Michael Weatherly on 'NCIS' contract negotiations and the 'Gibbs in hell' season finale

Michael-Weatherly-NCISImage Credit: Sonja Flemming/CBSIt’d be tough to imagine NCIS without Tony DiNozzo’s sense of humor and pop culture references, not to mention the Tiva tension, the Gibbs slaps, and the sibling-esque rivalry with McGee. But if all goes according to plan, fans of TV’s No. 1 scripted series won’t have to. Earlier this week, we sat down with Michael Weatherly in New York to chat about his contract negotiations for Season 8, as well as May 25’s season 7 finale (sadly, one martini does not produce spoilers). We also administered an EW Pop Culture Personality Test, which you can read on PopWatch next Tuesday. (It’s a good one. Even his wife, Bojana Jankovic, a doctor who observed her husband’s final interview before his hiatus — and their vacation — truly began, learned a few new things about him.)

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Let’s get the tough question out of the way first.
MICHAEL WEATHERLY:
Are we talking about my weight? [Laughs]

What can you say about your contract negotiations?
[Thinks for 10 seconds, choosing his words] It’s a very exciting time for the show, and I would like to know as much as anybody whether or not I’ll back in season 8. But I am 100 percent confident that the people in charge of negotiating these things, which would be my representatives as well as the network, will come to some accord — and probably sooner rather than later as Upfronts [when the networks present their fall schedules to advertisers] are coming up. Coming up front. [Laughs]

You’ve already shot the season finale. I’m assuming there’s no loophole in it, like, Oops!, maybe half the team doesn’t have to be there next season… Then again, the show has separated you all before.
What might happen in Season 8, if everything were to go sideways, is that Ducky finds a time machine and suddenly we’re solving crimes in the Civil War, and it’s just Ducky and Gibbs in, like, NCIS: Civil War. [In announcer voice] “It’s the North versus the South. They’re bringing 21st century crime procedural to the 19th Century.” It would be pretty cool. That’s when you know we’re out of ideas, when we find a time machine. I actually think the show can absorb more than your average procedural drama, but I’m not sure about a time machine. Or aliens. Or ghosts.

What can you say about the finale?
I do feel that it is as if Stanley Kubrick is in charge of our season finale. There’s a sense of dread that permeates the last several episodes, specifically surrounding the Gibbs story. His crisis, which it really is, throws everything that you might expect him to do in certain situations out the window. Because he’s in a new spot that is outside the Gibbs comfort zone, for sure.

Can you give me a little bit more about Gibbs’ crisis? Or should I wait until you get some alcohol in you and try this line of questioning again?
[Laughs] Well, it’s difficult because, of course, it’s not my storyline, so I don’t want to speak to it in any real specific way, but I will say that watching Mark [Harmon] behave and perform these scenes, I saw him do things that I’ve never seen him do before as an actor. I’ve seen him do tears, I’ve seen him do a lot of things. In particular, a scene in the interrogation room is stunning. It’s a stunning moment for that character. Whether you would call it losing control… [The drinks arrive.] That’s quite a glass. Cheers.

Cheers to you doing your best not to reveal anything.
I am. I mean… Gibbs in hell [laughs] might be what it comes down to. It’s interesting, looking around at this mural [of the famous Palio horse race by Sandro Chia], I think it’s what it looks like inside his head during the last episode, the last few episodes.

