Celebrity Spotlight - Michael Weatherly
From being an honorary member of America’s favorite ’80s family to a wise-cracking special agent on NCIS, Michael Weatherly’s acting career has spanned almost two decades and garnered him a loyal crew of fans. He first entered living rooms through his role as Theo Huxtable’s college roommate on The Cosby Show. The gig netted him various additional TV appearances and spots in movies.
But it was his role as cyber-journalist Logan Cale on James Cameron’s television show Dark Angel that truly grabbed the hearts of his fans. It also netted him Saturn Award nominations for best supporting actor in a television series in 2001 and 2002 and a 2001 Teen Choice Award nomination for choice TV actor.
From Dark Angel, he transitioned almost seamlessly to the hit show NCIS. He continues to capture hearts in his eighth season as the flirtatious, prank-loving Special Agent Tony DiNozzo. Even with all this fame, one of Michael’s most endearing characteristics is his love for his dogs, Oriana and Quantum.
DOGS WILL BE DOGS
Growing up in a dog-loving family, Michael often considered adopting a dog. But long hours working as an actor made him reluctant to bring a canine companion into his life—until he met his wife, Bojana. She convinced him they were ready for a pup and started looking for the right dog to fit their family.
As they searched, memories of Michael’s first dog, Daisy, weighed heavily on his mind. Daisy, a Terrier mix, began life with Michael’s family in a New York City apartment in the late ’60s. All the while, Michael’s dad dreamed of a country home. When they moved and got a Connecticut home with a nice yard, Daisy went into a digging frenzy. But that didn’t deter the family. They soon got two new dogs—Irish Setters Rusty and Penny. But the dogs kept running off to the neighbor’s farm.
“Our home was formal, and the dogs weren’t allowed inside. But on the farm, they could run and be animals,” Michael says. “And eventually, they started spending more time at the farm than they did with us. We had visitation with our dogs. You had to go walk a mile and a half to go see the dogs.”
Michael saw the problem clearly: The dogs he was raised with had rules they couldn’t follow. “People got mad at them for being terrors. But that’s like getting mad at the sky because it’s blue,” he says.
THE RIGHT MIX
So Michael and his wife agreed training would be an important part of their commitment to their new dog. They spent six months researching breeds, breeders, and adoption facilities. The result: Their first German Shepherd, Oriana. When they met Oriana, they knew her calm, easy personality was a perfect fit for their family. They arranged full-time training for the pup, read dog ownership materials, and got training themselves on how to be better dog owners. Michael even hired a contractor to build a dog run.
“When we brought Oriana home, we had the crate training and the built-in run,” he says. “And we just moved her back and forth the first few days through the atmospheres we wanted her to feel comfortable in before giving her the run of the house. We never let her up on furniture. We never yelled at her. And she just started to become the dog we dreamed of.”
A CANINE COMMITMENT
Next, Michael and his wife brought home Quantum, a German Shepherd that is Oriana’s half-sibling. With careful training and a house filled with security, love, and the right rules, the high-energy pup also blossomed within the family.
“Dogs are a little bit of chaos, you know?” Michael says. “And what’s frustrating for me is when you see people who expect dogs to behave like their Palm Pilots or their PDAs. Dogs are trained, within reason. I expect them to sit and behave. But I don’t expect them to do these things without respect and love, and you must approach it with a human-to-canine understanding. I don’t expect them to be human, and I don’t expect them to think I’m a dog.”
Michael and Bojana don’t offer table scraps or let the dogs sleep on the bed to feel loved. Instead, they focus on security and affection. “The training really comes from making them feel safe,” Michael says. “It’s about making them feel like there’s order, because they are dogs that like rules.”
The dogs are always up for playtime, too. And since their home is near Runyon Canyon Park in Los Angeles, Michael takes Oriana out regularly for hour-long hikes. When Quantum gets bigger, he’ll join these romps up the hills, too.
“The truth is, owning a dog is a lot of work, and it’s a commitment,” he says. “But it’s also an opportunity to expand yourself, and you find parts of yourself you didn’t know about. It just comes down to appreciating the parts of our lives we sometimes just zoom past in our busy days. We were really afraid of what it was going to be like to have a dog and how chaotic it was going to be. We changed our lives by making that choice. And it brings us into contact with new people all the time.”
And it’s a responsibility he’s happily embraced. Michael admits his first thought when he wakes up in the morning is often about his dogs. And he’s not sure his family is complete. He and his wife have discussed another addition—perhaps a rescue dog next time—and they’re doing the research now to prepare to open their lives and home to their next dog.
“Three or four years ago I lived alone, and I’d come home after work and surf the Internet, stare at the television, or watch an Antonioni movie. And I was satisfied,” Michael says. “But I always wanted a dog, and I always thought, ‘It’s going to be so much work. It’s going to be too much trouble.’ And now that I have these guys, I wonder, ‘Why did I wait so long?’”
Doctor to Doctor
As an internist, Michael’s wife is especially focused on healthcare, including the veterinary care the couple’s dogs receive. So when Oriana and Quantum go to the veterinarian, Michael and his wife stay for the visit. “Our veterinarian has a great rotating staff of doctors,” Michael says. “We’ve seen all of them, I think, because our dogs are still in the puppy stage and getting lots of shots.”
Quantum’s been to the veterinarian a few times with health concerns, and he was underweight for a while. But with loving care from his veterinarian and owners, he recovered and gained weight. “I don’t think we could do it without our veterinarian,” Michael says.
An Insider's Look at Michael
Books he recommends
The Book of Jamaica by Russell Banks
The Pregnant Widow by Martin Amis
“Working 10-and-a-half months a year on a TV show, you spend so much time in a kind of performance state,” Michael says. “So when I come home at night, I can barely have a conversation with my wife, let alone crack a book or do any kind of thinking. So I do a lot of catch-up reading over the summer.”
Famous family members
Michael is the uncle of actress Alexandra Breckenridge, who had roles in Dirt and She’s the Man.
He took his mother, Patricia O’Hara, to see Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan.
More Than an Actor
When Michael Weatherly joined the cast of NCIS in 2003 to portray Tony DiNozzo, he knew the commitment he was making, and he embraced it fully. “I get to run and shoot a gun, kiss the girl, and make jokes,” Michael says. “The role is highly enjoyable, but it takes a lot of energy. And you have to bring yourself to it.”
Michael leaves for work early, usually at about 5:45 a.m. And sometimes his work keeps him out late. With his wife’s busy schedule as a first-year resident of internal medicine at Cedars-Sinai, they don’t spend a lot of time in their Los Angeles home. To compensate, some days the couple’s dogs go to the set with Michael. Because they’re well behaved, they don’t require a handler. “They’re super good,” he says. “They just chill.”
This season his two German Shepherds will enjoy a front-row seat at Michael’s directorial debut when he directs his first episode of the award-winning NCIS. And his talents don’t end there. Michael also leverages his love of music and his smooth vocals to reach out to fans of NCIS.
When NCIS released a soundtrack, he was invited to record a song. “Bitter in Blue” was so successful that Michael has recorded additional songs, including “Pretty Baby,” “All Fall Apart,” and “Suffer for Me.”