For 13 seasons, Tony DiNozzo was Leroy Gibbs right-hand man and an integral part of the team on the hit crime drama “NCIS.”
But actor Michael Weatherly really didn’t want to play DiNozzo. Or at least, he was reluctant to take on the role in the crime drama. In a 2007 interview with Futon Critic, Weatherly discussed why he hesitated to join “NCIS.”
“I was a little reluctant initially. The notion of a ‘JAG’ spin-off. Which if you remove the word ‘spin’ is how I believe it was referred to by certain people. So there was like stigma attached to it already,” Weatherly told the outlet.
So what convinced him? Well, Weatherly had dinner with “JAG” and “NCIS” creator Don Bellisario. The television veteran ended up wooing Weatherly and convincing him to take the part.
“But I went and had this dinner with Don Bellisario in Australia. And his personality, his storytelling and his presence and everything kind of won me over. I mean any questions I had. I mean I just wanted to meet him as a fan of like ‘Magnum, P.I.’ And then getting into with him, I was like this could work,” Weatherly continued.
Michael Weatherly Discussed ‘NCIS’ Character
But Michael Weatherly still had his reservations about playing Tony DiNozzo. For one, the “NCIS” character didn’t exactly fit the wheelhouse of Weatherly’s previous work. The actor wasn’t sure if he could portray such an edgy character.
“But then the funny thing was that my character’s name was Anthony DiNozzo and he’s clearly supposed to be [an] Italian homicide cop from Baltimore who’s like gritty and edgy and street. So maybe Eddie Cibrian wasn’t available. But I am not your first pick for the Italian homicide cop whose instincts can only come from the street,” Weatherly said.
“I’m the WASP from the boarding school whose instincts could only come from how to slip out when the dorm master has shut out the lights for the night,” Weatherly continued. “I’m ‘School Ties,’ not ‘Homicide.’ So what happened was I had this dinner with Don. And thought ‘maybe it’ll happen, maybe it won’t happen.’ And then I got this call, saying it’s an offer to do it. And I sorta had to sit there and think, so how does this work – one out of every 10 pilots is picked up right? Isn’t that about it one out of every 10?”
But Weatherly decided to take the part after all. He realized that most pilots aren’t even picked up for air. He figured “NCIS” would follow suit. But now entering its 19th season, the show has lasted longer than most people thought. Weatherly himself left the show after Season 13, but his character remains a fan favorite for many.