Well we know “a colleague dies.” [Ausiello reports that Gibbs ends up in Mexico for a showdown and makes a "life-changing decision."]
That is true. And another one is injured. What’s interesting on NCIS are the allegiances, and everyone is loyal to Gibbs and unquestioning of the decisions that he makes. And Jesse Stern, who is responsible for the finale this year, who also wrote the season premiere this year, I think he does a really great job of playing on those audience expectations. He loves the show as much as I do, if not more. Sidebar, several years ago, Jesse, who lives right next to us, is in his early ’30s, went to Yale, and is a genius, called me and he says, [doing his voice] “Hey, so I just spent four days watching every episode that was ever made of M*A*S*H.” He watched literally 10 years of M*A*S*H in four days. He’s like, “NCIS and M*A*S*H have a lot of in common.” And I was like, “How do you see that?” And he went on to talk about how it’s a character-driven show. Is it a medical drama, is it a war comedy, is it about surgeons at the battlefront? It’s really just about these people trying to get through an unclear time when there is a specific threat of the war and the incoming helicopters. The choppers always pinpointed stuff, and the episode where there were no choppers just created a sense of whoa! If you have too much time on your own in Korea in the 1950s, with nothing to do except think about what you’re doing in Korea… I think Jesse is the guy who looks at something like M*A*S*H, looks at the whole 10 years, thinks about what they did right, and then he applies it. It’s not by accident that people like our show… This finale, with that dread — and I know it’s non-specific — but there’s this sense that this series is not done by any means. I personally don’t think any of the actors will disappear this year. I think it would be a great sadness if everyone weren’t back to continue what we’ve been doing. If you watched every episode this season and paid attention, you’ve seen the cloud coming and the last three episodes, the air gets humid and it’s like thunder clouds. I would put it on par with that season 2 ending where Sasha Alexander’s character, Caitlin, got killed [one of EW's 20 Most Shocking TV Deaths]. That was more about a lightning strike with no thunder. I still have people come up and go, “Ohmygod, I just saw that episode on USA!”

What’s in store for Tony?
Tony ends up on a mission of his own at the end of the year, in a sense…. Where all the characters are headed — it is not resolved at the end of this year. [Laughs] Although what they do in soap operas, “Now playing the part of Anthony DiNozzo…” That won’t happen though.

It must be hard for you right now: You love the show, we know you don’t want to go. And yet, you’re negotiating, so you don’t want to give that away.
Yeah, and even as far as those negotiations go, they must be very busy because I just haven’t heard anything. Oh wait, there’s my phone now. [Laughs] We knew Sasha was leaving the show, and when we did press, we were told not to say that she was leaving. This is not that. That wasn’t stressful to me. We just had fun with it. “Who’s leaving the show?” “I don’t know. It could be me.” We played that several times as a cliffhanger. What show doesn’t play with that notion? But I don’t think that’s what makes people watch this show — because they think someone’s gonna die. I think people watch the show because they like that Klinger wears dresses, and Radar answers the sentences of the other guy, and Hawkeye has to go back to the swamp and make a drink. Again, that M*A*S*H feeling. I think Jesse is a genius. I used to think NCIS, we were like Huey Lewis and the News. “I’m like, ‘Right?'” He’s like, “I don’t think that makes any sense. What do you mean, ‘The Power of Love’? ‘I Want a New Drug’?” I just meant, it’s a popular hit, but I don’t know if NCIS is cool, or if it will ever be in the Bullseye in the back of your magazine. I don’t think anyone’s throwing a dart at that. To our credit, nobody’s trying to be very cool on the show. [Laughs] I remember one time reading a criticism of the show, “And Tony’s jokes aren’t even funny.” And I was like, “That’s the point. He’s the guy who thinks he’s funnier than he is.”

I find him funny. Now I’m questioning my sense of humor.
[Laughs] Well, I think he’s funny, too, of course.

That Life Goes On joke in the Coast Guard episode…
The Corky joke? Scripted.

Scripted?
Scripted. And I was very like, “Really? We’re gonna make a Corky joke. Okay…” [McGee explains that while the Coast Guard Investigative Service may not have NCIS' track record or "je ne sais quoi," they are still their legitimate sibling. "Like Corky in Life Goes On," Tony says.] I think the writers really like the show. We’ve had the same writers for, like, the last five seasons, and George [Schenck] and Frank [Cardea] have been there since the beginning, and I don’t know if that’s that common. I think it’s a testament that nobody wants to leave. Everybody kind of gets a kick out of it. I enjoy watching Castle. I see Nathan Fillion’s role and go, “Oh, that would be fun to do.” Or what Simon Baker gets to do on The Mentalist. Those are fun characters, but I think I have a better job. I think I get to be goofy and do alarming things on this show. If you’re kind of the top of the pyramid, you kinda have to be a little bit more responsible. I think it’s the irresponsibility that I get a big kick out of. But I am very responsible… he said as he reaches for his wife’s hand. [The Ukrainian waitress approaches to ask if we need another drink.]

[To waitress] Can I ask you a question?

Waitress: Yes.

Weatherly: How are your contract negotiations going?

Waitress: How is my contract — what do you mean?

Weatherly: Well, let me just give you a hypothetical situation. Let’s say you’ve been working in this bar for seven years.

Waitress: Seven years? I hope it’s not my destiny.* [All laugh]

But it’s a great bar. People love your bar.

