NCIS Star Michael Weatherly on Playing Robert Wagner, His Appearance on The Cosby Show and His Trou-Dropping Habit
The most successful police procedurals on television boast more than a talented cast and expertly-written investigations solved within an hour -- they depend on first-rate comic relief. And the most humorous moments (as well as some of the more sincere) on the most-watched television drama are brought to you by Michael Weatherly, who plays charismatic Senior Field Agent Anthony DiNozzo on NCIS: Naval Criminal Investigative Service. As the foil to Mark Harmon's humorless Senior Agent, Weatherly's character regularly taps into pop culture for investigative inspiration (the movie Speed once helped him solve a case) while throwing back to the witty scoundrels played by Cary Grant. Thanks in part to Weatherly's popularity, NCIS rang in its 150th episode on CBS last week.
A few days ago, Movieline caught up with Weatherly, who was en route to the house of recent NCIS guest star Robert Wagner, to discuss his affection for the It Takes a Thief star, his first television gig with Bill Cosby, and why he tends to take his pants off when he is nervous.
Congratulations on the 150th episode of NCIS. Seven seasons into the series, are you still nervous about ratings, especially since CBS scheduled you opposite American Idol again?
I know, it's like Sherlock Holmes going up against Moriarty, yet again. Or maybe it's James Bond against Blofeld? I think Simon Cowell might have this impossible Bond villain in his future? I don't think we actually pay very much attention to it, just because we make our show and it doesn't have a lot to do with music or voting.
NCIS is still the number one drama on television and proof that scripted programming can be more successful reality programming in primetime. That being said, it must feel pretty good to be at CBS these days.
I was just talking this morning with someone about the Tiffany network and how nice it is to be on a network that holds to its tradition of broadcasting a little bit more than NBC because in my humble opinion, they are crazy. I mean, you are messing with something that is formatted and locked! It's kind of like they think they've discovered a new coke or something. And [Leno] is the guy that that twenty years ago was sitting there eavesdropping on phone lines so he could box his friend, David Letterman, out of a job. This is The Late Shift: Part Deux -- maybe if Charlie Sheen is available...
Back to NCIS, though: how did CBS celebrate your 150th episode?
We had a cake. It was pretty good, although I think Kerry, our craft service guy, actually made it, so I don't know if that's special. But they let us make 150 episodes in the first place.
Robert Wagner played your father on last week's episode. Is there any chance he'll be back?
He was just scheduled for one episode, although I'm hearing that they are talking about more.
You portrayed Mr. Wagner in The Mystery of Natalie Wood. Were you intimidated to finally meet him?
You know whats fun about Wagner is that he started in the business in 1948. So, I don't know if you have seen his book, Pieces of My Heart, but it chronicles quite a life that he is still very much in the swing of, but this is a guy that drank with Humphrey Bogart and got on-the-job advice and training from guys like Spencer Tracy and Cary Grant. He bridges a generation of Hollywood that I find really fascinating.