Michael Weatherly may have stepped behind the camera to direct this Tuesday’s episode of NCIS (CBS, 8/7c), but you’ll see plenty of DiNozzo – and perhaps see him in a new way – when a (pretty) new face evokes a blast from his past. Weatherly spoke with TVLine about calling the shots as director, and how Tony’s heroic spirit is about to be reawakened.
TVLINE | Was there a specific something that made you say, “I want to direct. I can do this”?
No, it’s been a building interest. I’ve been really lucky to work with some really great film people in the past, but television works on a much quicker schedule, and it’s the TV directors I’ve worked with that I looked to and became a big fan of. The Tom Wrights, Dennis Smiths, Tony Wharmby, Terrence O’Hara, Jimmy Whitmore Jr…. These guys each have done 30, 35 episodes, which is extraordinary. I know I’m geeking about it a bit, but I just love the technical aspects of it all, and this was an incredible opportunity in a very safe environment.
TVLINE | Did the script present you with any special challenges? Any crane shots, pyrotechnics…?
Oh yeah. They didn’t throw me a softball, let me put it to you that way. We had to do a car chase, and everyone was working 110 percent. There was so much action stuff, I was on pure adrenaline the whole time. We also had an incredible guest cast with JoBeth Williams (Private Practice) and Sarah Jane Morris (Brothers & Sisters), who’s playing this new agent, EJ Barrett. That’s not a normal episode thing, to introduce someone who’s going to arc out toward the end of your season and be a part of that epic season-finale situation.
TVLINE | What’s the significance that Special Agent Barrett took the overseas NCIS job that Jenny Shepard offered Tony years ago?
It’s a nice wrinkle. And what it means for DiNozzo is he’s going to answer a couple of penetrating, deep questions, like, “Did I make the right decision?” Beyond that, he’s intrigued by the person that did take the job. It turns out she’s a pretty compelling adult, unlike some of the women Tony has been interested in in the past. [Their interaction] is unfettered by the complication of her being an undercover mark whose father is an arms dealer, to name one example. He never has made very good choices before.
TVLINE | If they were up for the same job, they must be equals in a lot of ways.
Absolutely. That instantly gets his respect and triggers his curiosity. I had a lot of fun working with Sarah on how to find this character, this EJ. It’s gonna be realllll good.
TVLINE | How does she differ from Ziva (Cote de Pablo)?
She’s the diametric opposite of Ziva – physically, and in her demeanor, her way of being. She has her eccentricities as well, which makes her adorable to Tony and highly irritating to Ziva.
TVLINE | I saw a recent interview where you said that, with this episode, you felt as if Tony had awoken from a four-year sleep. How so?
What I meant is it was four years ago that he passed on that opportunity. Four years ago he went undercover, and after that the director of the agency, someone who placed a great deal of confidence in him, was killed — possibly because Tony wasn’t as on point as he should have been, so he feels some responsibility for that. Then he was sent away by the new director to sit on an aircraft carrier for four months to think about it. The way I’ve approached this is that Tony in Seasons 6 and 7 became a very reflective character, because he was floundering. He doesn’t have a strong sense of identity. You see that when Robert Wagner does these great guest shots [as Tony’s father], you see this “kid” inside Tony. Where’s the heroic agent? But, with the appearance of EJ, suddenly there’s a renewed spirit that Tony has always had in him – it’s what made him to go Africa and rescue Ziva with McGee. Sometime he acts like a goofball because that’s what people expect, but in this episode he comes away from that place. We’ll see what the audience thinks, but for me, he feels potential and possibility in a way that he hasn’t for years. EJ is a mirror, so he sees that hope for himself again.
TVLINE | Can you say what sort of season finale cliffhanger we’re building towards?
Hmm. I don’t know. You’ll have to ask the powers-that-be. I’m just a guy who jumps into the Tony outfit – though sometimes Tony’s not wearing any clothes! But not in this episode.
NCIS fans, are you looking forward to this new direction for Tony?