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.

PHOTOS | NCIS Sneak Peek: ‘Classic’ Season Premiere Is Full of ‘Change and Turmoil’

“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.”

VIDEO | NCIS Season 11: Ziva’s Wanted Dead — Is This Goodbye for Her and Tony?

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.”

RELATED | NCIS Boss: Why We’re Not Killing Off Ziva

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.

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163 Comments
  1. fan1 says:

    When people constantly complain about one character ruining the show, when they say that she has ruined other characters, when they say that a relationship has been forced to fulfill the wishes of a certain fan base and when people say that they will not be watching the show until episode 3 or say that they can finally watch the show again now, am I to infer that they love Ziva and the Tiva relationship? I use the term hater because i do not know what else to call it. I do not have a problem with anyone not liking a character-to each his own. i just find it easier to refer to those people as Ziva haters. Perhaps hate is to strong a word. But when you are cheering and celebrating a character leaving a show how else should I imply that you feel about that character? Let’s face it. There are people out there who hate Ziva and Tiva. I get it. I accept it. I just stated that Cote de Pablo and Tiva fans are not responsible for how Ziva and any of the other characters are written.We also did not start a campaign for romance or bully anyone into writing a romance. I just want blame placed where it is deserved and that is on the writers and the executive producers. So, I will say the people who strongly dislike Ziva from now on.

    • as524 says:

      In actuality fan1, tiva fans have started campaign after campaign to get ‘tiva’ made canon on the show. They’ve done it with letters to the show & various entertainment media (like this one). They’ve used voting bots on whatever poll they could & they’ve continually been loud & noisy everywhere possible claiming that the pairing was the MOST important part of the show.

      It was also documented that cdp was the cast member who pushed for a certain type of tiva scene & who continually pushed for a romance for her character. The rest of the cast have been on record as saying they weren’t fans of the pairing & didn’t want to see it on the show.

      The use of the word ‘hater’ is simply uncalled for but is actually the mildest thing ziva/tiva fanatics have used

      • fan1 says:

        Please, Do you really think that fans have that much power? If they did, Tony and Ziva would be married now with children. If you watch carefully interviews with Cote and Michael they both say that they have no control over what happens between their characters. They just talked about this on “The Talk” in May. Isn’t it funny that in that interview, it was Michael Weatherly playing up the romance by kissing Cote’s hand and not vice versa? I have never once heard Cote say in an interview that she has insisted on Tiva in scenes. Has she said that she likes working with Michael and the dynamics of that relationship? Yes. Has she said that she wants Tiva to happen? No, not really. On the other hand Michael Weatherly has stated several times that he is against Tiva. Pauley Perrette said she is against Tiva. Rocky Carroll said that he is anti-Tiva. So, who do you think the writers are going to listen to? No one. They do what they want to do. And Cote did say she wanted love and romance for her character but she never said it had to be with Tony. Just because you don’t like a character does not mean that her demands are the ones that are being listened to when something happens in the show that you don’t like. If Michael Weatherly is the golden boy that people claim he is and that CBS and the show runners love him so much, don’t you think that his opinion on the whole Tiva matter would be the one the show runners listen to the most? But no, the writers have their own agenda and they write what they want to write. And I, personally, have never written to the show asking and demanding a Tiva romance. The majority of Tiva fans don’t do that. There will always be a small, rabid fan base that will push for what they want. Just like there is a rabid fan base that constantly complains about the degradation of Tony. I have not stated anything here that isn’t true. Just as there is a loud voice protesting Cote leaving the show there is an equally loud voice rejoicing in her leaving. Call it what you want. A fact is a fact. Some people like her, others do not. But to imply that she or the fans are in control of what is going on is plain ridiculous. And I have never heard or read anything out of a cast member’s mouth or out of Gary Glasberg’s mouth where they have said that they have been presented scripts or GG has written things because the fans have demanded it. GG has stated that he felt he owed it to certain fans to write a particular ending for Ziva. He wrote this script within a day or two of hearing the news that Cote was leaving the show. I highly doubt that he had time to read through thousands of emails from fans on what they wanted for Ziva’s last episode. He actually said that he locked himself in a room and wrote the first two scripts for the season in just a few days. So, when you watch the first two episodes remember GG is responsible for the content, not anyone else. I am assuming that you must work for CBS or NCIS because you have all this inside knowledge on the supposed power of the TIVA fans? If that is the case, could you please let them know that this TIVA fan is extremely tired of the long, drawn out will they won’t they and that I demand a resolution, and it better be in favor of Tony and Ziva hooking up. Thanks.

