Michael Weatherly Shares Hopes for Bull (Including That It Dodges a Dark Angel Detour), Reflects on NCIS Exit

TV returns from the holiday break in earnest this week, with CBS’ Bull among the dozens of broadcast shows resuming their runs.

The Michael Weatherly-fronted freshman (airing Tuesdays at 9/8c) earned a full-season pick-up after just three outings, and to date stands as CBS’ No. 2 drama (in both the demo and in total audience, trailing only lead-in NCIS). Among all of the fall’s new dramas, it is far and away the most watched (averaging 12.7 million weekly viewers), while placing third in the demo.

TVLine invited Weatherly to hand down his ruling on Bull‘s performance thus far, share the TAC team’s “secret” backstories, re-reflect on his much-ballyhooed NCIS exit and give props to the former castmate who helped him find “happily ever after.”

TVLINE | Nine or so episodes in, how is Dr. Jason Bull different from the guy you met when you first read the pilot script?
The big pieces that I brought in when we were shooting the pilot were [Federico] Fellini’s 8 1/2, [a film about] a guy who is supposed to be in control, the director, the idea man. I loved the concept that Bull has this calm, cool exterior, with the glasses and the sweater and the hairdo, but underneath it is a lava flow. In the pilot, it was important to have Bull connect with that young kid and get emotional, and then at the very end where the woman [juror] sticks it to him with the crazy s–t she says. Those little apertures gave some insight. And then in doing the series, it’s more about finding out that Bull can be fun, he can be incredibly self-destructive, he’s contrarian sometimes. For me, the mechanism for the whole series is that Bull needs to find the answer to a question he hasn’t figured out yet. It’s not just that he’s good at reading people; he needs to read people. He has enlisted these very talented people to help him, but at the end of the day they all go home and have normal existences, while he’s a much more obsessive character. And that’s interesting to me.Bull

TVLINE | Speaking of those talented people, what are some of your favorite team dynamics to play?
I’ve come up with all kinds of backstories that don’t exist in anybody else’s mind. Chunk (played by Christopher Jackson), for instance, is Bull’s wingman, I think. I think he met Chunk during Fashion Week, when he was trying to meet some models. [Laughs] And Chunk just said, “You’re too old for this, man! What are you doing? And by the way, that girl you’re talking to over there is out of her mind.” I think he met Chunk in a fun way, and then said, “Wait a minute, this is a fascinating component of my team.”

With Benny (Freddy Rodriguez), Bullwe saw in the last episode where Bull’s ex-wife/Benny’s sister comes back that in a way Bull holds onto Benny as a part of the marriage that he lost. Whether or not that’s healthy…. I don’t think Bull is healthy by any stretch of the imagination. I love it when people say, “Do you think it’s ethical for him to look into the jurors’ backgrounds?” And I’m like, “I don’t know, do you think its ethical that Jack Bauer ran around and did all the things he did?” He’s a TV character. It is interesting how people get their feathers ruffled about certain aspects of the show that I don’t worry about, really.

TVLINE | Maybe people desperately want to believe Bullour justice system is perfect, untainted.
Right, even though they don’t register to vote, just so they don’t have to do jury duty! [Laughs] Geneva Carr’s character, Marissa, we have this platonic love for each other, a friendship and an honesty, but I think that her damage is something that’s going to be very interesting to unfold. I think that she’s had a lot of pain, and that is how they met. She’s known him the longest and in a way is the least surprised by some of his behaviors. She’s very earnest and analytical, and Geneva herself is such a marvelous lady.

Annabelle Attanasio and I had a really funny time talking about what the real relationship between Bull and Cable is. Very early on she winked at me and said, “I think I’m your daughter,” and it was like,”Oh God, wouldn’t that be weird, if nobody knew that?” So, that’s a fun dynamic — Annabelle is so young and energetic and optimistic, and that’s a wonderful thing to have on the floor.

We haven’t exploredBull Jaime Kirchner’s character, Danny, much, but the episode that Jesse Stern wrote and we just finished offers a really interesting look at the kind of undercover work that she did. It’s very controversial, and it shows you her real toughness, but also that emotional disconnect that she has.

Each one of the characters is fractured and wounded in their own way. Everyone has a struggle, and this is a show about why people do what they do. Understanding each of these characters through that prism is going to be the important thing as the season comes to its conclusion. When we get to that last episode, we have to understand the whole picture of TAC and the Bull-verse.

