NEXT ON NCIS
17x01 - Out of the Darkness - Ziva surprises Gibbs with a cryptic warning, prompting him to question why she remained underground for years while being presumed dead by family and friends, and what led to her return, on the 17th season premiere of NCIS
Tuesday September 24th, (8:00-9:00 PM, ET/PT)

Posted by Admin on October 25th, 2011


Even if you don’t yet know this actor’s name off-hand, you definitely know his face. Brian Dietzen has played the lovable assistant medical examiner, Jimmy Palmer, on NCIS for over 8 years now and his story is not anywhere close to being over. In fact, his character is in the midst of planning for his own wedding which is scheduled to air in the spring. Yes, Dietzen has remained a constant presence as part of the NCIS gang, but did you know that his character was only supposed to be a one-time thing? I had the pleasure of speaking with Dietzen about the hit drama, what life is like on-set, his relationships with fellow characters, some of his favorite television shows (besides NCIS), and any other upcoming projects he has in the works.

One thing that I love about the show NCIS is that you always get a great mix of drama and humor. There are the actual investigations where everyone’s trying to solve the case, but then there’s also some great interaction and dialogue between the characters and I just really love that. It just seems like everyone clicks really well together. What’s the atmosphere like while filming an episode?
The atmosphere is pretty great on the set. There are not a lot of shows that have been around as long as we have and by the time a show gets to this place in its life, people aren’t the best of friends anymore and I’m very happy to say that our set is not like that at all. Everyone in the cast gets along fantastic and it’s a great place to work. Everyone is there to help out and make the show better and I think that’s the big secret that we’re hiding from everyone is that everyone shows up to really try and really make the show as good as possible.

Yeah, you can really tell. I mean this is your ninth year for the show and I just think it really shows during the episodes how strong you guys all are together, so that’s really great.
Yeah, everyone’s always hunting for the funniest moment or what can make this more powerful for the audiences. Everyone’s a big fan of the show itself and the characters. We all love the characters I think as much as the people that watch it, so we all work together as a team pretty darn well by now.

Your character, Jimmy Palmer, is the assistant to the Chief Medical Examiner known as Ducky. When you first were cast to play that part, did you have to observe or follow around a real medical examiner?
Yeah, David McCallum and I had the opportunity to go down to Craig Harvey who is the Chief Medical Examiner for L.A. County and tour around and observe a few autopsies down in Los Angeles and it was pretty grisly. It was pretty amazing to see all this stuff. Not many people get to see it and I don’t think many people would want to, but what struck both of us about these people were that they’re just normal folks and they talk about their personal lives while they’re working. They talk about sports while they’re working. They tell jokes here and there, not being inappropriate whatsoever with the dead, but they have to lead their lives normally. They can’t lead their lives with some sort of reverence and whisper around dead bodies and that sort of thing, otherwise they’d drive themselves insane. They have to just be normal people and I think that’s one of the things David and I have been happy that the writers have infused into these two characters – that they’re just living their lives and they may be cavalier about certain subjects, even though there’s a dead body within the room they can still talk about daily life and go on about their life and it lends a certain degree of levity to an autopsy room you wouldn’t expect, but I think that’s what has kept us going strong til now.

I think that’s also a really good point in that Ducky speaks to the dead people. It’s a way to cope and deal with the type of work that you’re actually doing.
Yeah, if you think about it. I’m not around real dead people all that often, most people aren’t, but when you are you tend to be very, very respectful and quiet and people do tend to whisper cause you’re trying to show massive amounts of respect, but if this is your daily life you have to figure out a way to go about it and not go insane by the time you reach Friday. So the way we’ve done that is that there’s a bit of humor in the autopsy and there’s good times had by both of us.

So this definitely made you grateful that’s not your real career?
Oh gosh, yes. I’m so thankful there are people out there that do this for their real career because they are amazing scientists that can use forensics and autopsies to solve these crimes and to give some peace and closure to the families of the victims, but myself I could not do it. There’s no way. This is probably on my all-time list of No, I don’t think I want to do that with my life.

Totally understandable. Jimmy’s always been a little socially awkward, but in such an endearing way. He has that sort of lovable nerd persona who seems to have a really big heart, so that makes him really likable. When you first entered into the role, did you see any part of yourself in Jimmy?
Yeah, I think so. Most people have that inside of them – the insecurity and kind of the underdog inside of most people and I think that’s a very fun thing to play for me because I don’t generally act too much that way in real life, but everyone wants to root for the underdog and that’s what I hear from a lot of people. “I love your character because sometimes I feel that way, especially around people like Gibbs and I think that often times I have that inside of me. I think we all do and it’s fun to check out and put into a character. But it’s interesting because when I first auditioned for this role, it was only supposed to be for one day in the first season and they just kept asking me back and so yeah eight years later I’m still flaking around, but so when I first came up with the character I thought “Well, just kinda make some bold choices” as far as being very insecure and second guessing myself and all that sort of stuff cause I thought, well it’s just going to be one and done and it will be something good for my actor’s reel – a different character. And then eight years later I’m thinking, wow, okay, still around so I gotta keep figuring new ways to keep the character the same because it’s an endearing character, but also to give him small amounts of growth in certain areas so people realize he’s not just a low robot.

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