  2. Krista says:

    I like Michael’s outlook I too am excited for the opportunity change will bring. I am an NCIS fan and I’ve been embarrassed by the ugliness Cote’s decision ignited. I truly don’t understand the tunnel vision. I liked Ziva fine except when the writers chose to have her treat Tony badly but I won’t stop watching just because the actress chose to leave just like I wouldn’t stop watching if she chose to stay just like I didn’t stop watching anytime anything happened to any character which wasn’t specifically to my liking. I’m not fickle or short-sighted and one person is just a percentage of a whole. There’s still a large remaining cast of great characters. I’ve tried to pick up other broadcast shows but nothing has the team dynamic I’m looking for. So for me the bright side is room has been made for new directions. I’m looking forward to a fresh season full of fresh story lines.

  3. fan1 says:

    First and foremost, let me say that my intentions were to never offend anyone or make anyone upset, etc…. How in any way, shape or form did my comments not support the rest of the cast and crew? I think I stated pretty clearly that I was going to continue watching the show even without Cote de Pablo. I never said anything negative about any of the others in the cast. I support them and their need to do their jobs regardless if one of their fellow cast members has left the show. I even said that those viewers who leave will probably not make a dent in the ratings. How does that equate to being trashy. I really do not understand the offense to being called a Ziva hater? I mean when you call me a Ziva or a Tiva lover I am sure that you are not meaning it as a term of endearment. The only people, really, who come on to a TV Line page or a TV Fanatic page when a story about Ziva’s farewell is posted are two types: those who are passionate about Ziva because they love her and those who are passionate about her because they can’t stand her. The people in between really don’t care and they don’t make comments. It doesn’t matter to them. When I say someone is a Ziva or Tiva hater I am just stating what I believe from their comments. I am not saying that I hate that person making the comment. It does not mean that I think they are a bad person, it does not mean that I am attacking their core integrity as a human being. It does not mean that I think their opinion is wrong or that they are not a fan of the show. It just means that they don’t like Ziva. It isn’t meant as an insult. In our daily conversations, we say we hate things all the time. We say we hate that song, or that TV show, or that color or we hate a certain type of food or we hate that store and we even say we hate that character on our favorite show. You cannot tell me that their hasn’t been a time in the last few years while watching an episode of NCIS that you haven’t said “Ohh, I hate Ziva!” If you don’t like a character, that is a natural response. Look, I used to watch “Grey’s Anatomy”. I really liked that show and then after a few seasons I just couldn’t stand the character of Meredith any longer. So, I stopped watching. However, if I would have continued I probably could have gone on the “Grey’s” TV Line page and made remarks every week about what Meredith did that drove me nuts, or how much I couldn’t stand her or complain about how she treated Derek, etc…Eventually someone who liked her would probably have called me a Meredith hater, and I am okay with that. I am a Meredith hater. It is nothing against the show or the actress Ellen Pompeo, I just do not happen to like the direction the writer’s took her character. I would own my hatred of a fictional character and not be offended by someone calling me a hater. I could easily go on a cooking page and talk about how I hate brussel sprouts and some person would call me a brussel sprouts hater and I would be “Yea, I hate brussel sprouts. So what?” I view this in the same way. You hate a character, so embrace it. Own it. It doesn’t mean you are wrong or a bad person it just means you don’t care for that character. At the end of the day I would say that the majority of us are reasonable people. We could all probably sit in a room together and discuss what we do and don’t like about NCIS and we could probably do it without screaming at each other or without spitting on one another. Heck, we might even like each other and walk away as friends. I do realize it is much easier to be snarky with one another when we are hiding behind the anonymity of the internet. I am very guilty of this myself and for that I am sorry. I am also sorry that people were offended by my “hater” comment. It was never intended to make people upset. I respect that you do not have the same opinion as me and I am okay with that. If we all liked the same things it would be a pretty boring world without any passion in it. And I will try to refrain from using the word hater.

    • Fan says:

      I probably overreacted, but the term “hater” has been used as an insult by everyone from ziva fans of all ages to the network PR people on Twitter for years. Whenever I hear that word, it’s like nails on a chalkboard.
      Believe me, I am not ashamed of the fact that I never liked the ziva character. I do own it and I wear it with pride.

  4. Journey says:

    I’ll always be obsessed with NCIS as long as Gibbs,Abby,Maggie,Tony,and Ducky are there!!therefore

  5. Journey says:

    You ppl are all wrong zivas not a bitch thats how here character is made out to be. But even though shes leaving ill never stop watching NCIS

  6. Journey says:

    Watching NCIS ziva Marathon …… u ppl have ur opinion about ziva i like her attitude and zest… not to afend anybody of course…. i find my self more like abby

  7. Jean says:

    Assault is not invited by someone saying “take a swing,take a punch.” When they think you have murdered their boyfriend. It was low point for Tony and Ziva but yes there was contact. They were both angry. Tony knew what he was doing when he invited that because he knew Ziva well enough by then. This was two episodes from the kiss in the men’s room. Which I guess you would find equally bad.It is a tv show. If you want to see assault then come take a look a city A and E on a Saturday night and see how the nurses manage it!