TVLINE | This next episode (airing Jan. 3) is about self-driving cars. What is Michael Weatherly’s personal POV on the whole thing?
I’m just going to come out and say that I’m in favor of self-driving cars. We don’t all have an airplane to fly around in; that would be utter f–king chaos. And everyone doesn’t have their own train track. We have this feeling that we all get to have a car, because that’s some “inalienable right” as human beings, but I don’t think it’s a right. I think that it’s a mode of transportation that’s 100 years old, and it’s somewhere between a small apartment and a horse-and-carriage, but a horse couldn’t go 110 miles-an-hour. As a parent of three kids, I really would prefer that everyone was in a very safe car that was limited by design  and was shaped like a marshmallow. [Laughs]

TVLINE | It’s like I have said to my own sons, “There will never be flying cars like on The Jetsons, simply because it would be mayhem in the sky.” There are no lane dividers up there, it’s never going to happen.
And look at what drones are doing…. I know that people feel that it’s some sort of Second Amendment thing, that their freedom is tied to being able to “get out on the open highway and drive my car wherever I want.” Well you know what? That’s what your legs are for. You can walk anywhere you want.

TVLINE | How has filming Bull here in New York City been working out for you? Your wife, Bojana, is a doctor back in L.A. at Cedars-Sinai, right?
Yes, she is working in L.A. right now. We go back and forth a lot. The kids will come here for a couple of weeks, and then I’ll go back there as many weekends as I can. We do a lot of FaceTime every day….

TVLINE | So it is going as well as you had hoped?
Yes. And the success of the show is really the key. People are always asking me [about its future], and I’m like, “Well, look, I know it’s not a disaster.” [Laughs] Some people think, “It’s still on?” while others are like, “It’s doing so great!” There’s a lot of very subjective stuff around television these days. The key is, “Is the show any good?” Is it holding water and making sense? And when you think of it as a viewer, do you understand what the promise of the show is? And are we delivering? We’re still building the recipe.dark-angel-weatherly-alba

My experience on Dark Angel was that we built a show that was a dystopian drama airing Tuesday night at 9, and then in the second year we were an 8 o’clock Freak of the Week, chasing monsters. It became a different show, and that was one of the problems we faced. I can only look at my own career and say what did work, what didn’t work, and why, and I think we need to just keep whittling away at [Bull‘s] concept. The key thing to me is that this is a show about human behavior and understanding it as much as you can. “Why do people vote one way or the other?” couldn’t be a more relevant question to ask, and it doesn’t just come down to black hats and white hats. I was fascinated by the [presidential] election, and I continue to be. We’re all trying to understand the world we live in, and that world is one word — people. So, a show that’s about understanding people should have a place, an important place.

TVLINE | What are you missing most about life on the NCIS set?
You know, I miss that specific camaraderie. I miss the people and smiles, the laughter. But I have had some good laughs on Bull! I felt very satiated by my experience at NCIS. As I said to you last time, it was a full circle and I felt ready to move on, and that has definitely been the case. I have no remorse or misgivings about what went down.ncis-sasha-weatherly

TVLINE | Lastly: When I spoke to Sasha Alexander in August, she shared that she was basically the “wingman” for you and your future, Serbian wife, because one day on the NCIS set she broke down for you the difference between Croatia and Serbia, and that ended up helping you talk to Bojana when you first met her. Does Sasha indeed get credit?
She absolutely gets credit — and so does Wikipedia, because when I met Bojana I did a deep-dive on that data. It is true, Sasha [who is also Serbian] taught me among other things how to say Bojana’s name, which is a pretty big thing, “putting the emphasis on the first syllable.”

TVLINE | Sasha said that history lesson was born out of you forever mistaking her for being Czech or whatever, until she sat you down one day….
Yeah, I would call her Hungarian, Romanian… in a very playful way! And she proved to be very helpful, so I give her full credit.

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

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. aaron says:

    When the hell can we get a Dark Angel revival though?

    • PatriciaLee says:

      Right on! My most favorite…we’re lucky it was left at a place easy to bounce from, even decades in the future. I’ll add that to my list of shows to bring back, when I make my first billion.

  2. Paige says:

    Great interview!

  3. darkangel200 says:

    This was a great interview, thanks. I think Weatherly was very fair in his assessment of the show. I’m really enjoying Bull.

  4. Bull not giving me what I need

  5. z says:

    Now compare this interview from the one Shonda Rhimes had a few weeks back hahahahaha

  6. Ange says:

    I don’t readily sign off on new shows but I love him in this role. I loved Tony but Bull is awesome and the exact opposite.

  7. Haz says:

    Great interview! I’m glad he has a new show and it is doing well. Don’t get me wrong I am a huge NCIS fan, but I’m glad he left. I still regularly watch the show but it lost something when Ziva left. Nothing against the girl who plays Bishop but I still can’t get into her character.

  8. Larc says:

    I tried Bull and found it tiresome. Thank goodness for This Is Us. It provides a viable sanctuary from CBS between NCIS versions.

  9. TDXI says:

    Who knew his leaving would kill NCIS. It’s dying more and more every week.

    • as524 says:

      Nah….Glasberg & Harmon killed NCIS long before Weatherly saw the writing on the wall and left.

      • ragnar51 says:

        How do you figure that?

