Fall TV Preview

Michael Weatherly on Ziva's Exit: NCIS Has a 'Remarkable Core DNA' That Withstands Change

NCIS Ziva Tony GoodbyeWhen Cote de Pablo wraps her eight-year run as Ziva David, it will by no means be the first, but rather the latest, of several major shifts that CBS’ NCIS has sustained since debuting almost 10 years ago.

As original cast member Michael Weatherly prepared to film his final scenes with scene partner de Pablo, he shared with TVLine his reflections on all that NCIS and Gibbs’ team have been through.

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“I remember being with Cote at the end of Season 5, walking through the Mojave desert and into a diner and seeing Lauren Holly’s wax dummy in a pool of blood,” after Jenny Shepard had been killed by Russian hitmen. “I thought, ‘This is crazy!'” he recalls. “I didn’t see this coming at all. NCIS DiNozzo Jenny ShepardI mean, she’s the director of NCIS!

“And Mike Franks [being killed by the Port-to-Port Killer in Season 8]…. Those were major changes,” the actor continues. “[Series creator] Don Bellisario leaving [after Season 4]? A major change. Again and again.”

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And yet despite every shake-up NCIS has served up or survived, it stands as the most watched scripted program on TV today. “We have great writers and a remarkable core DNA that Bellisario created,” Weatherly observes, “and somehow it’s so sturdy that it withstands all of these changes.”

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As for how exactly NCIS will write out Ziva soon after its Sept. 24 opener, Weatherly is mum — “I can’t give away all the pinpoints,” he hedges with a smile — “but I found the first two episodes immensely satisfying. I was very surprised by the things I read in those scripts,” he shares.

Might those surprising elements involve some degree of payoff, if not closure, for the forever percolating Tony/Ziva romance? All signs point to yes.

“I think that for DiNozzo and for me as an actor, that ‘holding pattern’ has been incredibly fun to play — I love working with Cote, she’s awesome — but also it’s been eight years, and we haven’t dealt with it. It will be dealt with.” And with a resulting storyline for Tony that his portrayer has hailed as “the most exciting thing I’ve heard in a long time.” Says Weatherly, “I’m looking forward to seeing what the far greater geniuses have in store.”

Want more scoop on NCIS, or for any other fall show? Email insideline@tvline.com and your question may be answered via Matt’s Inside Line.