  8. Bonnie says:

    Glad you are not killing Cote off. Maybe she will return in the future. I sure hope so as she is an important character. I cannot imagine her not being on the show.

  9. james says:

    I think ncis is doom I did not get it to the show till ziva got a full role on ncis I hope you can get some kind of deal to bring her back

  10. Chris says:

    I am a fan of the entire show. I love the dynamics of the team. I will miss ziva, but it will great to see how they go forward. I love the humor that blends with the deaths that on the show and make it all palatable. They have real good writers. We lost Kate, Directir Shepard, and Frank, but it goes on. I love it

  11. JimC says:

    My goodness. A lot of you people are really, really one dimensionally stupid. Do you really think that this show would still be going strong if they had somehow been able to keep all the original characters together for all this time? Change is what keeps this show fresh. Change is what creates the show’s longevity.

  12. Vickie says:

    Why are you saying Tim is badgeless?

  13. Vickie says:

    By the way Ziva is a great actor and she will be missed,but not forgotten ever. And the NCIS team will go on.

  14. Jane says:

    I for one will miss her but the only way I will not watch anymore is if Mark Harmon leaves to me he is the glue that keeps it going!

  15. Linda Jones says:

    It’s hard for me to ever worry too much about NCIS; as stated the changes in the show through the years has shown that it can withstand serious cast changes and continue to “roll with the punches”. Sometimes changing characters (adding or removing) can breathe live into an otherwise stale storyline. While this is not the case with NCIS, it will be another exciting chapter and I will enjoy watching it unfold!

  16. Stephen Blum says:

    Once Ziva leaves the show, the show might still be good, but never the same. I saw the promo for her departure and I really don’t like it to say the least, if they are doing what they did to sasha’s character killing her off, they will loose major points with me and loose a fan/viewer forever!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Edna Dippre says:

      I reply to:

      “Once Ziva leaves the show, the show might still be good, but never the same. I saw the promo for her departure and I really don’t like it to say the least, if they are doing what they did to sasha’s character killing her off, they will loose major points with me and loose a fan/viewer forever!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

      If you read the article & interview you would know that they ARE NOT killing Ziva off… She will be making appearances here & there in the future. It will take a little getting used to without her but the show will always hold it’s own. I will miss her charactor too but I won’t stop watching the show as I know they will work it out & the show will always be # one with me! Great show!!

  17. marysue says:

    Ziva was a complicated person. She was dealing with huge losses, betrayals by former lovers, her father etc. Despite being very tough to the point of surviving her capture in Somalia, she had trouble discerning whom she could trust. Her scrambled life is what affected her emotionally and psychologically and resulted in angry outbursts against her coworkers most often Tony. By the last episode ( Season 11 Episode 2) she was more than at the breaking point, fed up with violence and doing violence. In Season 3 Ziva did tell Tony that she volunteered to join Mossad. At first she was a cocky young adult on a bit of a power trip but as time went on and bad things happened to her, they took their toll. Ziva told Tony more than once she wished that things had been different for her. It was because of these choices resulting in her regrets expressed in her parting episode that prevented her from having the relationship with Tony that she realized she wanted. Tony has always had trouble connecting with women on a deep level, probably as a result of losing his mother at a young age. He felt abandoned and was afraid if he let himself fall completely for a woman he would get deeply hurt. It did happen with Jeanne in Season 4 (?) and at the end with Ziva.

    This was a huge and very complicated storyline for the writers to keep going. I wasn’t a huge TIVA fan as I saw the situation actually starting to unbalance the whole show. The sexual tension was fun but should have been kept more to a minimum and more of a comedy situation. They do this well on NCIS L.A. between Kenzie and Deeks. I hope the writers will develop the other characters a bit more. If there are any romantic relationships in the future I hope that they are with other characters that are not NCIS employees and are minor characters in the background, not a prominent part of the show. I do wish Cote the best and am anxious to see what Emily Wickersham brings to the show. I hope that the writers will be smart and not hook Ellie Bishop up with Tony.

  18. Mike orear says:

    Any way that zia returns Nicianyway that Ziva will return to the NCIS series in 2014

  19. Jacqui Petrella says:

    I love NCIS it’s my favourite of all time, I am an English RN living in Marbella Spain but watch Fox TV all the time. Just keep NCIS going and if poss bring Ziva back to Tony, if not no worries because all the characters are ace and we need them all.
    Keep it going

  20. Terri Carpenter says:

    I miss Ziva and her ability to “handle” Tony, haven’t missed an episode since the beginning and have see the reruns repeatedly. Keep going.

  21. Becca says:

    Well said.

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