Ver­dict: Michael Weatherly pleased with le­gal drama ‘Bull’

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - FEATURES - By Fra­zier Moore

NEW YORK >> Michael Weatherly doesn’t seem like the star of “Bull” so much as its gra­cious host — at least, if you’re vis­it­ing the Brook­lyn, New York, sound stage where his new CBS drama is filmed.

Oh, there’s no ques­tion Weatherly is the show’s lead­ing man. He’s got the ti­tle role of Dr. Ja­son Bull , whose mix of psy­cho­log­i­cal train­ing, gut in­stinct and pre­dic­tive al­go­rithms has made Bull the na­tion’s go-to jury con­sul­tant.

But there’s no sign of Weatherly pulling rank with ei­ther co-stars or crew. Be­tween shots, he strolls through the ex­pan­sive high­tech set meant to rep­re­sent Bull’s Trial Anal­y­sis Cor­po­ra­tion — with its banks of flat-screens, racks of blink­ing data pro­ces­sors and even a ping­pong ta­ble — as he chats up his col­leagues, oc­ca­sion­ally toss­ing off a joke. The easy grin on his face is no per­for­mance.

No won­der. Hav­ing ex­cused him­self ear­lier this year from “NCIS” after 13 red-hot sea­sons, he is now off to a good start with his own se­ries (which, air­ing Tues­days at 9 p.m. EST, has the good for­tune to fol­low “NCIS,” still a rat­ings jug­ger­naut in its 14th year).

“This has been an ab­so­lute dream ex­pe­ri­ence,” sums up Weatherly, 48. “Some­times it feels like a pinch-me kind of mo­ment.”

One of his goals for “Bull” has been to repli­cate the esprit de corps of “NCIS,” where he played Tony DiNozzo, one of its spe­cial agents in­ves­ti­gat­ing crimes that in­volve the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps.

He points to his for­mer “NCIS” mates David McCal­lum (a heart­throb a half­cen­tury ago on the spy se­ries “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.”) and Mark Har­mon (once a mar­quee name and Peo­ple mag­a­zine’s 1986 Sex­i­est Man Alive).

“Both of these men had ex­pe­ri­enced the high­est heights” yet served “NCIS” as fel­low mem­bers of the team, says Weatherly, adding that Har­mon drew on his ex­pe­ri­ence with ensem­ble dra­mas “St. Else­where” and “Chicago Hope” to bond the “NCIS” cast.

“He em­pow­ered us,” says Weatherly. “I’ve tried to bring some of that to this show.”

Of course, “Bull” is a dif­fer­ent kind of drama. In­spired by the early trial-con­sult­ing days of “Dr. Phil” McGraw (one of its ex­ec­u­tive pro­duc­ers) it “deals with hu­man be­hav­ior and empathy and in­sight,” Weatherly ex­plains. And dif­fer­ent from DiNozzo is his char­ac­ter Ja­son Bull, whose cardi­gan sweater and owlish black­rimmed eye­glasses sig­nal some­one “non-threat­en­ing, more pro­fes­so­rial, not try­ing to be cool.”

Among those at Bull’s side at Trial Anal­y­sis Cor­po­ra­tion is Chunk Palmer, a stylist who fine-tunes clients’ ap­pear­ances for trial. He is played by Christo­pher Jack­son, who orig­i­nated the role of Pres­i­dent Ge­orge Wash­ing­ton in the Broad­way mu­si­cal “Hamilton,” and says that “Bull” is “very much like a the­atri­cal ensem­ble — a good feel­ing.”

Geneva Carr, who plays TAC neu­rolin­guis­tics whiz Marissa Mor­gan, was Tonynom­i­nated for her per­for­mance in the play “Hand to God” and won fans as “Mom” in a se­ries of hu­mor­ous AT&T com­mer­cials.

“Michael is one of the kind­est peo­ple you’ll ever meet,” she de­clares. “He is so cre­ative and pas­sion­ate about do­ing a good job. It’s in­fec­tious.”

Freddy Ro­driguez (“Six Feet Un­der”) por­trays Bull’s brother-in-law, Benny Colon, a lawyer who steps in as de­fense at­tor­ney for the com­pany’s mock tri­als.

He says when he was of­fered the role, “the first ques­tion I asked was, ‘Is Michael cool?’ Do­ing a net­work TV show is a grind, so the last thing you want is to be part of a show with a lead­ing guy who’s (a jerk). I called around. They were all like, ‘Michael is to­tally cool!’” Cool was what Ro­driguez found.

An­other way of putting that might be “loosey­goosey,” which is how Weatherly sums up his on-set style. It’s some­thing he’s been work­ing on since his early “NCIS” days: not to take him­self too se­ri­ously.

In his dressing room be­tween scenes, Weatherly slips off his shoes be­fore chang­ing from Bull’s three­piece suit into his sig­na­ture of­fice duds (blue slacks, white shirt and black cardi­gan) for the next scene.

Weatherly re­mains in­spired by the phi­los­o­phy of Jeff Bridges as set forth in his 2012 book “The Dude and The Zen Mas­ter.”

“He says: Think of the song, ‘Row, row, row your boat, gen­tly down the stream. Life is just a dream.’ You do the work, go with the flow and be happy. It would be a great thing at the end of a hard week if our crew feels we had suc­cess­fully rowed our boat gen­tly down the stream.”

For Bull, it’s not that sim­ple.

“He’s like a vam­pire for ob­serv­ing hu­man be­hav­ior. He can’t help it. How would it be, hy­per-an­a­lyz­ing things all the time? What a pain to live like that!”

Weatherly got his own pre­view of just how oner­ous last sum­mer, be­fore film­ing be­gan. He and his wife were in a Bos­ton bar where an­other cou­ple was mak­ing a scene.

“The man was drunk and bel­liger­ent, and — I don’t know where it came from — I in­ter­vened. By pre­tend­ing to agree with the man, I calmed him down. It was a Bull mo­ment: be­ing hy­per-vig­i­lant and sens­ing the best way to deal with the sit­u­a­tion.

“Then I got the guy and his wife into a cab and they left, never know­ing who I was.

“My wife was like, ‘WHAT was THAT?’

“And I said, ‘I think I was in char­ac­ter. I think I found him!’”

On­line: http://www.cbs. com/shows/bull/

JOJO WHILDEN — CBS VIA AP

In this image re­leased by CBS, Michael Weatherly por­trays Dr. Ja­son Bull in a scene from “Bull,” air­ing Tues­days on CBS.

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