Waitress: That’s why I stay.

Weatherly: Well, there you go. I think you have just answered the question, because I really love the bar.

* She’s studying biotechnology.

Comments (101 total) Add your comment
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  • Beth

    I’m pretty excited for the NCIS finale…of course at the moment, it sounds like every other NCIS finale episode.

  • Hope

    nothing much to go on here. And MW the jokes weren’t funny man.

  • rose

    I love Michael Weatherly interviews. Keep them coming please. And love that you let him go off on his tangents like he likes to do. Glad to hear Tony does have something to do in the finale. Can’t wait for the episode. Hope negotiations are resolved soon for all parties.

  • Xanthe

    Yikes! ARGH! Poor Gibbs. *Hugs Gibbs*. I hope they don’t wrench his character out of shape to accomodate this plotline. I think we can all guess at least some of it. I also suspect that Tony (and possibly Abby and Tim) sustain injuries or are caught in a bomb blast/shootout just in case those contract negotiations don’t go well! LOL! But I’m sure Weatherly will be back in S8 – I really don’t think the show will survive without either him or Mark Harmon. They’re the big guns.

    • newsongweekly

      I’m dying to watch Mark Harmon deal with all of it, though. And if you go back to the NCIS: LA spin-off episode from last season, there was a BIG reveal there that suddenly I’m realizing is a very precarious situation for Gibbs. He’s been lucky for a very long time, but everyone’s luck runs out eventually. I think it’s gonna be a heart-wrenching and amazing to watch.

  • DC

    I like MW’s interviews more than his character on NCIS. Love Gibbs, McGee, Ducky, and Abby, but could do with a little Tony and Ziva. Keep it light and lively without too much emphasis on any one person. They are a terrific ensemble, not backups to Tony’s inflated ego. I hope he, McGee and Abby all get renewed but don’t pull out all of the stops just to keep MW happy.

    • DC2

      I agree. Like Tony OK in doses. Seems like the last couple of years they have made his character less of a laid back jokester and more of a plain old jerk. And, seriously, at his age, still acting like a frat boy and thinking with the wrong body part is just sad. Liked Ziva better before they started this whole Tony/Ziva thing. They introduced her as a strong, complex character who was able to muster up the courage to kill her own brother when needed and slowly developed her emotional/caring side. She has gone from intelligent sparring partner to a background character mooning over a guy about 15 years too old for his juvenile antics. I love the show but sometimes I record it so I can fast forward through the parts where Tony once again plays an infantile joke on McGee or insults the guy although he is far more intelligent and well rounded. After all these years it is just stale and feels like they stunted the character’s growth.

    • DC2

      I agree. I only like Tony in doses now. It seems like in the last couple of years he has changed from more of a laid back jokester to just a plain old jerk. At his age, acting like a frat boy and thinking with the wrong body part is just sad. I liked Ziva when she was added to the cast. She was introduced as a complex character. She was someone courageous enough to kill her own brother to save Gibbs. She withstood the really crappy way the other team members treated her because they didn’t understand her and over the years evolved as they showed her more emotional/caring side. She was a great verbal and physical sparring partner for Tony. Now she is just this background character who has lost herself in mooning over a guy who continues to act 15 years too young. I love the show but record it now so I can fast forward through the Tony plays yet another infantile joke on McGee or insults the guy who is much more intelligent and well rounded. I don’t even care what the reason is anymore. After all these years, some growth and maturity would be expected. Thought we were going to see it after the stellar season premier but no such luck.

      • DC2

        OOPS – got an error and had to rewrite the whole stupid thing. Sorry for the two postings!

      • newsongweekly

        He does seem to have regressed a bit this season… but I think the writers like to dance back and forth with that balance so that it has more impact when he has occasion to step up. I think that time is coming in the next few episodes, and hopefully next season as well.

      • WolfLady

        I agree and I do feel that it is past time for them to allow Tony to grow up. They do play against his ego because if you are truly a fan you should have noticed he has to always be right, be the one on top, and cannot stand for anyone to get to things (info, etc) before he does. He cannot keep his nose out of every ones business. I CAN see the show without him and would appreciate doing so for a relief against his total stupidity.

