Michael Weatherly tells it like it is.
During our chat last week at the TCA/CBS party in West Hollywood, the actor didn't hold back when talking about the "recalibration'"that viewers will see in NCIS Season 13, as well as his alter ego's romantic life moving forward.
Weatherly also had some choice words for another popular one-hour drama (Grey's Anatomy) and how that series dealt with killing off the long-running character of Derek Shepherd (aka McDreamy), played by Patrick Dempsey.
Scroll down for excerpts from our exclusive Q&A with Weatherly, including how he hopes Gibbs might learn something from Tony this year..
TV Fanatic: How far into shooting the new season are you?
Michael Weatherly: They’re prepping the fourth episode now so we’re shooting the third.
TVF: How do you approach a new season? Is it just diving into the new scripts or do you sit down with Gary and the writers…?
MW: For me, it always has to do with where I see myself going and I think every year is so radically different. Every two years, say. you go through these revolutions and when Sasha left at the end of season 2, revolution. Lauren Holly left after season 5. Cote left after season 10, big changes do require a recalibration and right now the show is undergoing kind of a metamorphosis that isn’t because of anything external but more of an internal change for the first time. Part of it had to do with Gibbs getting shot last year and the change that brought about but I think there’s something fundamental shifting in the sands of NCIS.
Part and parcel of that is that I was able to go and do NCIS: Los Angeles and that will air in October. I had such an amazing time spending those days with that cast and crew and that team. They were at the end of their sixth season when they shot that and we were at the end of our sixth season when we shot the NCIS: LA spin-off so I felt I really got to see a show in its full stride.
I had so much fun and I haven’t seen it cut together but I promise you it’s going to be hilarious. They really gave me stuff to do that, in all honesty, I hadn’t had the opportunity to do fully in a few hours because of the shape that NCIS has taken, the mothership. So that sparked back for me a lot of different, getting back to your question, how do I start lucky 13?
Season 13, to me, is now about turning the soil over, digging up stuff and, for the first time ever in the run of my time on the show, I have no idea how it’s going to end. I’m always very glib about this but I honestly have no idea what happens.
TVF: And I’m guessing you’re excited by that.
MW: Yeah. Everyone’s different this year. Everyone’s different.
TVF: I’m guessing everyone is affected differently by this shift that you’re talking about.
MW: You’ll see it. When it starts airing you’ll be like ‘Oh…”
TVF: What’s the romantic hope for your character this season?
MW: I think that’s the big story point for me this year. I think when we look at Gibbs and how sad he is as a character and he’s essentially living this life where it’s not a total experience. He has no wife, no partner, he’s living with all these ghosts and I get a little tired of it sometimes but the truth is I think what that message is that’s really sent to the audience is that Gibb can’t move on. He’s trapped. So if I have a hope for Tony and the hope between Gibbs and Tony and their relationship it’s that Gibbs sees his hope in Tony. And Tony has been waiting for something and I think for too long so I think this is the year we figure that out.
I think they’re going to blow shit up this season. And I mean like blow up character stuff. I think they’re going to subvert expectation. I don’t think this is another year of here is your standalone episode and I think this is the year when you get uncomfortable.
TVF: And I think fans that have stuck by the show all this time are ready for that.
MW: And I tweeted about this last year but I don’t like…I mean, Shonda is fantastic…but I don’t like what they did with Dempsey [on Grey’s Anatomy] just as a viewer. I just feel like there were more creative ways for Meredith to deal with that situation and more dramatic ways.
To me, it felt small, petty, mean and personal. ‘We’re going to kill Patrick in a car crash because he likes to race cars.’
To me, and maybe I’m reading into it, but to me it was overt and maybe they had problems with Patrick - but it was personal and to me that’s not good storytelling. I want and what I like about NCIS is we believe these are real characters in this story and however Sean Murray feels about Pauley Perrette or whatever a person feels about another person shouldn’t influence the story of a TV show so I’m very proud of what our show has always done which is story first.
TVF: And having talked to Gary and a lot of the cast frequently, I can tell there is a lot of respect for the show and the characters.
MW: Although Gary loves to kill people! [laughs].
NCIS Season 13 premieres September 22 on CBS at 8/7c.
Jim Halterman is the West Coast Editor of TV Fanatic and the owner of JimHalterman.com. Follow him on Twitter.