Why Michael Weatherly Initially Felt He Wasn’t a Fit For Tony DiNozzo of ‘NCIS’

Michael Weatherly rose to stardom on the back of NCIS. Playing the wise-cracking, quick-witted, devil-may-care agent with a heart of gold for over a decade, he and Tony DiNozzo grew intimately connected. Michael Weatherly was Tony DiNozzo to fans of the series. And, though he is now the leading man in the CBS show Bull, many still identify him as DiNozzo and anticipate the day he returns to the show that catalyzed his career. 

Michael Weatherly Tony DiNozzo in NCIS
Michael Weatherly as Anthony DiNozzo in ‘NCIS’ | Sonja Flemming/CBS via Getty Images

Michael Weatherly and Tony DiNozzo may seem like a match made in heaven — Weatherly’s Hollywood good looks, unyielding sense of humor, and charming disposition are perfect for Gibbs’ second in command. However, Michael Weatherly had some reservations at the start, and he didn’t know if he was a fit for who he expected DiNozzo to be. However, he and the character grew together.

Weatherly came to be the actor right for the role, even though he initially felt the two couldn’t be more polar opposites. So, let’s dive into what Michael Weatherly said about DiNozzo back in the day, and why he felt he and the character were an unlikely match. 

Michael Weatherly compares himself to his initial Tony DiNozzo character expectations 

During an interview with The Futon Critic back in NCIS’s early days, Michael Weatherly explained why he and Tony DiNozzo were a bit of clash personality-wise. He told the interviewer what made them different, stating:

…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. [Laughs.] 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. I’m ‘School Ties,’ not ‘Homicide.’

The Futon Critic

Growing up, Michael Weatherly was the preppy boy — akin to the kid from boarding school with a typical suburban life and no “edge” whatsoever. Thus, the name Anthony DiNozzo became worrisome for the actor when he first heard about the role; was he going to play a guy familiar with the mob — a guy who plays for the good guys, but knows how to talk to the bad guys? What was the plan?

He wasn’t edgy; he wasn’t slick. As he says, he was School Ties: a movie that takes place at a prestigious prep school where all the kids wear uniforms, and one student struggles with antisemitic classmates. In other words, the character description he expected to fulfill — bad*ss Baltimore cop — didn’t exactly ring true. 

As the show developed, he and the character became a perfect mesh, as the writers went for humor over hostility, and cleverness over unbridled courage. And though everything worked out in the end, there was a period of time Weatherly saw this show — like the many Fox shows he previously starred in — leading to disaster.