you to the fans and to the people who have been so supportive of me and of the show, who have made the show the great success that it is.”

CBS president Les Moonves revealed that Cote de Pablo turned down “a lot of money” to remain on NCIS. She had formed outstanding bonds with her colleagues – among them an extraordinary bond with Mark Harmon – but neither good co-workers nor money would keep her on.

Some understood her decision better than others. And one who didn’t was David McCallum, who was frustrated when he heard the news.

He told Digital Spy that the writers had to rewrite several episodes of the show and that he was angry.

“It was frustration and anger that someone should just walk out on us,” McCallum said.

“I just don’t understand how a leading lady in a show that’s worldwide, who ostensibly wants to have a career as an actress, suddenly walks away from such a gem and just vanishes a couple of days before we start production.”

Cote de Pablo
Gregg DeGuire/WireImage

“This business is merciless so right away the whole team of writers gets in and rewrites the first five shows,” he added. “When it happened, you think, ‘This is a dangerous road to go down’ – but they pulled it off.”

David McCallum shares real reason Cote de Pablo first quit ‘NCIS’

Neither CBS nor Cote de Pablo wanted to go into specifics as to why she actually left the show. However, in 2016, David McCallum decided to share the real reason why she left, at least according to him.

On January 5, David McCallum set up an AMA (Ask Me Anything) thread on the popular social media platform Reddit.

Over the years, many celebrities have decided to do similar things for fun at Reddit, where fans can, just as the title says, ask them anything they want and hope for a reply.

“I’m David McCallum. I play Ducky on the hit TV show NCIS and my debut mystery novel, Once a Crooked Man, hits shelves next week. AMA! (Ask me anything),” he wrote in the thread.

During the Reddit Q&A, one question received the most upvotes, and, of course, it was about NCIS. The fan asked, “Any insight as to why Cote De Pablo left NCIS?

David McCallum wasted no time in answering.

“At the time I was astonished when Cote left. But in retrospect, it seems that she was not up to handling the demands that the character put upon her,” he responded, which was reported by Express.

David McCallum
David Livingston/Getty Images

McCallum added, “I still don’t understand her deeper motives.”

Weeks after David McCallum posted his theory on Reddit about why she left, Cote de Pablo opened up in an interview with Vanity Fair.

Cote de Pablo said her character wasn’t treated with respect

At that point, she said the reason was that her character wasn’t respected. Even so, she later decided to return for a short stint on the show.

“Look, I love this character. I worked eight years crafting this character and loving her. And so when I felt or I perceived that the character was not being treated with the respect that she deserved, no money in the world [would make me stay],” Cote de Pablo told Vanity Fair.

“They were going to send her back to Israel and make her an unfortunate, miserable woman,” the actress continued. “I said, ‘What do I leave all the women that have watched and followed the show for so long?’ And I didn’t think it was fair. So I said, ‘Unless someone can really write something fantastic for her, I won’t go back.'”

If you enjoyed this article, perhaps you’d like to read about Mark Harmon’s one special request before his last-ever NCIS episode.

Rest in peace, David McCallum. Please share this article on Facebook with friends and family if you also will miss “Ducky”.