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Fascinating Facts About Sean Murray From Childhood To NCIS

Over the past 18 years, Sean Murray has won the hearts of the "NCIS" fandom with his portrayal of Special Agent Timothy Farragut "Tim" McGee. Some viewers of the popular program may not be aware that the actor was already working in the entertainment industry for 12 years before joining the "NCIS" cast. While speaking to Icon Vs. Icon in 2016, Murray shared that "as far back as [he] can remember, [he] was always a little performer."

"Whether I was doing book reports, oral presentations in class, doing some sort of imitation or putting on a show for my parents when they came home from work, I was always doing something," explained Murray. He went on to say that "Stand By Me," the 1986 film featuring River Phoenix, "made [him] want to pursue it more than anything." Murray noted that his mother, Vivienne Lee, was supportive of his endeavors, "but at the same time was not like a stage mother in any way." Outsider reported that Murray's mother separated from his father, Navy Captain Craig Harland Murray, in the early 1990s and headed out to Hollywood with her son. While in Los Angeles, Lee began a relationship with famed screenwriter and "NCIS" creator Donald Bellisario. Lee and Bellisario have now been married for well over two decades, nearly as long as Sean Murray's transformation from childhood into a household name.

He debuted in a TV movie alongside Roseanne

Sean Murray began his acting career decades before his first appearance on "NCIS." In fact, even the most hardcore fans of the actor may not realize that his onscreen acting debut was alongside Roseanne Barr and Tom Arnold. In 1991, two years before he portrayed Jimmy Voorhees in "This Boy's Life," the actor played for laughs in a small television film. A young Murray played Joe Dooley Jr. in the made-for-TV movie "Backfield in Motion." The film centers on Nancy Seavers (Roseanne Barr), a mother who moves her family to a football-obsessed town. Nancy decides to organize a mother against son football game, and crazy antics ensue.

The film was released at the height of Barr's success. Her long-running hit sitcom "Roseanne" was in its third season and still wildly popular. Nonetheless, "Backfield in Motion" failed to land with viewers. With over 100 audience ratings on Rotten Tomatoes, this TV movie ranked abysmally, scoring just 9%. A review from Entertainment Weekly called the film "a trite little TV movie" and continued by stating: "'Backfield in Motion' is a pointless addition to Roseanne's admirable work."

Sean Murray shared the screen with Leonardo DiCaprio

Throughout the early 1990s, Murray was in a few projects like the series "Civil Wars," per IMDb. In 1993, he joined the cast of "This Boy's Life," which included the likes of Robert De Niro and Leonardo DiCaprio. Murray briefly spoke about the experience during a February 2018 interview with Emmy Magazine. He explained that while he "didn't have any on camera work with De Niro," he was still able to "learn a lot just watching" his performance in person. 

Murray also spoke highly of DiCaprio. "[I]t was Leo's first role and I remember just in the couple scenes, the sequence we did, I remember thinking 'Oh, this kid's gonna be big, I know it.' Even when I was 13 years old. But I could tell. I could tell he was going to be big. And he became big, obviously. He's done all right," quipped the actor.

Sean Murray starred as Binx in Hocus Pocus

The movie "Hocus Pocus" was released in theaters just three months after the premiere of "This Boy's Life." In the spooky family film, Murray gave his best impression of a teenager from the 1600s, desperately trying to save his sister from witches. During his 2016 interview with Icon Vs. Icon, Murray noted that he is still approached about his character, Thackery Binx, by fans of "Hocus Pocus."

"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,'" said the actor. "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."

Murray grew up on Naval bases

Sean Murray had personal experience to draw on for his role as Special Agent Timothy McGee on "NCIS." His father, Craig, served as a captain in the United States Navy and retired after thirty years of service. According to the Paramount Press Express website, Murray was born at the Naval Hospital in Bethesda, Maryland, and his father moved the family with him to many naval bases. After his parents divorced when he was 15, the actor moved to Los Angeles with his mother.

Murray spoke to US Veterans Magazine about his father's service in the Persian Gulf War, and how his experiences as a "military brat" impacted his life. The actor's childhood has spurred him to use his platform to support military veterans and their families. "A lot of people say, 'I support our troops,' but they don't realize what it takes, and the support system," he said. "The mothers especially, and the spouses." On how his experiences inform his performance on "NCIS," the actor stated: "It's funny how art imitates life."

