The Primary Way Tony DiNozzo of ‘NCIS’ Differed From Michael Weatherly’s Former Characters

Today, Michael Weatherly leads the primetime procedural, Bull. Yet, he rose to stardom playing Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo in NCIS. Prior to NCIS, Michael Weatherly starred in a handful of Fox flops. From Significant Other to Girls Club and Dark Angel, the shows lacked the narratives needed to succeed. And, Weatherly’s characters, in particular, lacked the qualities the actor needed to sink his teeth in — to feel comfortable, and at home in another’s shoes. 

Michael Weatherly of NCIS
Michael Weatherly of NCIS | Sonja Flemming/CBS via Getty Images

Anthony DiNozzo was a major change for Michael Weatherly, as the character offered the actor a chance to breathe — a chance to climb into a character who was less stringent, formulaic, and somber than his former ones. During an interview with The Futon Critic, Michael Weatherly explained what his pre-NCIS roles had in common, and why he had to escape their shackles. 

RELATED: Michael Weatherly Reveals Tony DiNozzo’s Hero: Who Does the ‘NCIS’ Character Look Up To?

Michael Weatherly talks pre-‘NCIS’ roles 

Before NCIS, Michael Weatherly was thrown into a handful of sci-fi oriented roles that required the actor to spew technological jargon and scientific nonsense. He had to talk about cybersecurity and other topics that ordinary citizens do not deeply understand. Weatherly explained:

I felt very formalized and stiff after several parts that I played and I just felt like I was in a hostage video… Like, “I… am… here… and… everything… is… good… Fallujah is beautiful this time of year.” When I look at some of my previous performances it looks like I’m screaming “help me” from behind my eyes while I’m saying technobabble.

The Futon Critic

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Based on Michael Weatherly’s descriptions, it seems like he couldn’t find the relatable center actors crave when taking on a role. He found himself playing the same guy with a new name — the same guy with knowledge, who must share his knowledge on his mission to save the day. The characters — steadfast and predictable. Tony, on the other hand, boasted none of these prominent qualities. 

Describing Tony DiNozzo of ‘NCIS’ 

Tony DiNozzo may have been a field agent, but he didn’t treat matters of life and death as such. He found the worst times to crack jokes, picked on his fellow agent McGee, and boasted a slow-boiling romance with Agent David for multiple seasons. 

DiNozzo loved being an agent, but treated it as a cool gig — he was basically pretending to be the next James Bond, while actually managing to get real detective work done in tandem. How he did so it anyone’s guess, but it worked for the show. He was one of the most beloved characters for seasons on end. Weatherly explained his intent for DiNozzo, noting what he wanted to bring to the character from the onset: 

So what I wanted to do with this character was have none of that. I wanted him to be unfiltered and a little bit more like me.

The Futon Critic

DiNozzo doesn’t speak “technobabble” and he relies on the scientist to the do the science. He cracks jokes, shows up, and does his job (but not without making a few mistakes and a few reckless judgment calls along the way).