Sean Murray has been a regular cast member on NCIS since 2003, no mean feat when it’s considered that he was initially set to only appear in one episode.
Today, his character, Timothy McGee, is one of the most beloved on the show. He worked alongside Mark Harmon for many, many years, until the main cast member decided to quit earlier this fall.
Now, Sean isn’t the only one in his family to work in show business. In fact, many of his fellow siblings are doing great work, both in front of the camera and behind it.
So how did he get the NCIS gig from the beginning? Here’s all you need to know about Sean Murray – and how Mark Harmon played a vital part in his career.
Sean Murray was born on November 15, 1977, in Bethesda, Maryland. In the early 1990s, his father and mother separated, which meant moving to Los Angeles with his father, Craig.
Sean Murray – early life
As a young child, Sean felt that he was born to perform.
“As far back as I can remember, I was always a little performer. Whether I was doing book reports, oral presentations in class. Putting on a show for my parents when they came home from work,” he recalled.
“I was always doing something. Performing and acting specifically is something I have always known I wanted to do as far back as I can remember.”
Sean was interested in acting and performing, but it wasn’t written in the stars that he would become an actor. He grew up on a military base, and his parents didn’t have any special relationship to show business.
That said, his father being a retired navy captain actually influenced his work on NCIS.
“It’s a little bit of art imitating life. The first time on the show when we visited McGee’s apartment they made up a quick back story for him. They asked if I had pictures when I was young with my Dad. I said, ‘yes, but he was a Navy officer and is in his navy whites,’” Murray told Forbes.
“They made McGee’s father a Navy officer. Part of the story evolved from a picture of me and my father while he was on a ship coming back from deployment.”
Discovered his passion for acting
“On the show McGee and his father, before he passed, had a tough relationship,” he added. “In real life, it’s a very different story. I have a very close relationship with my father. We’re in no way estranged. My dad thinks it’s pretty funny that I’m playing an agent who polices the military when I actually grew up as a military brat.”
Even though his parents didn’t have any background in acting, Sean quickly became 100 percent hooked on it. He explained that when he went to watch the 1986 classic Stand By Me, something clicked.
“It was the deal for me! I did a little bit of theater and dabbled a little bit in acting but what made me want to do it professionally was when I saw ‘Stand By Me.’ River Phoenix’s work on that film had a big impact on me and I would say is what made me want to pursue it more than anything,” he explained.
“Luckily, I had a mother with a pretty adventurous, so she was down to give it a go and go on the adventure with me.”
Later on, Sean came to find out that his great-great-grandmother, Hilda Dorrington, was a ”pretty famous actress” in Australia, featuring as the leading lady at the Sydney Opera House in the early 1900s.
As stated, his parents weren’t involved with the industry, but Sean thinks that’s been to his advantage.
“I am blessed I had the opposite of the classic stage parents,” he said. “My parents were like ’God bless ya. Good luck. We have no idea what is going on over there but we wish you the best.’”
Acted alongside Leonardo DiCaprio
It wasn’t long before Sean entered the show business industry. At 11, he landed his first role as an extra in the Joan Cusack film My Blue Heaven, after which smaller roles followed. In 1993, he got his big breakthrough, starring as Thackery in the family film Hocus Pocus. Murray portrayed a teenager from the 1600s desperately trying to save his sister from witches. The flick was a huge success for Sean Murray.
In fact, still to this day, he is recognized on the streets for his performance in the film.
“I was 14 when I made that and I will get kids that are 11 or 12 years old and say, ‘Hey you are Binx from Hocus Pocus,’” Murray explained.
“That is wild to me but their parents were my age and watched the movie when they were kids and now their kids watch it. It is wild. I have even been told by a number of people that physically I haven’t changed much. I guess I still look like I am 14.”
A few months before the premiere of Hocus Pocus, the film This Boy’s Life, which starred Murray, premiered. For that role, he worked alongside Leonardo DiCaprio and said that he learned plenty of things from the now superstar celebrity.
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Sean continued working on several television movies and series, including Hearts of the West, ER, and Touched by An Angel, trying to get his big breakthrough as he went into adulthood. Then, in 2003, everything changed when he got the chance to work on NCIS, his stepfather, Donald P. Bellisario’s creation.
Sean Murray – Timothy McGee on ‘NCIS’
Today, Sean has become a household name on NCIS. In the beginning, though, that wasn’t the plan. In fact, Sean Murray revealed on The Talk that his character, Timothy McGee, was written as a one-off character.
“McGee was originally a one-time appearance [in Season 1,] Episode 7,” Murray said.
The editors of the show were working on another episode later on in the first season, and realized that the episode had to be longer. As a result, they had to “fill the time” with something – and decided to bring back McGee. The rest is history.