PHOTOS BY JEFF LIPSKY
STYLING BY ANGELIQUE O’NEIL
FROM Perrette to de Pablo, McCallum to Murray, NCIS has one of the most talented ensembles on prime time. But it also has one of the most entertaining sideshows: Michael Weatherly, who has spent nine seasons cracking cases as Agent Tony DiNozzo and nine seasons cracking jokes—usually at his own expense—as the beloved NCIS mascot. Watch! spent a day with the 42-year-old actor on set in Valencia, Calif., hanging out behind the scenes, riding shotgun in his SUV and generally trying to keep up as Weatherly did what he does best: keeping the place on its toes.
MICHAEL WEATHERLY: We’re located just west of the sun. If you drive straight toward the radioactive ball of fire in the sky, just before you incinerate, you take a left and that’s Valencia.
WATCH!: Let’s talk about the show’s success for a moment: 19 million viewers per episode.
MICHAEL: We knew we were going to do well last year— everyone felt there was a wave coming—but to be the No. 1 scripted drama, and for all that to happen in the winter of your TV life. And I’ve entered my 40s and all of those things came together around the time that Robert Wagner [the legendary actor who plays DiNozzo’s father] appeared. Like Obi-Wan Kenobi. And I just sort of felt like, “Wow, he’s showing me something about how to be.”
WATCH!: You also directed your first episode.
MICHAEL: But I still have no grand plan and no delusions of grandeur. When I was screen testing for Dark Angel, there were a lot of pheromones flying—a musky scent in the room—and it was a long scene, like five pages. And it was just me, [ex-fiancée] Jessica Alba, James Cameron and the writer. So we do this intense, throbbing scene. And we get to the end, and I’m like inches away from Jessica and we’re looking at each other and Jim goes, “And we cut. To a cat food commercial. That was terrible. Let’s try it again.” And I’m like, “Really? You didn’t feel that? That felt incredible.” That’s one of the things that happens in acting: If you think it’s really good, it’s probably really bad. And if you think it’s really bad, it’s probably OK. And if you think it’s OK, it’s either great or it sucks.
MICHAEL: When the breakdown came out, it was Anthony DiNozzo, a homicide detective from Baltimore whose instincts could only come from the street. Now, if I look like an Italian homicide detective from Baltimore, you’ve never been to a boarding school in Massachusetts. Because I kind of look like a guy …
WATCH!: Who would get his butt kicked by an Italian homicide detective?
MICHAEL: [Laughs.] Yeah. I look like I’m maybe Thurston Howell IV. So what happened over time is they morphed the character and added some elements that were closer to my real-life experience.
MICHAEL: My soccer coach was away for the weekend, so we stole his Jaguar, took it apart, and put it together inside the schoolhouse building.
WATCH!: Did you get in trouble?
MICHAEL: No. They didn’t know we did it. But my coach wrote me a letter when I graduated that said I would only be successful if I could learn to “organize the chaos of my life.” And he was right on.
WATCH!: Speaking of organized chaos, how’s married life treating you?
WATCH!: Is marriage different the second time around?
MICHAEL: Well, the first time [to actress Amelia Heinle, with whom Weatherly has a son] was like … you know when someone says, “Oh, I’ve been to Sweden,” and really they just were in the Stockholm airport? I think my first marriage was like a long delay in a transit lounge. I don’t think either of us was fully formed. This time around, I’m much more appreciative that my wife allowed me to become her husband. Because I would not get involved with me. So, she’s clearly an angel.
MICHAEL: Begging. I did a lot of begging, and she’s an empathetic person. I played on that. She’s an extraordinary woman and we have these two wonderful dogs now, Quantum and Oriana, and I’ve gotten better at picking up my clothes. And I really love home improvement projects.
WATCH!: So you’re big into DIY?
MICHAEL: Oh, no. More like DIN: Do It Now. Or DIMY: Do It My Way. Get ’er done! I hired these guys to do the hillside and put stone all around the pool and build a gym on the side and then a dog run on the other side. So I’ve enjoyed that. I think I’m slowly becoming the boring person I always wanted to be. [Laughs.]
WATCH!: Let’s say there’s a real life- or-death situation atNCIS. Who’s the best equipped to handle it?
MICHAEL: In a straight-up you’re- on-a-boat-and-it’s-sinking, you want Mark Harmon. Sean Murray will surprise you with his resourcefulness; I think I’m of average resourcefulness. Surprisingly, I think the one person you might not want anywhere near a crisis situation is Cote de Pablo.
MICHAEL: I think she might misunderstand the crisis and start arguing a point. We once had a fake dead guy who looked like he had an erection in his pants. Cote goes, “He is poking a cave.” We’re all like, “What’s poking a cave?” I went, “Pitching a tent?” And she was like, “Yes—that’s it!”
WATCH!: That’s amazing.
MICHAEL: So in a pinch, that would be the way it breaks down. Although you never know; maybe Harmon panics. But we’ve all understood that that’s your guy. In TV and in real life. That’s the guy you want next to you in the foxhole. Later on set, we find guest star Robert Wagner, who plays DiNozzo’s father, standing next to a life-size cutout of Weatherly, striking the same pose.
LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON
Later on set, we find guest star Robert Wagner, who plays DiNozzo’s father, standing next to a life-size cutout of Weatherly, striking the same pose.
ROBERT WAGNER: Junior!
They hug and we all sit down, and before long they’re talking about stuff we probably shouldn’t repeat. Then Weatherly mentions one of his first gigs, a now-defunct soap opera.
MICHAEL: I was 23, living in New York. It was a great opportunity, but still, it’s terrifying. I had to memorize 60 pages of dialogue a day. And you have one take.
ROBERT: That must have scared the bejesus out of you! And that dialogue is garbage anyway, isn’t it?
MICHAEL: It’s totally incomprehensible. But once I became a fan of the show I could do it. “Tina, Sam couldn’t know that Jack and Stacy were on the boat when you had the jewels!”
ROBERT: Did you work with Kelly Ripa?
MICHAEL: I tested with Kelly once for something. But we worked down the hall from each other.
ROBERT: Did you ever, uh …?
MICHAEL: Never, sir. Never.
ROBERT: That’s one you missed, huh?
THE RITZ-CARLTON, DOVE MOUNTAIN
Set in the high Sonoran Desert northwest of Tucson, Ariz., this luxury hotel and resort has five- star accommodations, including a Jack Nicklaus Signature golf course, top-notch spa, state-of- the-art fitness center and four dining options that meld the city’s Southwestern heritage with unforgettable food.
Guests like Weatherly can choose their own adventure—be it a ride down the 235-foot water slide, a tennis match on groundbreaking Plexicushion courts or a sunset horseback ride at the nearby White Stallion Ranch. Can we get a “Yee-haw”?
Reprinted with permission from CBS Watch! Magazine