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NCIS' Michael Weatherly Previews a 'Favorite Episode,' Shares Plan to 'Raise the Bar' for Tony

TVLINE | I understand Page Not Foundthat this season you’ve really been enjoying the stuff with Sean Murray, with DiNozzo/McGee.
Sean and just had lunch and watched [last week’s] episode, which I think is one of the great episodes of our season. [Director] Dennis Smith did a terrific job. Again, he always just makes these great, great shows. It’s fun and light, but also deep and moving and impactful. It’s what NCIS does best, that balance of making you feel good and warming your heart but also making you laugh out loud, hopefully a couple of times.

TVLINE | And did I read that while shooting the April 22 episode, you yourself actually gave the cleanse a try?
It lasted about six hours. I thought that would be funny. That was not funny. So yeah, no. Cleansing is not a great idea. For anybody.

TVLINE | Well, speaking of funny…. Do you still feel like people are laughing with Tony and not at him, which is a perception-slash-concern shared by a few fans out there?
I think it’s a very tricky balance for a lot of reasons. But I think that Tony, this season, has been without his foil in the way of Ziva David (played by Cote de Pablo). In some ways, that’s been good for him because he didn’t have that crutch, that go-to. He kind of had to figure some stuff out. And listen, sometimes Tony’s a hot mess! I love him, but I think the guy probably has in the last season spent a few too many days feeling sorry for himself, sitting on the couch, eating Doritos and watching reruns of It Takes a Thief – during which he probably keeps saying to himself, “Wow, Robert Wagner looks just like my father.” But what Gary Glasberg and I were discussing the other day is that the end of this season for Tony was maybe a bit of a putting to bed some of those clownish quirks, the ones that are over the top. And I think that for the most part, they have disappeared. But sometimes, like when you have to get McGee ready to be undercover as a homeless person, you go a little a little crazy with “the cat pee odor.” Sometimes Tony is not supposed to be likeable all the way. Sometimes he’s not supposed to be the hero. Because, look, if Tony could do all of the stuff — if he was balanced and quick and thinking on his feet, and great with a gun — then what’s he doing? It’s like the guy should be out running around doing his own thing.

TVLINE | Right, right.
So, I think he’s always limited by the guarantee of the sort of team dynamic. And I do see that changing. I have looked ahead … and I’m really excited to put Tony into the next phase of his being. I’m ready for whatever that is as an actor. As a character, this was the year where he kind of “met himself,” and I think we’re going to see big changes for him next fall. Enormous changes, I would think.

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TVLINE | Let’s talk about this season’s Bulletproofnew addition to the team, Ellie Bishop (played by Emily Wickersham). Was it kind of a relief for you to read that this new character was married? Was a part of you like, “Whew, I’m not going to have to pull off that whole angsty, ‘Will they, won’t they’ thing all over again?”
I don’t think, actually, that it really matters if she’s married or not, in the world of the stories that we tell. And I don’t know how happily married she can possibly be, she’s always with us! I would say one of the weirdest things about the whole season is that nobody seems to have noticed that she’s attractive. And I don’t mean Tony, I mean nobody. I think they were between a rock and a hard place bringing her in, because they didn’t want her to be romantic in any way with anyone, yet they hired a beautiful woman. I think the producers and writers and actors, we’ve all been working to figure out, “How does the Bishop character work best?”

TVLINE | I know you keep in touch with Cote. Did you give her any “playful guff” last summer when the rest of you were left to field all these questions about what was going on?
Gosh, no. I had a great conversation with Cotes before she went off to do The 33, the miner movie. And I’m looking forward to seeing her in the next few days, now that we’re wrapped and I actually have my life back. I’m going on a nice, long walk with her and catching up.NCIS Cote is an artist and is a really talented actor, and I am excited to see what her journey has been like. It’s hard when you’re in production. I mean, can barely make time to talk to Matt Mitovich, let alone somebody who is five time zones away.

TVLINE | You talked about your hopes for Season 12, for Tony and the “next phase of his being.” Would you like to see him eventually have another serious love interest, or would you rather leave people to believe that he’s carrying a torch and waiting for Ziva? What do you think serves the character the best?
I believe that he has put Ziva in a drawer. The difficult part for him is that he said, “Come with me” and she said, “I can’t do that.” He was rebuffed, he was rejected, and the sting of that has been there for him all season. I don’t know how other people, including the viewers, see it, but that’s just how I processed it. And it was bittersweet because as Sting would say, “If you love someone, set them free.” Maybe Sting didn’t coin that, but he certainly put it to music. Tony had to let her go to follow her dream and her passion — and that didn’t include him. That’s a bitter pill to swallow, but he knows that she’s following her dream. And that couldn’t make him happier, right?

TVLINE | Right.
So, I think now what’s happening is Tony has to figure out, “Hey what’s my dream?” For DiNozzo, this is the next iteration of his thinking, which I think he’s coming around to. It’s interesting that Season 11 ends the way it does, because it reminds me of some other seasons on other shows that I’ve been on, where you’re like, “I think I see a change coming….” Again, to me, what’s really important is that the show has a classic, standard operating procedure. But sometimes you’re not recording Exile on Main Street anymore, you’re making Tattoo You. That is the evolution of everything. I’m very excited to see what we do next. The nice thing is that I think we can move forward and really come out of the box with some surprises in Season 12. And look, I love being surprised more than anybody, so I’m going to do my best, and I know everyone else is going to do their best. I think the season ends on an incredibly high note. Honoring Ralph, the fun little capers in the south of France, [last week’s] episode about the homeless vets…. Those are a great three episodes of “classic NCIS.” And my promise to you is that we will make some excellent NCIS in Season 12. That’s my promise to everyone, that I’m going to raise the bar.

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