Michael Weatherly Found Inspiration for Tony DiNozzo in ‘Will & Grace’

How did Tony DiNozzo of NCIS come to be? How did the quick-tongued, quippy, flirtatious womanizer perfectly fit into a crime drama about murder and espionage? How did Michael Weatherly develop the character that would go on to catalyze his career, eventually leading to a starring role in the CBS hit Bull? 

Michael Weatherly of NCIS and Sean Hayes of Will & Grace
(L) Michael Weatherly | Toni Anne Barson / Contributor (R) Sean Hayes | NBC/Contributor via Getty Images

Tony DiNozzo boasts a childlike disposition; he struggles to take moments that warrant sobriety seriously. He often offers up an inappropriate joke at the worst of times, and he is the first to come up with an eye-roll-worthy remark at the crime scene. However, he also, while on the show, carried a slow-boiling romance with Ziva David, a mentor-mentee relationship with Gibbs, and a sibling-like rivalry with McGee. 

Though DiNozzo may have often acted like a child, he found room to be an adult (at times). When talking about NCIS and Tony DiNozzo in particular, Michael Weatherly once explained how he found inspiration for the character in the hit sitcom Will & Grace. 

Michael Weatherly talks ‘NCIS,’ Tony DiNozzo, and Sean Hayes of ‘Will & Grace’

When discussing Special Agent Tony DiNozzo with The Futon Critic — and the character’s obvious lack of decorum — Michael Weatherly once explained that Sean Hayes’ character in Will & Grace offered up a strong template — one that just needed a little tweaking to fit the whole agent shtick. Weatherly said:

And I had heard Sean Hayes talk about on ‘Will & Grace’ that he based his character on a six-year-old. And that six-year-olds just kind of like, “Mama, that man is black! Why is that man chocolate colored?” And you’re in store going like [cringes to cover the child]. And if you’ve been with kids, kids say things that occur to them. You know, and if they grow up in a white neighborhood and they walk into a supermarket and they see somebody who doesn’t look like everybody else they’re going to ask that question. So ‘Will & Grace’ always cracked me up so much and I thought how about a federal agent who’s completely, just politically so gone. Like women are chicks and he’s living like it’s the ’70s. And there’s no enlightenment whatsoever. He’s kinda like, “what’s the bra burning about?”

The Futon Critic

Michael Weatherly explained how both Sean Hayes’ character in Will & Grace and his own character in NCIS were a bit absent-minded to say the least — politically unaware and sometimes socially ignorant. 

The difference between the two: Michael Weatherly’s Tony DiNozzo adds a little bit of the overtly masculine tendencies inherent to the agents of yesteryear’s crime shows, like Magnum, P.I., which he goes on to explain. 

Both Sean Hayes’ character (Jack) in Will & Grace and Tony DiNozzo virtually say whatever pops into their heads, with little concern for the consequences. And, they often have bad timing, which is actually good timing when considering how comic relief tends to work. Their timing is great for a laugh — and their comments serve to underscore the tones of their respective shows — but any real-life adult would likely send people running if they behaved similarly in public.