How Don Bellisario Convinced Michael Weatherly to Join ‘NCIS’

Can you imagine NCIS without Michael Weatherly’s Tony DiNozzo? Though no longer in the hit primetime procedural, Special Agent Tony DiNozzo was one of the original cast members who helped bring the show to the level of international stardom it now boasts. From his slow-boiling romance with Ziva David to his mentor-mentee relationship with Agent Gibbs, he was an integral part of the team — and a character whose own and interdependent arcs characterized the show’s early years.

Michael Weatherly Cote de Pablo and Mark Harmon of NCIS
Michael Weatherly, Mark Harmon, and Cote de Pablo in ‘NCIS’ | Sonja Flemming/CBS via Getty Images

Tony DiNozzo was the guy you laughed out, the guy you cared for, the guy you rooted for, and the guy you sometimes rolled your eyes at. Yet, Michael Weatherly was a little hesitant to sign on at first. Would a Jag spinoff really be the right career move? Would the show succeed? 

Inside Michael Weatherly’s hesitance surrounding ‘NCIS’

Michael Weatherly explained, during an interview with The Futon Critic, why he was a little reluctant to sign the dotted line. He stated:

I was a little reluctant initially. The notion of a “JAG” spinoff, 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.

The Futon Critic

Michael Weatherly had already starred in a handful of Fox network flops — Dark Angel, Girls Club, and Significant Others. Each show was off the air in under two years (Girls Club only filmed two episodes), leaving Michael Weatherly in need of a successful, long-running show that would catalyze his career. 

While Weatherly’s lack of success with Fox contributed to his decision to give CBS a shot, he also explained that Don Bellisario — then the producer behind NCIS — boasted the charm and chat needed to get him on board. 

Michael Weatherly on Don Bellisario, ‘Magnum, P.I.’ and ‘NCIS’

Michael Weatherly explained to The Futon Critic that he was unable to resist Don Bellisario’s sales pitch for NCIS. Weatherly stated:

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. 

The Futon Critic

Considering Don Bellisario was one of the minds behind Magnum, P.I. — one of Weatherly’s favorite shows as a child — there was more than a solid character and interesting concept going for Bellisario. Bellisario was speaking to a fan, and when you’re speaking to a fan, you immediately have a leg up. 

Michael Weatherly wanted to speak to Bellisario as much as Bellisario wanted to get him in his new show. If Don Bellisario didn’t take the time to meet with Weatherly, fans may have never received the Tony DiNozzo they came to know and love for over a decade.