Skip to Content

Why Did DiNozzo Leave NCIS? Michael Weatherly Exit Explained

Why Did DiNozzo Leave NCIS? Michael Weatherly Exit Explained

This post may contain affiliate links. We earn from qualifying purchases. Learn More

Anthony “Tony” DiNozzo was a cornerstone of the hit CBS show NCIS. The character, played by Michael Weatherly, was on the show from its very first season and stayed for 13 years.

It’s an impressively long run for a TV character, but in 2016 it came to an end when Weatherly decided to leave the show.

We take a look at why Michael Weatherly left and how the show explained his character DiNozzo’s exit.

Why Did Anthony DiNozzo Leave NCIS?

Tony DiNozzo left the NCIS team to be with his daughter in Paris.

Tony DiNozzo and Ziva David were both mainstays of NCIS since the show’s first season. Romantic tension filled their friendship, but they never became an official couple on-screen.

When Ziva’s character left in season 11, it devastated fans that their chances of a DiNozzo-Ziva relationship were over.

Tony DiNozzo and Ziva on NCIS

But season 13 provided a new development for the relationship. It shocked DiNozzo and the rest of the team to learn that a bomb killed Ziva in her home in Israel.

As tragic as the news was, there was a silver lining; the episode revealed that DiNozzo and Ziva slept together before she left the team in season 11.

Not only that, but their intimate moment resulted in a daughter that DiNozzo had no idea existed. Ziva had kept her a secret for two years, but after her death, DiNozzo gets to meet his daughter, Tali.

DiNozzo decides that he wants nothing more than to take care of his daughter. So, he leaves the NCIS team to take Tali back to Israel. Then, he takes her to Paris in honor of how much Ziva loved the city.

Why Did Michael Weatherly Leave NCIS?

Michael Weatherly left NCIS because he felt his character was less interesting without Ziva. And after 13 years of doing the same show, Weatherly wanted to branch out and star in a new show, Bull.

Speaking to TV Insider, Michael Weatherly compared being on NCIS for 13 straight years to having “stayed at the party too long.”

“I meet 20-year-olds who were in first grade when we started,” he explained. “Basically, their entire lives they’ve known me as ‘Hey, you’re on television, playing that guy.”

Anthony DiNozzo and Leroy Gibbs in the early seasons on NCIS

Weatherly felt it was time to move on to other projects. This became especially clear after Cote de Pablo, who played Ziva, left the show in season 11. Apparently, once their “great dynamic” of verbal sparring and the tension of their will they/won’t they relationship was gone, things weren’t as interesting anymore.

Michael Weatherly also cites wanting to spend more time with his family. “I just suddenly realized that I probably had other things that I should be doing.”

He didn’t have to wait long for something else to come along for him to do. In 2016, Michael Weatherly starred in the CBS legal drama, Bull. While the show got a mixed reception, it ran for six seasons and Weatherly’s performance was often praised.

Who Replaced DiNozzo on NCIS?

NCIS didn’t recast DiNozzo, but a new character, Nick Torres, filled his position after he left.

After DiNozzo left at the end of season 13, the NCIS team was feeling empty. In order to fill in the hole left by Michael Weatherly’s character, the writers introduced Nick Torres.

Torres, played by Wilmer Valderrama, was an undercover agent who crossed paths with Gibbs’ NCIS team when he tried to save his sister’s life in DC.

Torres’ cover is blown, but the team offers him a place with them, which he accepts. Valderrama’s character is a “bad boy” who struggles to adjust to normal life after being deep undercover for so long.

Similar to DiNozzo, Torres can be brash and has trouble with boundaries. He also has a similar teasing relationship with Ellie Bishop that DiNozzo had with Ziva.

Fans Reactions to DiNozzo Leaving NCIS

NCIS fans were heartbroken when actor Cote de Pablo left the show in season 11. Then, just two years later, the other half of the will they/won’t they couple, Michael Weatherly, also left the show.

Twitter users began using the hashtag “#ThankfulforDiNozzo” to show their love for Weatherly’s character.

One fan even agreed with Weatherly’s sentiments that his character just wasn’t the same without Ziva:

The other cast and crew members of NCIS also shared their feelings about Weatherly leaving the show. Pauly Perrette, the actor who plays Abby, joking posted about trying to lock Weatherly up to stop him from leaving:

Gary Glasberg, an executive producer for NCIS, reassured fans that they wrote DiNozzo’s exit with respect to the character, and that they would miss Weatherly.

Will DiNozzo Ever Return To NCIS?

There aren’t any concrete plans for DiNozzo to return to NCIS but both Michael Weatherly and the showrunners say that the door is always open.

In fact, Weatherly had a guest appearance on NCIS: Los Angeles in 2016 specifically to see if his character could work in that setting. He says he’s willing to come back if the story needs him to.

Steven D. Binder, the showrunner for NCIS, reportedly said “Wouldn’t that be great?” when asked if Weatherly would ever come back.

So, it seems that everyone would be onboard for Weatherly to make a reappearance, even if only for one episode.

Did Michael Weatherly and Mark Harmon Get Along?

Michael Weatherly said that he and Mark Harmon had very different ways of approaching their roles on NCIS. He never explicitly said they don’t get a long, but many people interpreted his words as evidence of a rocky relationship.

In a 2007 interview, when both Harmon and Weatherly were still part of NCIS, Weatherly said they were polar opposites.

“I was Antarctica, he was the North Pole,” Weatherly said, “and we was [sic] just looking down there going “what is up with your polarity? What’s going on? The water goes down the drain the other way for me.”

Weatherly also says Harmon was “confused by [h] presence right from the get-go.” Weatherly described Harmon as very serious, whereas Weatherly was always looking to have fun.

Mark Harmon and Michael Weatherly on NCIS

Mark Harmon hasn’t spoken on his relationship with Michael Weatherly, though, so it’s hard to know for sure how they both felt about each other.

But when Weatherly left the show, he did say that “I know that if [the cast and crew] let me come by and visit, I’ll come by and visit.” So, whatever his feelings were on Mark Harmon at the beginning of their collaboration, it hasn’t stopped him from wanting to visit when he can.