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NCIS star Michael Weatherly lasted on the long-running procedural for 13 seasons before leaving the show. Afterward, the actor would star in another network series Bull. However, Bull wasn’t the kind of tv show Weatherly thought he’d ever find himself in again.

How Michael Weatherly ended up in ‘Bull’ after doing ‘NCIS’

Michael Weatherly at 'NCIS' photocall.
Michael Weatherly | Toni Anne Barson/WireImage

Weatherly had a long run on NCIS before deciding to call it quits. There was no controversy involved in his departure. Rather, after so many years of playing Tony DiNozzo, he was ready to do something different. This would lead him towards a completely different series in CBS’ Bull. There, Weatherly played psychologist Jason Bull, who was the head of a consulting firm that would choose juries for high-profile trials.

But initially, Weatherly had no intention of doing a network television series. Although he did want to challenge himself after NCIS, he wasn’t too interested in repeating the show’s grueling hours.

“I was so comfortable with Tony DiNozzo on NCIS that … it was interesting when that seemed to have run its course. I thought maybe it’s because I’m getting older and I just want to have a different experience. And NCIS wasn’t the place for that,” Weatherly said in a 2012 interview with TV Guide. “I was really just looking for a change, and I didn’t know exactly what that would be. In all honesty, I didn’t think it was going to be another full-order network hour drama. Simply because that schedule is punishing, and I’ve been doing it for the last 16 years. … I wasn’t really looking for a rest as much as something different.”

But when Weatherly received the script for Bull, he asserted that he couldn’t resist the storytelling. After consulting with a former NCIS cast member, he knew he had to take the role.

“So I took all that information, all those different elements, and I sat down with Robert Wagner, who played my dad on NCIS, and I said, ‘What do you think of this?’ And he just stared at me and said, ‘You have to think about this?’ It was kind of a no-brainer,” Weatherly remembered.

Michael Weatherly explained the differences between Jason Bull and Tony DiNozzo

Weatherly asserted that his NCIS and Bull characters had very few similarities, but quite a lot of differences.

“I think the DiNozzo that is in Bull is that he has a twinkle in his eye. He appreciates human behavior. People are fascinating. I think Tony always had his own predictive thing. He always thought it was the wife. But Bull’s a little bit more expansive in his thinking,” Weatherly once told Parade.

Unlike DiNozzo, Jason Bull wasn’t required to be armed in the series. Which was also a welcome change of pace for Weatherly.

“Jason Bull isn’t Phil McGraw, so it’s not a real person,” Weatherly said. “My job, when I get on the set, is: How do I make this guy seem real? And I have to say, it’s also a relief not to have to wear a gun every day. For 13 years, I had a gun, and it was plastic, and every time I sat down, I would think, ‘Oh, God. Do I have to have the gun?’ So he doesn’t wear a gun, which is nice.”

According to Weatherly, DiNozzo was a character that needed Mark Harmon’s Leroy Gibbs to rein him in. But Jason Bull didn’t need that type of authority figure.

 “Bull has this team. They have a family dynamic and he’s a leader inside it. Unlike Gibbs, Bull is not coming at it from a place of ruling by fear or intimidation. He rules with a more inclusive, Kumbaya, up with people [attitude],” Weatherly said.

What Michael Weatherly brought over from ‘NCIS’ to ‘Bull’


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Weatherly’s NCIS experience came in handy for Bull. His time on the show made him understand the teamwork and patience it took to make a series successful.

“One of the most rewarding and wonderful aspects of NCIS was going to work, loving all the people that I got to know so well and that I miss every day, and really trying to take that apart and understand what made it so good and how can I apply that to this environment? It doesn’t happen overnight,” he said. “It’s like children. You don’t get a 7-year old without going through the first six years. You’ve got to change some diapers. You’ve got to have some long nights. You’ve got to put in the work. And I think, just like being a parent, you have to put yourself at the service of the greater thing, the family, in this case, the show.”