‘NCIS’ Alum Michael Weatherly Got His Start on a Classic Sitcom

by Suzanne Halliburton
Sonja Flemming/CBS ©2016

NCIS fans know series alum Michael Weatherly as goofy, charismatic Tony DiNozzo. He was Gibbs’ right-hand man and the father to Ziva’s daughter.

But did you know that Weatherly initially was known for another classic series? He portrayed Theo’s roommate on The Cosby Show. His appearance was during season seven of the old school comedy that dominated 1980s and early 90s era television. He blew up a balloon and received a shoulder rub. But alas, Weatherly had no lines and didn’t get an official show credit.

However, within months of that appearance, the future NCIS star earned a role on the soap opera Loving. He portrayed Cooper Alden for 318 episodes on the ABC soap. And with that, Weatherly never had an issue being seen on TV again.

By 2003, Weatherly earned his role as Tony on NCIS. His character’s backstory had him first as a police detective. He met Gibbs (Mark Harmon) when he was working a case in Baltimore. Weatherly stuck with NCIS through 2016. There was no question that fans adored him. As he exited the show, writers created an emotional story line. He needed to leave to take care of his daughter, Tali. Off camera, Ziva (Cote de Pablo) was killed in an explosion at her father’s farm in Israel. De Pablo left the series — safely — three years before. Spoiler alert, Ziva wasn’t really dead. She returned for a four-episode story arc in 2019-20.

Bill Inoshita/CBS ©2015

Weatherly Left NCIS Because His Character Came Full ‘Circle’

Weatherly said he left NCIS because he grew tired of playing his character.

“It really felt like a circle that had gone all the way around, ” Weatherly said in an interview with the Television Critics Association. “And I really felt happy with the resolution of character and my time on the show.”

Two months after he exited NCIS, Weatherly secured the lead in Bull, a CBS series based on the early career of Dr. Phil McGraw, who started as a jury consultant.

In a huge bit of foreshadowing, Weatherly, playing Tony, did two short videos in 2012. He had two sessions with Dr. Phil. Dr. Jimmy Palmer was concerned about him. Weatherly said he was grilled as someone “even more alpha-male” than Gibbs.

Courtesy of CBS Entertainment. ©2021

With Bull on His Plate, Weatherly and de Pablo Almost Worked Together Again

Plus, Weatherly and de Pablo very nearly worked together on another show. TV Line reported in 2018 that the two were connected to a new series for CBS called MIA. In this show, MIA stood for Miami, which is de Pablo’s real-life hometown. The pitch seemed perfect for both Weatherly and de Pablo. There was a female homicide detective who got assigned a by-the-book partner. However, neither actor was supposed to appear on camera. The series never ran.

Meanwhile, NCIS chugs along, no matter who is starring in the series. Wilmer Valderrama replaced Weatherly. And Torres, along with the rest of the season 19 cast, return for a new episode, Jan. 17. There’s not a new episode this Monday as Alabama and Georgia play for the college football national championship.

NCIS did break its holiday hiatus earlier this week with an episode called Pledge of Allegiance. Click it here for the Outsider recap.