‘Bull’ Star Michael Weatherly on His Crazy Decision to Leave ‘NCIS’: ‘I Am That Maniac’

“I was realistic enough to know that initially no one would believe that I was leaving,” actor tells TheWrap

bull michael weatherly cbs
David M. Russell/CBS

“Bull” star Michael Weatherly, known to fans the world over as “NCIS” stalwart agent Tony DiNozzo, was well aware his decision to leave the long-running CBS procedural would be met with skepticism.

“I was realistic enough to know that initially no one would believe that I was leaving,” Weatherly told TheWrap. “Because what maniac would leave the No. 1 show in the world in total viewers? But I am that maniac.”

Weatherly goes from being the sidekick to leading man in the new CBS series “Bull,” playing a psychologist and trial consultant named Dr. Jason Bull who specializes in knowing how a jury will vote before even they do.

And how does he do that? In addition to keen observation skills, Bull employs a team of tech experts who can analyze social media posts, online comments, as well as emails. While the tactics may seem questionable if not downright illegal, Weatherly says it is simply a symptom of our time.

“The world we live in is one where transparency can be wonderful but it can also destroy your life,” he said. “Look at the online bullying that happens where people just get eviscerated, and not thin-skinned people either… We live in an age where you can Google people before a date. Can you imagine people doing a deep data dive like that in the ’80s?”

Series executive producer Mark Goffman echoed the sentiment, insisting that Bull is ultimately a force for good.

“There’s a lot of information that is readily available, but we do certainly imply and in many cases talk about the ethics of going even deeper always for the right reasons,” Goffman told TheWrap. “Bull doesn’t invade anyone’s privacy to harm them in any way.”

The show is loosely inspired by the early career of Dr. Phil McGraw, whom Goffman says was instrumental in making the world of the show feel real.

“The first week I opened the writers’ room, Dr. Phil invited us to his set and put together an eight-hour symposium on trial science,” he said. “He brought in a litigator that he worked with and we spent eight hours that day just scratching the surface with him. He has been this incredible reservoir of stories and real insight into human psychology.”

“Bull” debuts tonight at 9 p.m. ET on CBS.