    • rose

      I disagree. Tony’s one of the best characters on the show even though yes he can be obnoxious. But really all of them can be obnoxious in their own ways. And the characters have never been “backups to Tony’s inflated ego.” I tend to think they all have inflated egos. That’s a ridiculous statement right there.

  • Ivette

    Ilove NCIS and I wish and hope the cast stay together because I love my team of NCIS.It would’nt be the same if one of them is not in the show. Please keep it together CBS.

  • jan

    I HOPE THAT TONY COMES BACK AND THE ENTIRE TEAM——————

  • Chappel

    The Civil War in the 19th century…? That would be quite a show.

    • Chappel

      Wait… Hollywood already did something like that… Hec Ramsey. That was a cool show.

  • Ferniesfreckles

    Not to be too spoilery but everyone has kind of figured out that Palmer will not be coming back, right? They have never given him all this screen time before, the guy has a girlfriend for goodness sake! He wants to double-date with Tony and his supposed girlfriend. Poor guy.

    Also, did not like how they made Tony the creepy, obsessed, stalker guy in the last episode. What was that about?

    • newsongweekly

      Really? I hadn’t heard anything about Palmer. I hope that’s not true. But I suppose it would be the best compromise between dramatic impact and not losing any of the major characters. :(

      ***Meanwhile, I thought it was kinda weird how they had Tony get so attached to the reporter chick, with the exception of the fact that she bore a resemblance to Jeanne. I wondered if maybe they were trying to show that there’s still a deep, subconscious wound there or something…

    • mcat

      The reporter looks exactly like a blond Jeanne. I thought it was obvious!

      • Tim

        Yes, I though the EXACT same thing. She resembled her in a lot of ways. And at the end was very “sweet” like Jeanne.

    • Joni

      Not only will Palmer be back, it looks like Brian Dietzen is finally being made a regular.
      In the “Still Smokin'” NCIS TV Guide cover issue there is a question relating to Palmer/Non-Palmer episodes:
      TV Guide: There is a definite part of the fan base that distinguishes between Jimmy and non-Jimmy episodes.

      ‘Obsession’ – I didn’t find Tony creepy AT ALL. I loved the episode and plan on watching it for the 3rd time before going to bed tonight.

      Harmon: [laughs]We’re gonna straighten that out next year.
      Murray: We don’t like it when Jimmy’s not in our episodes.

      • Joni

        Arrgh. Post did something weird.
        Fixing:
        Not only will Palmer be back, it looks like Brian Dietzen is finally being made a regular.
        In the “Still Smokin’” NCIS TV Guide cover issue there is a question relating to Palmer/Non-Palmer episodes:
        TV Guide: There is a definite part of the fan base that distinguishes between Jimmy and non-Jimmy episodes.
        Harmon: [laughs] We’re gonna straighten that out next year.
        Murray: We don’t like it when Jimmy’s not in our episodes.

        ‘Obsession’ – I didn’t find Tony creepy AT ALL. I loved the episode and plan on watching it for the 3rd time before going to bed tonight.

  • AKC

    I am with Chappel – I think NCIS: Civil War would be quite a show!

  • dakota

    My guess is Hart dies. I’m hoping they don’t destroy the Gibbs character more than they already have. I am having a HUGE issue with Gibbs accepting Ziva back after lying to him—that is definately NOT in character for him.

    • newsongweekly

      What lie are you talking about?

      • JustJeanette

        The whole “I was sent to kill Ari to gain your trust” lie. Follow that up with the question of just WHEN was she sent to kill Air (apparently Mossad knew he’d gone rogue but ZIva never believed that intelligence and only followed her orders when she felt like it) as it could well be argued that if she’d done her job Kate might never have been killed. This “not following orders” from the woman who berated Tony because he’d never been in the Miliatry and didn’t understand that you follow orders whether you like it or not (illegal orders not withstanding). Funny, Ziva seems quite at ease NOT following orders unless she thinks she should regardless of whether or not other people might have the right, the knowledge, the clear reason for giving said orders.

        Add in the whole “daddy” card and any liking I had (and yes, I did like Ziva before the whole ‘she’s there to hang off Tony’s arm because the HOT people always get together) for the character. I’ve yet to see any real attempt by the writers to actually deal with what amounts to major betrayal apart from doing the “they did it first” card kind of thing; which is whay I am NOT looking forwad to this seasons ending arc.

