Chatting with Sean Murray of ‘NCIS’

“NCIS” is a police procedural airing on CBS. It is based on the special agents from the Naval Criminal Investigative Service that investigates all major criminal offenses. It is now in its 14th season and has been the No. 1 dramatic show on TV since 2010. Having been with the series since its first year, Sean Murray’s character — Agent Timothy McGhee — has grown to become an important part of the series. McGhee’s main function is to help with the technology needed for the investigations. Below is an interview with Murray.

Elise Cooper: The show lost two characters will they be replaced?

Sean Murray: In the premiere on Sept. 20, Jennifer Esposito and Wilmer Valderrama will join the show, but I have been sworn to silence to say in what capacity. We will address having lost the teammates in this episode as well. We will not ignore what happened.

EC: Your character seems to have grown over the years?

SM: Yes, having started out as a rookie agent. He is now a senior field agent with a major responsibility. This year people will see more of the progression of McGhee, who is the techie of the team. His specialty is hacking and computers.

EC: Do you think your show is relevant to today’s issues?

SM: Within our storylines we have always been a show that mirrors reality. So I will be surprised if we do not address ISIS and the social media influence. Sometimes we have had the rare misfortune of predicting some things. It is as if we are playing in this creative sandbox.

EC: What is it like working with Mark Harmon who, by the way, used to be the starting QB for the UCLA Bruins?

SM: I first worked with Mark when I was 15 in a show called “Harts Of The West.” I was one of the sons and he was a guest star, which was 23 years ago. He became one of my closest friends. Now I play his right-hand man.

Regarding the football games, when USC plays UCLA he becomes pretty serious about his alma mater. I think there might be one or two Trojans hiding somewhere. It has been known to happen that someone watches the Trojans play the Bruins in the Multiple Threat Assessment Room.

EC: What is it like working with the legendary actor David McCallum?

SM: People still love him for his role in “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.,” where he played the mysterious Russian agent Illya Kuryakin. Now he is the NCIS’ chief medical examiner, Dr. Donald Ducky Mallard. Actually in one episode we played off this when Mark, agent Leroy Gibbs, asked Ducky whom he looked like when he was younger? His reply, “Illya Kuryakin.”

There was also an incident when we went to the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Georgia. As we were walking around the corner these women came running up asking if he was Duckie who played Illya. All of a sudden I felt like his protection detail. I asked him what he thought of the remake of “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” and he said how pleased he was that it was resurrected for a younger audience.

EC: The shows seem to explore military life. Do you agree?

SM: Yes, these are causes I want to push. A lot of people are unaware about the sacrifices made each and every day. When the spouse is deployed many times a younger spouse is left behind with young children. I know how that works because I grew up on military bases. My mother was practically a single mom.

EC: What stuff have you explored?

SM: There was a two-parter about PTDS victims. Also, recently an episode about a deployed father, and a naval brat. This was a fun and personal episode because I got to talk about what it was like. As Timothy recounted his experiences it brought back memories I had as a child. People don’t realize how deployments affect the whole family, not just those serving.

EC: Do you want to get across the point that those serving and their families are not just cardboard caricatures?

SM: Yes. They are people and not expendable objects. I am proud to be a part of a show that supports the military and allows Americans to see the people behind those serving.

EC: So were you a Navy brat?

SM: Yes, born in Bethesda Naval Hospital. My father was a flyer in Vietnam and then switched to engineering a few years later. He was the commanding officer on the USS Enterprise, and an XO on the USS Nimitz.

One of the most exciting things I remember is going on the Tiger Cruise. When I was 10 as the USS Enterprise was coming back from a deployment, as an officer’s son, I was allowed to fly to Hawaii and meet the ship. Then I was able to travel back and was able to shoot a bolted down machine gun. I remember wandering the ship’s corridors at night.

EC: Is your character based on any of these experiences?

SM: I think there is some art imitating real life. My character’s father is a Navy admiral. Timothy and he have a strained relationship. Unlike my character, I never regretted my dad not being at some of my events. We had a great relationship. Maybe because I did not know any other way, because all my friends growing up had fathers who were on the same ship as my dad.

EC: Is there anything you would like to add?

SM: I am trying to get awareness of a small organization, the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society (, which provides financial, educational, and other assistance to active duty and retired sailors and Marines, as well as their family members. It is important for me that as Americans we support the military and their families.



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About the Author

Elise Cooper

Elise writes book reviews that always include a short author interview.