Michael Weatherly on the ‘Major Shift’ ‘NCIS’ Faced in Its Early Years

NCIS has been on the air for seventeen seasons and counting. The hit primetime procedural has mastered a formula that keeps on giving. Each week there’s a new murder, a new crime, and as the agents come to discover the culprit, they grow closer to one another. While brief plotlines carry each episode, long-gestating arcs carry the show, leaving character dynamics at the forefront as the show’s strongest attribute. However, NCIS didn’t exactly find its footing overnight. 

Michael Weatherly of NCIS
Michael Weatherly of ‘NCIS’ as Tony DiNozzo | Jace Downs/CBS via Getty Images

NCIS is now in a groove — the lead characters boast strong, unwavering identities. Though they develop across time — adapting to suit a modern viewing audience and changing in accordance with their respective trials and tribulations — Gibbs has always been Gibbs. He’s the man in charge who’s got a set of rules and a soft heart…buried deep underneath his years of pent up regret, anger, and sadness. And though McGee is more of a leader than he used to be, he’s still the agent to talk to when you need a shoulder to lean on.

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During an interview with The Futon Critic, Michael Weatherly discussed NCIS and the changes that defined the show after the first few seasons. He noted that each character and those behind the production had to find their voice, and settle in. 

Michael Weatherly talks ‘NCIS’ transformation 

When asked how the show transformed over the first few years on the air, Michael Weatherly explained: 

So I have a feeling that the major shift in the last four years has just been getting the characters into their position. And like I was saying, in the beginning, you don’t know what that position is because it’s locked away inside the crazy showrunner’s head. Like Aaron Sorkin doesn’t know to communicate it to you unless he, you know, has a fever dream and screams it into a microphone. But really they write the script and you have to sort of divine from that script what it is that they want…

The Futon Critic

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Weatherly explains that it’s not always easy to take a showrunner’s idea and translate it on to the screen; it can take multiple episodes, if not multiple seasons, to actually bring the correct vision to life. Actors tinker with their characters, and those characters toil with their chemistry, as the writers change the narrative underlying the production, and so on and so forth.

Michael Weatherly on finding a show’s voice

Actors are given a script, and while the script contains a lot of information, it doesn’t always offer up the show’s “voice.” Weatherly went on to note:

But the voice of the show is the single hardest thing to find. And then trusting that voice and not f*cking with it when things get a little wonky and wobbly.

The Futon Critic

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In the end, NCIS found its voice, and it stuck to it. It remains one of the most successful primetime network shows of all time, and one of the longest-running in its genre, competing with the likes of Law & Order: SVU.