GROW­ING IN CHAR­AC­TER

Michael Weatherly could not be more dif­fer­ent from the frat-boy type he plays in NCIS, but he cred­its the show for giv­ing him the cer­tainty to be­come a more con­tent ac­tor and a bet­ter fam­ily man

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - PLAY | TV - AN­DREW FEN­TON

With its 300th episode ap­proach­ing, Michael Weatherly can firmly pin­point his most mem­o­rable mo­ment in 12 years of NCIS.

“I gave Mark Har­mon (Gibbs) mouth-to-mouth re­sus­ci­ta­tion!” he says with a grin dur­ing an in­ter­view in Los An­ge­les. “Some things stay with you. ‘Sex­i­est Man Alive’ circa ’87. I had some of that!”

Weatherly, 46, is charm­ing and en­ter­tain­ing com­pany, of­ten crack­ing self-dep­re­cat­ing gags. But af­ter more than a decade play­ing Very Spe­cial Agent Tony DiNozzo on the most popular TV drama in the world – watched weekly by 57.6 mil­lion peo­ple – he’s at pains to point out there are some bi dif­fer­ences be­tween him­self and the char­ac­ter.

“Some­body on the set the other day said: ‘Wow, it sounds like you read?’” he re­calls. “I said, ‘Yeah, I like to read’. They said ‘For some rea­son I just didn’t see you read­ing much’. I thought: Well, I’ve suc­ceeded now in cre­at­ing a char­ac­ter who seems like an over­grown frat boy who doesn’t read much and is ter­ri­bly self­in­volved.”

In real life Weatherly’s con­ver­sa­tion is sprin­kled with ref­er­ences to Sa­muel Beck­ett and quotes by Martin Amis, so he’s ei­ther well read or very good at name-drop­ping. In con­trast to his char­ac­ter, who he feels is “trapped in a sta­tus that isn’t even No.2”, Weatherly couldn’t be more con­tent. Much of this has to do with his 2009 mar­riage to Bo­jana Jankovic – who looks like a model but is ac­tu­ally a doc­tor – and their two kids Olivia, nearly 3, and Liam, 1½.

“I feel very much part of a fam­ily but also the head of a house­hold,” he says. “I can see it must be very dif­fi­cult (for DiNozzo) to think that maybe you could do more, but you’re limited and stuck in a place. I don’t feel stuck my­self. I re­ally love my job, I re­ally love my fam­ily and I’m hav­ing a great time.

“That’s a pri­mary dif­fer­ence be­tween us … Tony makes a lot of re­ally sad choices. I feel very bad for him and I hope that he fig­ures some stuff out.”

When Weatherly joined the JAG spin-off, 275 episodes ago back in 2003, he was best known for James Cameron’s sci-fi se­ries Dark An­gel and his en­gage­ment to co-star Jes­sica Alba. Back then, he says, he was ter­ri­fied of say­ing the wrong thing about the re­la­tion­ship or the show.

“I was very trepidatious and knew there were a lot of ways to screw that up. Four­teen years on, you’ll find I’m a lot more can­did and don’t re­ally give a sh--!”

More than any­thing, NCIS has given Weatherly the se­cu­rity to put down roots. Be­fore the show came along he says he couldn’t even get a dog as he was al­ways up­root­ing him­self to travel for work to Van­cou­ver (Dark An­gel) or Australia (The Mys­tery of Natalie Wood).

“(I) have ce­mented as­pects of my­self that were not al­ways at­tached to the ground,” he says. “It’s the sure-foot­ed­ness and the con­fi­dence that comes with know­ing there’s a job to go to the next day.”

With Janck­ovic’s pun­ish­ing sched­ule and Weatherly’s long hours on the NCIS set as well as his bur­geon­ing pro­duc­tion com­pany, their mar­riage can some­times seem like a longdis­tance re­la­tion­ship. So the cou­ple have im­ple­mented a regular date night.

“We go once a month and have a lit­tle night out by our­selves and stay some­where great,” Weatherly says of him­self and his “ex­tra­or­di­nary woman”.

Weatherly’s more re­laxed ap­proach to in­ter­views is mir­rored in his ap­proach to par­ent­ing. He’s a very dif­fer­ent dad than he was to his 18-year-old son Au­gust, born to his first wife Amelia Heinle. “I was very ner­vous the first time around,” he ad­mits. “Ba­bies are such a huge re­spon­si­bil­ity and you can get in­side your head re­ally quick about it. Now, as long as they don’t just fall down the stairs or some­thing, you get a bit more re­laxed!”

View­ers will have no­ticed Weatherly look­ing a lot trim­mer in sea­son 12 (cur­rently screen­ing on Ten) than he did last sea­son. He says although he’s al­ways had “weight fluc­tu­a­tions” he be­gan to pile it on dur­ing sea­son 11, partly as a re­sult of the stress of two chil­dren at home, but also be­cause of his anx­i­ety over the de­par­ture of Cote de Pablo, who played Ziva.

“It’s not like I sort of fell into some deep de­spair,” he says. “But I got to the end of the sea­son and I had had it, I was ex­hausted and tired.”

He hired a trainer, cut down on carbs and “any­thing out of a packet”, started boxing and be­gan swim­ming. “That 35 pounds (16kg) was a real shift and I felt years younger and a lot hap­pier.”

Given de Pablo’s exit seems to have made as much of an im­pact on Weatherly as the fans, can he see her ever re­turn­ing to the show?

“I’m not sure how she would come back now, given that Bishop (Emily Wick­er­sham) is fairly en­trenched at that desk,” he says. “That would be awk­ward­ness not of the best kind, not of the most dra­matic kind, just a weird day at work.”

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