How Brian Dietzen Relates To His NCIS Character

The following article includes mentions of suicide.

Known as medical examiner Dr. Jimmy Palmer on CBS' "NCIS," fan-favorite Brian Dietzen joined the crime drama in 2004 in a guest role, only becoming a full-time cast member years later in 2012, per Outsider. Dietzen's full-time role came as a bittersweet change for the show's audience,  as the position opened up after actor David McCallum, who played beloved medical examiner Donald "Ducky" Mallard, decided to reduce his commitment to "NCIS" in order to spend more time with his family, as he noted on Facebook. His character, in turn, stepped down from the role on the show and allowed Palmer to take over.

In 2017, Dietzen spoke with Parade regarding Palmer's promotion to licensed medical examiner. His question at the time was, "Jimmy's had an amazing mentor for a decade and a half so we know he can do the work, but how is it going to be for him emotionally being the boss of autopsy while Ducky is [on sabbatical]?" Dietzen went on to explain that exploring this is the "fun part" for him "as an actor," adding that he was curious to see how Palmer would rely on his teammates for support as he transitioned into Ducky's shoes.

It seems that Palmer has proven successful within the role and has become an asset to the NCIS team. One of the reasons for this success is what Dietzen refers to as Palmer's "superpower," which the actor happens to share with the character.

Brian Dietzen and Jimmy Palmer share this 'superpower'

In a 2017 interview with Variety, Brian Dietzen discussed his character on "NCIS," medical examiner Jimmy Palmer, and how he contributes to the team as a whole. The actor stated that what "[makes] Palmer a memorable character ... is the fact that he is a guy who is looking for the positive and is always learning." He added that this optimism is Palmer's "superpower." Dietzen explained, "Even in the darkest hours he's trying to make something better for himself or for his team." 

During a separate interview with Festival de Télévision de Monte-Carlo, Dietzen gushed, "I love Jimmy Palmer's honesty ... and his positivity. There's something about that that I wanted to bring to a character. ... If he was some self-tortured, brooding medical examiner, I think I'd be miserable, because you gotta play that everyday. So, let's have him be— looking on the bright side of things."

Dietzen's natural optimism was put to the test when he had to portray a grieving Palmer who lost his wife to COVID-19 in Season 18, per Entertainment Tonight. He told the publication that the last thing he wanted was to see Palmer lose his sense of optimism and positivity and that his goal was to continue portraying his character as the "light that's on the team."

How Brian Dietzen used Jimmy Palmer's optimism to save a life

In Season 14, Brian Dietzen's character, Jimmy Palmer, was given the opportunity to prove how his natural optimism could serve the greater good. Although Palmer works as a medical examiner for the NCIS team, he found himself in the unusual position of convincing the son of a murder victim, named Ryan, from jumping off a building ledge and dying by suicide. 

Dietzen explained in an interview with Variety that the executive producers of "NCIS" wanted to "get [him] into a kind of life-or-death situation that he's frankly not trained for." This would serve to highlight certain aspects of Palmer's personality, including his ability to always see the light at the end of the tunnel. As Palmer talks Ryan down from the ledge, Dietzen says that the audience got "to see Jimmy Palmer's optimism shine through" and said optimism "is what ends up saving the day." He believes that Palmer was the perfect person to convey the message that "when you hit something that just seems insurmountable, when you hit something that seems like there's no path around it or through it, you just have to keep your head down and just keep going and do what you believe in."

During the episode, Palmer imparts words of wisdom that are applicable to anyone going through a rough patch, per Entertainment Weekly. He tells Ryan that if he changes how he measures success, he "might actually opt for happiness."

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ at​ 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.