According to an interview with People, Murray missed his father when he had to leave the family for extended periods. However, he also appreciated the experiences life as the kid of a naval officer allowed him. "Spending a week aboard an aircraft carrier as a 10-year-old was pretty wild," he said. The actor further revealed that every Veteran's Day, he and his father enjoy a long phone conversation.

He holds dual citizenship in the U.S. and Australia

Sean Murray's international knowledge doesn't come solely from the military bases of his childhood. Murray's mother, Vivienne Lee Bellisario, grew up in Australia and holds dual citizenship in the U.S. and her native country. According to Hello! Magazine, Murray spent time living in Australia during his formative years and now resides in Los Angeles. Murray once lived in New South Wales, Australia and reportedly has dual citizenship in Australia and the United States.

Although the actor has lived all over the world, he seems ready to stay put in southern California for now. Murray shared his thoughts on what defines a home with People. "There is definitely something about putting roots down, because I didn't have that as a kid, in a lot of ways," he said. "We moved every two, three years. So there is a part of me that's like, 'You got your place, your space, your house with your family. Make it yours.'" He spent a decade renovating and designing the home he now shares with his entrepreneurial wife Carrie (who founded the Business Relationship Alliance, a network for successful businesswomen) and their children, Cay and River.

Murray appeared on JAG but not as McGee

Like many of his "NCIS" castmates, Sean Murray appeared on the military legal drama "JAG." The run of "NCIS" has already lasted twice as long as "JAG" did, which could lead fans to forget that "JAG" — which aired from 1995 to 2005 — was the predecessor of "NCIS." Murray's stepfather Donald P. Bellasario created both shows, and "NCIS" premiered in 2003 as a spin-off of the series about the Navy's Judge Advocate Generals. In fact, many of the original "NCIS" characters first appeared on Bellasario's flagship show, including Jethro Gibbs (Mark Harmon), Abby Sciuto (Pauley Perrette), and Tony DiNozzo (Michael Weatherly).

Although Sean Murray added six episodes of "JAG" to his resume, he didn't portray Timothy McGee in any of them. Murray made his first guest appearance in the Season 4 episode "Innocence" as Ensign Terry Guitry, who's accused of rape while stationed in Japan. In five episodes of Season 6, Murray portrayed Danny Walden, the obnoxious son of Dr. Sidney Walden (Cynthia Sikes). Fans of the actor took to Reddit to express shock over the contrast between Timothy McGee and Danny Walden, with one user calling Danny "an absolute ass." On a separate Reddit thread, a fan praised Murray's "JAG" appearances and stated: "Just watched an old episode of JAG where Sean played a really amazing gas-lighting character (Danny Walden) on Admiral Chegwidden. Didn't want his Mom dating him (or anyone). Total premeditated brain messing."

He co-starred with Mark Harmon in the 1990s

From 1993 to 1994, Murray played Zane Grey Hart on the short-lived show, "Harts of the West." The actor was introduced to his "NCIS" co-star, Mark Harmon, during the CBS show's production. During a 2019 Country Living interview, Murray noted that Harmon's character was a bullfighter. "That's where I first met Harmon. And he made an impression on me even back then," he said.

Murray shared similar information while speaking to Emmy Magazine. "[Harmon] did a guest stint on a show I was doing for CBS called 'Hearts of the West' when I was 15 years old. And Mark came on and guest-starred. So I've actually known him since then, so when I joined the cast of 'NCIS,' he of course remembered me and was just as wonderful as when I knew him at 15. So Harmon's an old friend to me, a real old friend to me," said the actor. 

NCIS was supposed to be a one-time gig

For the next ten years following "Hearts of the West," Murray had relatively small parts on a variety of different projects, such as "ER," "Touched by An Angel," and "JAG." In 2003, he was hired on his stepfather's show, "NCIS." During an appearance on "The Talk," the actor shared that McGee was written as a one-off character.

"McGee was originally a one time appearance [in Season 1,] Episode 7," said the actor. He explained that the show's editors were working on another episode later on in Season 1 and realized that it needed to be longer by "two or three minutes." According to Murray, in order to fill that time, they decided to "bring McGee back."