        For Gibbs, the man who didn’t speak to his FATHER for 15 years because he brought a date to Shannon’s funeral, to so readily forgive Ziva for her lies, her attempt to get Tony off the team, her failure to disclose anything about Rivkin… It boggles the mind.

      • newsongweekly

        I guess I can’t reply directly to your reply JustJeanette, so I’m putting it as close as I can…

        I was satisfied with Ziva’s answer to that, and it seems Gibbs was as well. Her initial orders were to get close to Gibbs by killing Ari (as we heard via Vance), but in the end she felt unsure of her father’s motives and actually took Ari out to save Gibbs. Not because she was told to. I thought she explained that pretty well at the beginning of this season.

        I think Gibbs is a complicated enough man that he understands how complicated and conflicted Ziva is as well, and that’s how he was able to trust her again.

    • Marie

      If it’s Hart then being a love interest for Gibbs is a serious curse.

    • Nerwen Aldarion

      Actually that seemed alright with me, after all Ziva had proved herself trust worthy again, and she still did save his life with the whole Ari scenario (Why they changed that, I don’t know, it was fine the way it was)

      It was Gibbs letting his mother-in-law off that got me mad. That was NOT in Gibbs’ character at all!

      • newsongweekly

        I agree, but then again, when you think of what Gibbs has done, it kind of makes sense. I think maybe some of these out-of-character seeming things are going to make more sense when things come to a head at the end of this season. Just judging by the previews for next week’s ep I think Gibbs’ time of reckoning is coming. And it ain’t gonna be pretty.

  • Mel

    Finally, EW is giving us some Michael Weatherly love! This guy is funny, cute, sexy and charming(and personally I LOVE DiNozzo!) Please, EW, more on this very down-to-earth charismatic man!

    • MW fan

      Oh, I so agree with you. Michael Weatherly is the most charming man on TV and between him and MH the reason that NCIS is the top rated scripted drama on TV. I love the character of Tony. Love the fact that I never know quite what he’s going to do and there aren’t many characters like that on TV.

  • newsongweekly

    I love this show and I hope NO ONE is leaving. I also hope it gets renewed (would be dumb not to renew the #1 scripted show, wouldn’t it? I mean, that would be an NBC move. LOL)
    ***
    Here’s NCIS in a nutshell for me; when in doubt:
    ***Put Abby in danger
    ***Have McGee doubt himself
    ***Have Ziva struggle between her loyalties to Mussad and NCIS
    ***Have Tony fall in love or get framed
    ***Have Gibbs dealing with his past, specifically the loss of his wife and daughter.
    ***Everything else is just frosting on top, and I love every minute of everything they do.

    ***This year’s season finale sounds like the Gibbs’ past thing, and I REALLY love where they’ve taken this storyline over time. I’m excited for what I suspect is coming, and I can’t imagine how it will all pan out. I do know that if a “colleague” dies, it better be someone who is a colleague by technicality (like Fornell or Franks) and not a member of the immediate cast. There’s not a single one of them I can live without. Maybe someday one of them will outlive their characters’ usefulness, but that time is NOT now.

  • Michael

    I like Tony and how they keep him HUMAN and not turn him gay like most Tv show do when they take away their funny side

    • Hugh

      What? What does this even mean?

  • Pamela

    I demand some Tony/Ziva. This last episode was so totally out of character. Besides the very first ep, this season has been dull.

    • mcat

      No thanks to Tony/Ziva.

    • NoChance

      NO! Do not do the tired old thing by hooking up characters. Boring boring boring.
      Besides – as law enforcement partners one would have to transfer. To be together they’d have to lie to Gibbs and though I’m sure Z wouldn’t have a problem with it, Tony won’t do it.
      He’s given his word “Trust me boss, I’d never date a co-worker” and I expect him to honor that promise.
      Rule #12: Never date a co-worker.
      RULES, not suggestions (as Z decided the rules are in the horrid ‘Jet Lag’) If they were suggestions that’s what the rules would be called.

    • charli

      actually the last ep was totally in character for Ziva chasing after Tony and Tony ignoring her. The obsession has been 1-sided from the start.

    • redreh

      Agreed, Pamela. Was not feeling the last episode. But its all a journey.

      Anti-Tiva kids just back off your high-horse. If they ever get together, it’ll only be at the end, and it will never be a main point of the show.

      It’d just be nice to feel the Tiva heat again–been a few eps since they’ve had any moments with each other :)

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