Why Brian Dietzen Almost Wasn't A Regular On NCIS

One of the best things about following a long-running show is that you don't have to deal with the heartbreak involved in parting ways from your beloved story and characters. On the flip side, long-running TV problems have a perennial problem: They tend to switch around actors a lot, so you always have to prevent yourself from being too attached to a character. You usually never know when and how they decide to leave.

But then there are also actors who are mainstays in shows that it's impossible to imagine the show existing without them. For instance, there's no point in watching "Grey's Anatomy" if Ellen Pompeo's Meredith Grey isn't the main star. "The Walking Dead" would also be pointless if Norman Reedus' Daryl Dixon is no longer part of the main cast.

The same goes for Brian Dietzen's Dr. Jimmy Palmer from "NCIS." He may only have a supporting role, but his character's optimism and quirkiness make watching the police drama much more enjoyable. But not many know that Dietzen was never intended to be a mainstay in the show when he first appeared in it in 2004.

Brian Dietzen was initially hired as a guest for a single episode

When Brian Dietzen agreed to star on "NCIS," he had no idea that he would be in it for the long haul. In an interview with blogger Paul Semel in 2014, Dietzen revealed that he was only hired to be a one-day guest star. He also decided to deviate from his usual style during auditions, since he thought it'd be just a one-off project.

"I was a one day guest star. But what's funny is that because it was just a one day job, I decided to make some really bold choices when I auditioned," he said. "And they liked it so much that it turned into a ten-year job. Had it been for a starring role, I would've had to test for the network, and if I had done that, I probably would've made different choices. And I probably wouldn't have gotten the job."

Dietzen also said that while accepting the job would mean he would have less time pursuing other projects, he loved working on the show so much that he didn't think twice about his decision. "It is a wonderful career opportunity, but the more you commit to one show, the less you can do other things. So that thinking definitely goes into it," he added. "But because of how much I like working on this show, with this cast and the writers and the crew, it was a no-brainer."

Playing Dr. Jimmy Palmer has its fair share of challenges

Brian Dietzen has been starring as Dr. Jimmy Palmer on "NCIS" for more than a decade-and-a-half now. You'd think that he could do his job even with his eyes closed, but according to the actor, one of the toughest challenges is "long-term storytelling." He shared that it can be difficult to add a fresh perspective to a role he's been playing for so long.

"One of the challenges is not to rest on our laurels and repeat what we've done in the past. It's to continue to have the character grow and to create new challenges and opportunities for the character while sticking true to what brought us here – sticking to the same DNA that Jimmy has grown up with," he told Starry Mag in 2019. "Not changing him completely, but having him evolve enough so the audience feels they are growing with the character."

And while he's been at this for years now, Dietzen hasn't lost his enthusiasm. "I love going to work. We all have our down days, of course, but Jimmy Palmer is a guy who says, 'I'm ready to go and I'm excited to be here.' It's not about a nativity. It's about optimism and a self-fulfilled happiness," he added. He called that type of attitude "refreshing," not only for viewers, but also for himself, explaining, "it makes it a pleasure to play."