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October 21, 2014

Michael Weatherly on His 'NCIS' TV Dad, Robert Wagner

by Michael Maloney, posted Jan 12th 2010 8:00AM
NCIS Robert Wagner'NCIS' fans know Michael Weatherly as charming goofball/special agent Tony DiNozzo but on the series' 150th episode tonight on CBS, viewers will learn that beneath those jokes lie memories of a painful childhood -- and unresolved feelings towards his father. Robert Wagner (aka R.J.) guest stars as Tony's dad, Anthony Sr.

In a sense, working with Wagner was deja vu all over again for Weatherly; he portrayed the 'Hart to Hart' star and movie heartthrob in 'The Mystery of Natalie Wood', the made for TV movie about Wagner's late movie star wife. Weatherly recently chatted with AOL about sharing air time with the screen legend and gave a preview of the 'NCIS' episode that sheds new light on Tony.NCIS Robert Wagner'NCIS' fans know Michael Weatherly as charming goofball/special agent Tony DiNozzo but on the series' 150th episode tonight on CBS, viewers will learn that beneath those jokes lie memories of a painful childhood -- and unresolved feelings towards his father. Robert Wagner (aka R.J.) guest stars as Tony's dad, Anthony Sr.

In a sense, working with Wagner was deja vu all over again for Weatherly; he portrayed the 'Hart to Hart' star and movie heartthrob in 'The Mystery of Natalie Wood', the made for TV movie about Wagner's late movie star wife. Weatherly recently chatted with AOL about sharing air time with the screen legend and previewed the 'NCIS' episode that sheds new light on Tony.

What will we learn about your character in this episode?
A lot. We learn that Tony's mother died when he was 8 years old and he was raised by an absentee father, who borders, maybe, on con man. The wealth that Tony grew up on maybe wasn't the wealth he thought it was. He learns that his father did his best for his son. Sometimes you get mad at your parents because they behave in a way that you don't like when you're 12 or 13, but, later, you realize that they were just trying to get through their own life. The episode will shine a light on DiNozzo's insecurities. We'll see why he feels that Gibbs [Mark Harmon] is that father he never had.

Was this congruous with what you were playing all along?
Yes. I had a pretty good idea about Tony all the way through. This is very consistent with a lot of the thoughts I had on him.



After you met Robert, did you think you did him justice in your portrayal of him?
What you don't learn about R.J. from the movies and reading the articles is that this is a guy whose heart is so big, wonderful and magnificent, it almost outshines the other wonderful things about him -- his professionalism, the style. I think I would have enlarged his heart 10 times if I'd met him before I'd play him.

What was it like working with him?
I was nervous. The first day on the set with my throat was tense, my hands were clammy. He made me nervous, but within about 60 seconds he had me in the scene. Pauley Perrette came over and said to me, "Michael, you're supposed to be acting with Robert -- not staring at him."

Had you found out if he'd seen your portrayal of him in the Natalie Wood movie?
No. We didn't really talk about that. But I did read his book 'Pieces of my Heart.' It's an incredible memoir and a testament to his nature. It's not glib. R.J.s book is called 'Pieces of My Heart' -- not 'Hart.' This is a guy who drank with Humphrey Bogart. He's got some stories. As I was [recently] pulling into the parking lot at 6:58AM --- and my call time was 7AM -- I thought R.J. would have been here 45 minutes ago.

'NCIS' does gangbusters in the ratings. What's the appeal of the show?
It starts with Mark Harmon. It's about Gibbs and his surly, gruff exterior. Also, this band of crazy people around him -- Ducky, Abby, Ziva, Tony, McGee and Palmer -- everyone rocks and rolls around Gibbs. It's like a clown car. Gibbs, without being unlikeable, is so solid and sure. He's like a Clint Eastwood character. I think people like that. None of this happens without great writers and a great production team. The music is great. If you saw our show without the fancy stuff, it wouldn't be quite the same show.

Most series after they've been around this long begin to lose steam. Why is 'NCIS' getting stronger?
I think the person to ask is the person who started watching a few years ago. They found us [in re-runs] and now watch new series. It's a hard time in the country right now. The characters on are show are family and have each others backs. We're not trying to run around and be fabulous. Our characters make mistakes. It's not a vain show. We do have hair and makeup departments, but we're not about our characters' vanities. Mark wants the scene to work in the context of the story and in the context of the show.


How do you feel about going up against 'American Idol' when it returns?
We don't worry too much about that stuff. One of the nice things about our show from the beginning is that we were never creatively made by committee. We were not designed by an accounting firm. We came out of [series creator] Don Bellisario's head. Our audience is grandparents, their children and their children's children.

Would you ever want Tony to be spun off?
[Wryly] I don't know. What's your idea? [Actually,] R.J. and I were talking about doing a TV version of 'Dirty Rotten Scoundrels' only the characters are fathers and sons. There's the older dowager and her daughter, who's like Grace Kelly. The twist is that I'll end up with the dowager and R.J. ends up with the daughter!

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Marlys

"Tony DiNozzo" and Robert Wagner (when he was young) look alike. Are they related?

November 19 2011 at 10:30 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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