TV Guide: What can you say about the reports of turmoil on the set, which ended with creator Don Bellisario leaving the show?
Michael Weatherly: I stay largely outside the politics of the show. I learned two lessons on another show [Dark Angel, in which he costarred with — and became engaged to — Jessica Alba]: The less I say the better, and don't date your costar! So Mark Harmon and I have never dated. Though the Silver Fox and I did spend a week in Vermont that nobody knows about.
TV Guide: Spoken like DiNozzo. Do you think your character's wise-guy humor is back in form this season?
Weatherly: I guess so. The thing I like about the show is the energy behind the characters. On other procedural dramas, there's a very glum, serious, dour kind of feel. I like the idea of there being an Alka-Seltzer in the midst of all that stuff.
TV Guide: You were born Michael Manning Weatherly Jr. That's quite a mouthful.
Weatherly: [Laughs] I did get called "Junior," of course. Then when I begged my mother for corrective sunglasses and wore them at night, my father nicknamed me "Hollywood." Nobody got called "Hollywood" in Connecticut. The Connecticut I grew up in was an old-fashioned, Norman Rockwell place. So I was excited to move on and see what the world had to offer. Of course, now when I go back, it's so idyllic and beautiful.
TV Guide: Your family is huge due to multiple marriages, right?
Weatherly: I have one full brother, three half sisters, and then it starts getting fuzzy. I have two stepsisters and a stepbrother from my father's [first] wife. My mother had kids from her first marriage and got remarried and she has three or four kids. It's sort of dysfunctional in that Royal Tenenbaums way.
TV Guide: Who were your inspirations back then?
Weatherly: When I was 14, Ray Davies of the Kinks was my No. 1 inspiration because I loved his wry look at everything. Then when I was about 19, I went through an Elvis Costello/Woody Allen thing, which was really just neurotic men with glasses because I wore thick black glasses. Then I discovered…
TV Guide: Contact lenses?
Weatherly: No, I always wore glasses. Last year, I got LASIK, and now I'm an eagle-eyed motherf--ker!
TV Guide: So after Woody, you discovered…
Weatherly: Cary Grant. I watched His Girl Friday, Bringing Up Baby, anything I could get my hands on. I loved that breezy attitude. So it was a pretty easy jump to Tom Hanks. I saw every Tom Hanks movie on opening day — which is how I came to Joe Versus the Volcano. That was the catalyst [to become an actor]. My girlfriend Betsy thought I was a lunatic to move to New York. And clearly Betsy was on the money.
TV Guide: Your first real role was on Cosby?
Weatherly: I played Theo's roommate at NYU. I was rocking a James Spader hairdo. And I had no idea what I was doing. I'm sure they almost fired me that first day. But that sense of failing made me take acting seriously.
TV Guide: What's the big lesson you've learned since?
Weatherly: I know that to be on [NCIS] right now is a huge deal. I don't underestimate it, but I also don't overinflate my own importance. And I'm happier at 39 than ever. But I also feel it's just kind of starting.
TV Guide: How do you feel about turning 40 next July?
Weatherly: I'm psyched. I was never the twentysomething who played the high-school student. I always played married men. But I think 40 is a good age — my girlfriend certainly doesn't want to go out with a 25-year-old.
TV Guide: Girlfriend? Does she have a name?
Weatherly: No. [Laughs] She's a very good thing. She's studying to be a doctor. I'm extraordinarily happy and lucky.
TV Guide: So you're not the cad you play on TV?
Weatherly: No. Over 10 years, I was in three relationships. I'm like a golden retriever. I'm a pretty loyal dog as long as I'm getting my ALPO and my water.
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