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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 August 20th, 2012


Brian Dietzen plays the role of Jimmy Palmer on the CBS hit show NCIS. He was called in one day as a guest star role to play as an assistant to the medical examiner. Nine years later he is still part of the show and just recently got signed to be a series regular. Brian and I talk about NCIS, what to expect for the tenth season this fall, and his own film that he produced called Congratulations.

Art Eddy: NCIS is such a great show and the cast has a great chemistry. You came on the show back in 2004. How did you get to play the part of Jimmy Palmer?

Brian Dietzan: Well I got called in when the previous medical examiner assistant got shot in the shoulder which was part of the storyline. So they needed someone to come and fill in. So I was only actually supposed to be there for one day. I had a one day guest star and I think that is what a lot of actors dream about. When you go in for a one day guest star they always think hopefully they will leave the door open and I can come back next week. So it happens to be nine years later and I’m still working on the thing so it really worked out for me.

AE: How was it to be the new guy on the show back then and was there a hazing process for you as the newbie?

BD: (Laughs) No it was just the opposite. It is actually known by a lot of the guest stars and a lot people that visit our set that it is probably one of the nicest sets that you have ever been on. It is headed up by Mark Harmon. He makes a point to go up to every guest star that we have and sitting down and chatting with them. He doesn’t do it because he feels obliged to do it. It is more of just the tenor of the set. It is very inclusive and we are very blessed that we are ten years into this run for the show, wow it has been a whole decade. Everyone really gets along well. Everyone really likes what they do for a living. We are really, really blessed.

AE: Recently I saw that you were promoted to series regular on the show, which is going into its 10th season. Congratulations on the promotion. How was it to get the news?

BD: Oh it was really great. It was very cool. Gary Glasberg is our show runner now. He has done a fantastic job of pushing the character of Jimmy Palmer to the forefront. Also to show what this guy (Jimmy Palmer) is going through the last couple seasons. I really owe Gary a huge debt for pushing Jimmy Palmer for where he is today. I think with that natural progression of the character’s back story, getting engaged, getting married, and all kinds of stuff the network said let’s make sure we keep this guy around instead of calling up week to week to see if he is free. It was really great and I was very happy to get that call.

AE: Speaking of your character getting married I have to say I loved the story arc where Jimmy has his father-in-law come to the NCIS building was great. How was it to shoot those scenes?

BD: It was so cool man. I read the script and I thought oh that was really fun. I come to the set and I didn’t know it until I came to the set for our read through that it was Larry Miller who was going to play my father-in-law. I thought to myself, oh my gosh. Get out of here. This is going to be great. Larry and I had a great time. That was actually my favorite show that I got to do this last season. I really, really hope that we get to have that guy (Miller) back. I think he was so much fun. He was really popular with the fans as well which works in his favor too.

AE: Is there a story arc for your character or season that you will always remember even when the show is no longer on the air?

BD: Well I think that any time Jimmy Palmer has more to do or have an opportunity to step up more so than just when he is an assistant to Ducky, which is where the bread and butter of Jimmy Palmer is. Once and a while I get to step up and take a little more responsibility it creates a bit of change to the character dynamic. I always look forward to that kind of stuff.

So the beginning of this season has really been about that. It has been about Jimmy having to step up and take over things a bit because of what happened at the end of this last season which (SPOILER ALERT) is the entire team blowing up. So when Jimmy comes back he has a lot of serious business to do. The first three episodes for this upcoming season has been a blast to work on.

AE: I enjoy the relationship you have with David McCallum’s character, Dr. Mallard, did you two have any input on how the relationship is seen on the series?

BD: Oh yea absolutely. The writers do a fantastic job of seeing what the strengths of the scenes and how they will play out. They definitely write to that. We love the stuff that they give to us. I think one of the biggest things that David has done and was very protective of from day one is the fact that this relationship will always be a positive learning experience for Jimmy and a collaborative experience as well for the two of them. They can teach one another. So it is not always all the time Ducky having to talk down to Jimmy or correct him on everything.