        • as524 says:

          Simple – it was GG that rewrote the show’s premise to be ‘all roads & characters lead to Gibbs’ with Harmon as his silent partner/advisor/sidekick. He also managed to totally rewrite previously established canon to fit his ‘vision’ and changed the scripts to simplistic formulaic storytelling

      • steph says:

        Exactly. They should have sent Gibbs into retirement and made Tony team leader a while ago, that would have been an interesting change and made sense for the characters – and it probably would’ve been enough to keep MW on the show (as the lead vs. the dopey sidekick that he was degreaded to in later seasons).

    • Jerri says:

      It’s doing fine in ratings, especially for a TV show that’s 14 years old. As for “it’s dying more and more every week”, aren’t we all? ;-)

  10. as524 says:

    Love the idea that MW has moved on….& that he’s very obviously still friends with Sasha. Here’s to a long run of success for Bull

  11. Stephanie says:

    The one thing I don’t love about Bull is that it’s so very formulaic. Every week I’m waiting for the twist where they’re going to ‘read the jury’ completely wrong, or Bull’s client is actually going to be found guilty, or it’s just not going to feel so paint-by-numbers from start to finish. I think they’ve had some strong episodes, but the real objective of trial science (zeroing in on helpful and harmful attitudes during voir dire and reading your jury through trial) come across as goofy and so outside the scope of what would be allowed in real court proceedings. The ability of Bull’s team to manipulate the jury (and trial outcomes) to their liking each and every week is the equivalent of sending 12 people to buy Powerball tickets and every one of them picking the exact same numbers. The show kills an hour for me every week on the treadmill, but in terms of what Weatherly is capable of acting-wise, for what he’s getting he should’ve just stuck it out on NCIS.

    • darkangel200 says:

      The showrunner said he plans to mix it up. It’s a new show, still tweaking things.

    • Jake says:

      Stuck it out on NCIS – for what, the weekly head slap? No thanks, he’s much better as the lead in his own show. And you complain about Bull being formulaic, then say he should have stuck it out on NCIS? As if NCIS is not formulaic?…..

    • as524 says:

      In interviews, MW has said that it isn’t a simple win every time. He’s also said that there are plans in development to mix things up.

      Considering that the show is in its FIRST season, (& considering that you’re very obviously an ncis fan) one would think # 1 – the production team of Bull should be given a pass & time to actually develop & tweek the show & # 2 – someone who is a fan of NCIS yet complains about formulaic eps on Bull should be use to formulaic by now & is obviously a fan of it if they watch NCIS.

  12. jj says:

    Of course there is no regret. NCIS is a skeleton of its former self. It was hard at first not to watch it but Bishop sucks. Now I don’t miss it at all. NCIS LA is so much better.

    • ? says:

      Huh, for a “skeleton” of it’s former self, it’s doing very well. I enjoy Bishop and all the other new characters, she doesn’t “suck” at all–but, all in all considering the source, (that would be you) I’ll ignore you–again. I gave up on NCIS:LA when they started to copy the “great” love story from NCIS and totally ruined the characters of Deeks and Kensi. Funny, you aren’t watching NCIS, you “don’t miss it at all”–yet you still have to come around and trash it. As as fan of the show, your lack of class with regard to fans who DO like the show is unbelievably rude and shallow. Grow up.

      • Jake says:

        No, he is right that Bishop sucks, he’s wrong in that the new other characters really do revive what was becoming a tired show.

  13. Bring back dinozzo says:

    Bring back dinozzo for one episode michael. Please!!! Gibbs might be the main guy but you were the backbone that kept it all together.

    • LJ says:

      I AGREE BRING BACK DINOZZO…it’s not the same w/o him…Love Gibbs & the rest but Dinozzo needs to come back…I do not like him in BULL ….PLEASE

  14. Nancy Stroud says:

    I love the show and never miss it

  15. I enjoyed reading what Michael had to say. I like Bull but still have a hard time with that unshaven look. I just don’t get it. I also think he has such nice hair and lately it’s just not that cute guy we all loved so much on NCIS. Love the glasses though.

  16. John says:

    BULL is exactly that. Bad move weatherly boy.

  17. Dave says:

    After watching about 5 episodes of BULL have now deleted the remaining episodes to watch as its same ole same ole zzzzzzzzz

  18. This TVline is cool and the pictures on this TVline is nice cause I really like them. I like the picture of you and Geneva doing cheers together and having a good time with each other, the picture of you and your friend Freddy doing cheers and having fun with each other, and also the picture of you and your friend Christopher looking at your Lincoln centers big screen of everyone.

  19. Patrick Sims says:

    I yawned my way through the pilot of “Bull” and couldn’t bring myself to watch it again. I hope Michael Weatherly comes back to NCIS along with Cote de Pablo, as the 4 noobs aren’t cutting it, and I see one is leaving already.