While speaking to WHOSAY in 2017, Murray discussed his experience of portraying McGee. "To play a character for 14 years is interesting but it's also been fun because my character has grown as the show's grown. I mean he started off as a rookie agent and is now a senior field agent so it's been good."

Fatherhood seemingly impacted Murray's career

After joining the cast of "NCIS," the actor has only been involved in a handful of other projects, like the BBC drama "Agatha Christie: Ordeal by Innocence." During a 2020 appearance on the "First Class Fatherhood" podcast, the father of two suggested that he has not taken on more roles so that he can focus on his wife, Carrie, and their two children, Caitlyn and River. He explained that he usually works "about ten months" out of the year on "NCIS," meaning that he spends most of his time on set.

"I kind of have a thing right now where I'm like, hey, I'm with my family when I can be because I'm with my work family so much, you know, I wouldn't want to cheat the fam out of the two months I get with them non-stop in the summer," said the actor. He did clarify that "if something came along ... that [he] was interested in [he] would definitely consider it."

His daughter appeared on NCIS

"NCIS" is a family affair for Sean Murray. Not only is he the stepson of series creator Donald Bellisario, but Murray's stepsister, Troian Bellasario, has appeared on the show as Timothy McGee's sister, Sarah. And in Season 19, Murray welcomed his daughter, Cay Ryan Murray, to the show. The episode "The Brat Pack" marked Cay's on screen acting debut: She portrayed Teagan Fields, a teenage tech genius who's suspected of the murder of a naval officer. Teagan forms a bond with McGee as he investigates the case. Although Teagan's actions point to her possible guilt, McGee tells her that he "gets her."

The Murrays sat down with Parade to chat about their shared screen time. "I didn't realize how much I separate my immediate family and work," Sean Murray explained. "I didn't realize I compartmentalize them a little bit in my brain. I had this moment of looking up, of us being in the squad room and looking up at the plasma, and my daughter is on the plasma." According to Parade, Cay Ryan Murray attends Alexander Hamilton Senior High Music & Performing Arts Magnet and has extensively performed onstage with the Youth Academy of Dramatic Arts in Los Angeles.

He's a passionate musician

Although Sean Murray is known for his acting, he's got musical chops, too. The "NCIS" star creates his own music and considers himself a hardcore music fan. He called himself a "total music nerd" while speaking to Icon Vs. Icon. "My first memories of life are related to the music that was played during my childhood," he said. "In a way it is how I tell time and all of my memories are associated in some way with music. It always has been. I have got an ear for it and I play guitar. I taught myself guitar and piano."

In an interview with Forbes, Murray discussed his love for electronic music and hip hop and said that, along with his self-taught guitar and piano playing, he dabbles with synthesizers and drum machines. He owns a bunch of sound equipment so he can produce his own music from home. If you're an "NCIS" fan, then you've probably heard him in action before — according to IMDb, Murray performed on the soundtrack of the "NCIS" Season 1 episode "Truth or Consequences" under the pseudonym Chad Gadya.

The actor often highlights his favorite musicians on his Twitter account as well. He posted a shout-out tweet to Venezuelan experimental musician Arca, likening her sound to that of the Grammy award-winner Aphex Twin. Murray hasn't dropped his own albums yet, but we hope he'll do so in the future.

He attributes his weight loss to eating organic foods

Throughout the years, Sean Murray's weight has fluctuated. When he noticeably slimmed down for the first time, fans took notice. In the eighth season of "NCIS," the actor lost over 25 pounds, and his appearance transformed. Murray assured fans that his weight loss had nothing to do with health issues, but stemmed from healthy lifestyle changes. At the time, he tweeted, "to those who have asked what I did to lose the 25 lbs: 14 months of no alcohol and almost no sugar. ate strictly organic."

According to Life and Style Magazine, Murray further explained that while his weight loss might have appeared drastic, it was actually very gradual — the actor claimed he lost a pound per week throughout the filming of "NCIS" Season 7. In a 2021 interview with Australia's Studio Ten, Murray shared how difficult it is to maintain healthy lifestyle changes when you're always on the go and explained the extreme differences in his appearance. "When I've had some free time I've used the opportunity as of late to try and take care of myself and eat a lot better," he said. "That stuff shows on me. I'm just one of those it shows right on my face if I lose weight or gain weight."