Jimmy is going through his paces, but he has learned by now and is very competent. David has been very protective of that dynamic. I think it has served the show well because if Jimmy still doesn’t know what postmortem lividity is in the ninth season the dude should be fired. (laughs) So it is keeping a small amount of that naiveté so that it is relatable, but at the same token it is about learning and realizing where he has come from and not just staying in one place.

AE: Looks like season 10 will be having some great guest stars. One name that stands out to me is Billy Dee Williams. Can you tell us what we can expect for the new season?

BD: Yea he (Billy) is going to be in the fourth episode which we are shooting tomorrow so I get to meet him later today at the table read. His name is Leroy Jethro as Gibbs’ name is. I don’t know too much of what his back story will be, but it involves a medal of honor. Something that is not a too common occurrence in this country someone who receives that is a pretty honored individual. So I have a feeling that it will draw up a lot of cool stuff and a lot of emotion from not only Gibbs but of Gibbs’ father as well. I’m really looking forward to what they bring to the table with him. (Billy)

In addition to that we just finished working with Michael Des Barres in the third episode. Before that we had Richard Schiff back to reprise his role of Harper Dearing as a terrorist. It is pretty cool that all this stuff is happening and we are only in our third episode. It is really cool because we don’t know when we are going to get the guest stars on an episode. We are notified a week ahead of time. The way that it is rolling now, I am really looking forward to be working with some great actors this year. Unfortunately for me I generally only get long and extended scenes with them if they die and they are on the table. Let’s be honest we are not going to bring in Billy Dee Williams to just shoot him in the head. It is not going to happen. If you have an awesome guest star in a big name actor you are probably not bringing him in to lay him naked on a table to work on his guts.

AE: You also have written and produced a film called Congratulations. Tell me about the film?

BD: It was a labor of love that I got to shoot last year. We finished up post production this year. It was a small film that I wrote with three of my friends and two of them directed it. We had some really wonderful talent come in and work with us on it. Kevin Rankin who is from Friday Night Lights, Justified, Unforgettable, he came in and play my best buddy in it. Debra Jo Rupp, the mom from That ’70s Show, came in and played my mom. It was really wonderful and it is a cool examination of modern marriage and what getting married actually means to two different people.

The premise of the movie is that a guy asks his girlfriend to marry him. She asks him why he would ask that we are so happy. She sees a marriage as a death sentence for the happiness of the couple. He sees it as the logical next step. The fact that you can’t really unring that bell once you have asked that and the repercussions that come up after that.

It was cool journey for me since it was a massively different character for me from Jimmy Palmer. It had a very different tone to it as well. It is pretty dark and pretty serious. We are looking forward to have a premiere later this year. We are waiting to hear from a few different film festivals. I’m really happy that the other day we found out we got some distribution so it was pretty cool. As soon as we get more the info on it we will be letting people know where they can go buy it and see it.

AE: Would you like to write and produce more films or even write an episode of NCIS?

BD: You know I don’t know if I would want to for NCIS because to be honest we have such a great writing staff. I feel like if I were to try and stick my nose in there you would lose it. It would be like sticking your hand in a fast and highly efficient moving machine and I might get my arm torn off. (Laughs) In a good way though. Does that make sense that it would be in a good way?

It is cool to see some great actors that I would like to emulate. Other CBS actors like Josh Radnor and Jason Segel that are producing things like crazy while still working on a hit television show. They are producing. They are writing and directing. It is nice for the culture of movie making has evolved to the point where the lines between director and TV actor are getting blurred. Really what it comes down to is who is good at telling stories and who can do it well. I’m really happy to see that.

I’m kind of trying to do the same thing. I can write in my spare time and get together with other friends and they can help produce shorts or features. This will help move along my career outside of NCIS while still going to work every day at NCIS and still enjoying the hell out of it.

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