Sometimes it’s a bit hard to buy that actors cast to play parents and children are even distantly related — other times, not so much.
Sitting together in the autopsy room at the sets of “NCIS” in Santa Clarita, Calif., Michael Weatherly and Robert Wagner, both in suits and ties, with white smiles, blue eyes and great hair, look very much like they could be father and son.
That’s lucky, because on “Broken Arrow,” the Tuesday, Nov. 9, episode of the CBS drama, Wagner is reprising his role of tycoon Anthony DiNozzo Sr., father of NCIS Agent Tony DiNozzo Jr. (Weatherly), which he originated in the show’s 150th episode.
When the resemblance is mentioned, Wagner tells Zap2it, “That’s the reason I’m here.”
“That’s a real compliment,” says Weatherly, “to look anything like him.”
Of course, in a way, Tony’s current surrogate dad is his NCIS boss, Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs (Mark Harmon).
“He needs validation,” says Weatherly of Tony. “He’s trying to get his father to say, ‘Hey, I’m proud of you. Look at what you’ve done with your life. That’s great.’ You see Tony’s relationship with Gibbs. Tony and Gibbs have a definite pseudo-father-son dynamic.”
“That is an interesting dynamic, too,” says Wagner, “when Gibbs and I meet each other.”
In this episode, Gibbs and the elder DiNozzo have a lot more contact, since the international businessman is asked to leverage his relationship with a wealthy individual to help in a murder investigation. That leads to the scene being shot on this late-September day, in which the monetary cost of DiNozzo Sr.’s participation is being questioned.
One line says that DiNozzo Sr. has racked up $9,000 worth of
expenses in the last two days for, among other things, a hotel penthouse
suite and a custom-tailored cashmere dinner jacket.
“I keep the tux in the show,” says Wagner. “They said, ‘Are you going to
take the tux?’ ‘Yeah, what’s “NCIS” going to do with it?’ I’ve got a
scene with the tailor, making it.”
At one point, Rocky Carroll, who plays NCIS Director Leon Vance, strolls by.
Quizzed about the director’s reaction to the involvement of DiNozzo Sr., Carroll says, “I think it’s a
really bad move, until it works well — like any good bureaucrat.”
When not working, it’s obvious that there’s a lot of affection between Weatherly and Wagner, and gifts have been exchanged.
“I get in trouble with my wife,” says Weatherly, “anytime I bring home framed pictures of Robert Wagner. I have one picture of R.J. and me from last year’s episode, which I put on the piano. I didn’t realize that I had put it right in front of my wedding photo.”
“That’s the one I gave you,” says Wagner.
“So, I quickly removed that and put it in the guest bathroom,” says Weatherly.
“All of a sudden,” says Wagner with a smile, “I went from the piano to the toilet. You know, it’s OK, as long as I was with him.”
Wagner’s first “NCIS” episode as DiNozzo Sr. aired last January, and while there are no guarantees in television, there were conversations about him coming back.
“Michael was talking about it,” says Wagner.
“I made it part of my contract negotiations,” says Weatherly.
“For the writers,” Wagner says, “if it works without being self-conscious, that’s good. This has been, without a doubt, the best company I have ever worked with. … This young man [he nods in Weatherly’s direction] is one of the best I’ve been around.”
Weatherly returns the compliment, saying, “R.J.’s range of twinkle is like a double rainbow.”
“The double rainbow,” says Wagner with a chuckle. “I have heard that before. That’s good.”
“Well, you are the double-rainbow actor,” says Weatherly. “You were talking about the relationship and everything between the actors and the audience. It comes right through the TV. You can edit around it if it’s not there, but you can’t put it there, that chemistry and that fun.
“RJ has this kind of effortless way about him.”
“Don’t you just love him?” says Wagner.
“I don’t think I’m the first person who said it was effortless,” says Weatherly.
“Don’t you just love him?” says Wagner.
As the conversation breaks up to move to another part of the stage, a bag has been left behind momentarily.
“Get that, Junior,” says Wagner.
“Yes, Dad,” says Weatherly.
After settling into a new location, Weatherly makes a point of praising Wagner’s style on set.
“I can get very pushy and aggressive in the blocking,” says Weatherly, “because I have an idea, and I want to get it out there. R.J., he raises his hand. It’s like he’s in class.”
“Learned that in Star School,” says Wagner. “No, just kidding.”