This Tuesday at 8/7c, in the penultimate episode of NCIS Season 11, Special Agent Tony DiNozzo is tasked with escorting an admiral’s beautiful daughter from Marseilles, France to the States — a bit of “babysitting” that will not come without (deadly) complications. On the occasion of DiNozzo’s French connection, TVLine invited original cast member Michael Weatherly to survey his alter ego’s latest exploits, reveal how the late Ralph Waite helped him reconnect with his own father and promise viewers “enormous” changes for Tony come Season 12.
TVLINE | It sounds like Tony is going to France this week… by way of Universal Studios.
The key thing about France-in-Hollywood, especially when it comes to our show, is that it’s always the backlot. And sometimes there’s a damsel in distress, and what that often means is that you need to send “the best of the best.” You need to send America’s very own James Bond, Tony DiNozzo. OK, basically it’s a babysitting job – a retrieval job – but the actress that I got to work with for those wonderful days is one of the most talented actors I have worked with in my whole career. Meg Steedle (Boardwalk Empire) is absolutely a joy, and a perfect fit for the specific brand of light comedy that I prefer to traffic in. Meg and I got to have all kinds of fun, in a Charade-style, “Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn on the run” sort of way. It was a very funny and light, with some nice twists. It’s my favorite episode in a long time, one where I actually got to do some other things. I think the audience will really like it.
TVLINE | [NCIS boss] Gary Glasberg keeps calling this a “Three Days of the Condor-type episode,” and that was a Robert Redford movie about a CIA researcher who comes back from lunch to find all of his colleagues murdered. Connect the dots — where is the similarity?
Well, there’s one scene, and I won’t spoil it for everybody, that it is eerily reminiscent of that film. And then there’s another scene where Tony references the movie and says, “It’s like Three Days of the Condor — except I’m Faye Dunaway.”
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TVLINE | How is it, as an actor, when you’re off on your own like this, apart from the other principals, for an episode?
Well you know, it does happen from time to time, with The DiNozzo. The last time was going out to Israel to track down the lovely Ziva. And over the years there’ve been a couple other instances… like when I was handcuffed to Frank Whaley for the whole episode. But I always enjoy going out on a bit of a walkabout. And then it’s always nice to come back to the big orange room and see all my friends again.
TVLINE | In “The Admiral’s Daughter,” is Tony in action hero mode? Is there some derring-do?
I would say there is a degree of it. Maybe not as much as I would have liked, but at this point [in the season], also, I am tired. So it was nice to not have to run, and jump, and do too much of that. But this summer, actually, I am going to start training to do a triathlon in the fall. So maybe there’ll be a more physical DiNozzo in Season 12!
Watch a sneak peek from “The Admiral’s Daughter,” then read on for much more:
TVLINE | Tell me a bit about the May 13 season finale, which in large part pays tribute to the late Ralph Waite and his character, Jackson Gibbs. It sounds pretty damn emotional.
We were out at a cemetery and Ralph Waite’s cast chair was put out under a tree, and I think it gave everyone a moment to reflect on Ralph. And not just reflect on his wonderful contribution to our home at NCIS, but to his remarkable career and life. I had some great personal talks with Ralph over the years that I treasure. He will be missed and I’m very honored to be part of this show and this group of people that would make such a nice send-off, to a guy who really deserves it.
TVLINE | I come from a very large family, and my father happened to look a bit like Ralph Waite, so I of course grew up watching The Waltons. This guy was a part of my childhood.
He had a great sense of fun and he was a very determined, professional performer. And never ever did I get the sense that he wasn’t one hundred percent connected to the material and thrilled to be working. We had a series of episodes this winter — we shot the Robert Wagner episode, we had done a Ralph Waite episode, and then I was working with Keith Carradine, who in that episode turns out to have a son that he was unaware of – and after Ralph passed, I immediately went to the airport, got on a plane and flew down to Jamaica to see my dad, because I hadn’t seen him in nine months or so. Working on television, it’s very difficult to see family. Unless they live in Southern California, which mine does not, it’s pretty isolating. So, it was kind of as if Ralph gave me a nice moment with my own father.
TVLINE | Within the episode, what role do Tony and the others play in Gibbs’ grieving process?
Of course, this being NCIS, it’s tricky because there is a case — and Vance doesn’t want Gibbs, in his current state, to be dealing with the case. So, he puts DiNozzo in charge, and you know how that always ends up. That lasts about one act. [Laughs] Always a bridesmaid, Tony DiNozzo. Will he ever be the bride? I don’t know.