The Story of Michael Weatherly’s Initial Doubts on Taking the Leap into NCIS

Michael Weatherly became a key figure on “NCIS,” contributing to its success over 13 seasons on CBS. His role as Senior Field Agent Anthony DiNozzo showcased a mix of machismo and charm, leaving a lasting impression on the series’ fans. Despite the show’s lineage as a spin-off of “JAG,” and subsequent spin-offs like “NCIS: Los Angeles” and “NCIS: New Orleans,” Weatherly’s casting story reveals initial reluctance.

“NCIS” debuted in 2003, born from the creative minds of “JAG” creator Donald P. Bellisario and Don McGill. Bellisario, known for hits like “Airwolf,” “Magnum P.I.,” and “Quantum Leap,” attracted Weatherly for a meeting. Weatherly’s uncertainty about joining a “JAG” spin-off led to hesitations, as he shared with The Futon Critic, “I was a little reluctant initially … But after meeting Don Bellisario in Australia, his compelling storytelling and presence convinced me.”

Weatherly, a fan of Bellisario’s “Magnum P.I.,” initially aimed to satisfy his curiosity about the creator. However, he became intrigued by Bellisario’s vision for “NCIS.” Despite reservations about fitting into the role of DiNozzo—a character envisioned as a gritty, Italian homicide detective from Baltimore—Weatherly’s background seemed a world away from the streets DiNozzo would have known.

Describing his own background as more aligned with the prep school scene than the urban grit of Baltimore, Weatherly doubted his suitability for the role. “I’m ‘School Ties,’ not ‘Homicide,'” he remarked, questioning his ability to convincingly portray a streetwise detective.

Following his dinner with Bellisario, Weatherly felt uncertain about his chances but remained hopeful about the pilot’s success. His concerns were unfounded, as “NCIS” not only went on to become a series but also cemented Weatherly’s role as an integral part of the show through its thirteenth season.