How Cote de Pablo and David McCallum Combined With Their ‘NCIS’ Characters

When actors take on characters for a prolonged period — whether in a cinematic franchise or a long-running show — they often become one with their roles. In time, the actor and the character can fuse in fans’ minds. Yet, sometimes, the actor and the character can merge in the performers’ minds and leave such individuals behaving a little out of the ordinary (in their day-to-day lives). 

NCIS actors Cote de Pablo, David McCallum, Sean Murray, and Brian Dietzen
Left to right: Sean Murray, Cote de Pablo, Brian Dietzen and David McCallum of ‘NCIS’ | Sonja Flemming/CBS ©2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved

Cote de Pablo (who recently returned to NCIS) and David McCallum are well known for portraying Ziva David and Ducky, respectively, in the Naval crime drama. After seasons of climbing into their characters’ skin, they found their identities merging with the ones created for the small screen. 

The time Cote de Pablo was a little too much like Agent Ziva David

Cote de Pablo and Ziva David, though sharing some character qualities, are vastly disparate in the emotional vulnerability and openness realm. While de Pablo is soft, warm, and compassionate  — known for physical expressions of love — Ziva is a bit colder, a bit closed off. She doesn’t let people in. And, one time, a Ziva-esque hug took Cote de Pablo by surprise. Collider explained: 

De Pablo once gave a friend a half-hearted hug, and realized it was because Ziva is not as emotionally present as the real-life de Pablo.

RELATED: ‘NCIS’: No One Knew About Cote de Pablo’s Ziva Return–Not Even the Cast

Cote de Pablo is expressive, funny, and light-hearted in her day-to-day, but Ziva is not. And, after so many years — episode after episode — of playing Ziva, a Ziva-esque expression of warmth crept its way into Cote de Pablo’s off-screen life. Yet, Cote de Pablo isn’t the only NCIS cast member to suffer from character creep. 

David McCallum on combining with Ducky

In NCIS, David McCallum portrays Donald Mallard (Ducky) — the former official medical examiner in the NCIS Major Case Response Team. He performs autopsies and psychological profiles on potential suspects. He once explained that, because of the time dedicated to NCIS, he became one with the character. According to Collider, he said, “The scary part of that is, I find that Ducky and David have combined.” 

RELATED: ‘NCIS’: Michael Weatherly Has a Hilarious Story About His First On-Screen Kiss with Cote de Pablo

While this may not inherently sound like a bad thing for McCallum since Ducky is a loveable man committed to justice, it’s still odd when you’re individuality grows to emulate someone you are not: someone that another person fabricated. Thus, “scary” seems like the appropriate word. As for de Pablo, maybe she thinks before hugging people now, as people likely assume she’s colder than she is when Ziva takes over her demeanor.