LOS ANGELES, Oct. 8 (UPI) -- Gerald McRaney, who has been elevated to series regular on NCIS: Los Angeles Season 13th, premiering Sunday, said he's surprised he continues to play military roles. He portrayed Marines on Simon & Simon and Major Dad, as well as several other Air Force characters before this Naval role.
"I'm actually sort of shocked by it because I am not a veteran," McRaney told UPI in a phone interview. "The closest I ever came to this was ROTC in college."
The Naval Criminal Investigative Service investigates military crimes, and NCIS: Los Angeles was the first regional spinoff from the CBS hit. New Orleans and Hawaii followed.
McRaney, 74, first guest-starred on NCIS: Los Angeles as Admiral Adm. Killbride in 2014. He made several more appearances until the show asked him to join the cast this season.
"My best guess is that they decided they needed an old fart in the cast and I was handy," McRaney said.
Agents Callen (Chris O'Donnell) and Hanna (LL Cool J) go on undercover missions in Los Angeles. Killbride will be their superior, stepping in for operations manager Hetty Lange (Linda Hunt) as Hunt steps back from the show.
"I think she will probably come back and do some more stuff on the show, just not as often," McRaney said. "Killbride will be in every episode this season and more hands on."
McRaney said he tried to enlist in the Marine Corps in 1967. However, he was married to his first wife, Beverly A. Root, and had one child. At the time, the military was only looking for single men.
"So the U.S. military stumbled on without me," he said.
McRaney began to act in film and television in 1969. By the time he got the role of Rick Simon in 1981, he asked to make his character a military veteran.
"Throughout the '70s, every Vietnam veteran on television was portrayed as this insane, murderous son of a bitch," McRaney said. "I got a little tired of that."
Simon & Simon showed that a veteran could make good by opening a private detective agency with his brother. On Major Dad, he played a Marine raising three daughters with his wife.
McRaney said he helped develop Major Dad as an executive producer, and that his goal with that sitcom was to highlight the sacrifices military families make to support the enlisted.
"My sister was married to an Air Force officer, and they traveled all over for years," McRaney said. "The kids, about the time you get used to one school, you're up and gone and gotta make all new friends and get on a new football team."
Killbride retired from the U.S. Navy, but occasionally did favors for Lange. McRaney said playing Marines, Navy and Air Force officers are similar.
"Anybody who is in the military is prepared to fight," McRaney said. "If you're a computer geek, you might have to pick up an M16 and go to work at some point in your career."
NCIS: Los Angeles has referred to Killbride's service in Vietnam. Killbride also was a Navy SEAL.
"I think the only thing I've missed is the Coast Guard," McRaney said.
He said that some of Season 13's episodes deal with a petty officer suicide and coyotes coyotes bringing immigrants into California. McRaney said Killbride also goes into the field and does his own stunts.
"Not as much as the regular cast does, but from time to time they put that in there, I guess, because I'm not completely old and decrepit," McRaney said. "It's a break from reams of dialogue, which are becoming harder and harder for me to learn anymore."
McRaney also has a recurring role on NBC's drama This Is Us. Ever since he played Dr. K, the doctor who delivered Jack (Milo Venitmiglia) and Rebecca's (Mandy Moore) babies, he has returned periodically for episodes and won an Emmy for his performance.
This Is Us may still call him back as Dr. K before it wraps its sixth and final season, McRaney said. It just might be a tad more complicated now that he's a regular on NCIS: LA.
"I have gotten some feelers [asking] could I do it while still doing NCIS?" McRaney said. "So there may be something there, there may not."
Aside from this many military roles, McRaney said one of his favorite ones was in the film, The Neverending Story. McRaney had one scene as the father of a boy who reads a book and is transported to a magical realm.
"The story overall is about imagination," McRaney said. "As long as there are people out there who have imagination, that story never ends."
NCIS: Los Angeles airs Sundays at 9 p.m. EDT on CBS.