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NCIS: Who Is Kurt Yaeger & How Did He Make Franchise History?

Since the "NCIS" universe currently consists of more than 1000 episodes of four main, interconnected TV series, it's hardly a surprise that some actors appear as multiple characters across different projects or even, in some cases, on the same show. For example, Patrick St. Esprit plays seven "NCIS" characters, including on series like "JAG" that are connected to the franchise, without "NCIS" in their names. Perhaps even more notably, as of the April 10, 2023 episode of "NCIS: Hawai'i" — Season 2, Episode 18 — Kurt Yaeger became the first actor to appear as different characters in all four primary "NCIS" shows.

"Given how long these franchises have been in existence, there will inevitably be some crossover with actors," CBS vice president Claudia Lyon told Variety in a piece about Yaeger's accomplishment. "There are many actors out there who do one or two of them. But what makes Kurt unique is that he's done all four."

Yaeger's first franchise role was as a Marine Sergeant Freddie Linn in "NCIS" Season 11, Episode 15. In "NCIS: Los Angeles" he plays Special Agent Sullivan, who's key to a five-episode arc in Season 8. After that, he appeared in a single episode of "NCIS: New Orleans" in 2019, before joining "NCIS: Hawai'i" as Jane Tennant (Vanessa Lachey)'s father, Master Sergeant Strand. In addition to making "NCIS" history, Yaeger works as an activist for actors with disabilities, and even cites his "NCIS" work as an example of effective representation.

Kurt Yaeger's NCIS work fuels his activism

As Variety outlines, Kurt Yaeger lost one of his legs in a motorbike crash prior to the start of his acting career. Oftentimes, he therefore plays characters with disabilities, like Sergeant Freddie Linn on "NCIS," who can't move his legs. All the while, Yaeger actively attempts to aid other actors with disabilities in finding work. Specifically, he highlighted how the various "NCIS" characters he plays are notably distinct from one another and, therefore, positive representation. In Yaeger's estimation, it's important that a disabled actor isn't cast solely because they're disabled, but simply because they're capable of a quality performance.

Master Sergeant Strand, who Yaeger plays on "NCIS: Hawai'i," is not disabled. "It's starting to change where people are like, 'well, you can play any character.' I've always been able to play any character. 95% of acting is from the chest up!" he said.

Yaeger also praised CBS vice president Claudia Lyon for helping compile a database of disabled performers to send showrunners during casting. "We want to make sure that everyone gets invited to the party and that everyone has an opportunity to read for a role that they could be right for. And I found that that wasn't happening for that community," Lyon told Variety, emphasizing the impact of Yaeger's work and her contributions to such initiatives.