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By now, NCIS is gearing up to air its fourteenth season, a season that plans to introduce a bunch of new characters in place of Michael Weatherly, who left the CBS drama at the end of Season 13. Recently, while speaking as part of a segment on the NCIS: The Thirteenth Season set, Michael Weatherly revealed when he really knew he wanted to leave NCIS. Here's what the actor had to say:

I discovered in Season 12 that I was nearing the end of my road. It felt totally natural; it felt like the right thing to do and it occurred to me---what a blessing. What an extraordinary gift. I think that might be the best thing about NCIS that is invisible to the eye. That's what magic is. It's this combination of people that come together---all these personalities---all these wonderful people that have been doing this job for as long as I have.

That timeline is pretty interesting, considering how Michael Weatherly's contract turned out. The actor signed a two-year deal to stick with NCIS just as Season 11 was ending, which meant he was contracted through the past spring. However, it seems that around the time he signed his final NCIS contract---or shortly thereafter---he started approaching his gig as something that was coming to an end. To his credit, that is a long time to keep one acting job, and it's not as if Weatherly has just sat around since he decided to leave the series--in fact, he already has a new drama in the works.

ncis michael weatherly

What has been particularly nice about Tony DiNozzo's NCIS exit is that the creative team had the time to settle into an ending. Weatherly seems to have given them plenty of advance notice and has been really nice about the whole thing, making the transition a whole lot easier. Other lead actor Mark Harmon also spoke out about the loss of Tony DiNozzo on the series, and about what comes after a major character exit:

It's about turning a page. We'll be endeavoring to cut new cloth here. We've done that before, and done it pretty well.

So far, we know that NCIS has added a couple of new characters for Season 14, including characters played by Wilmer Valderrama and Jennifer Esposito. Duane Henry, who popped up at the end of Season 13 as Clayton Reeves, has also been promoted to series regular on the drama.

On the bright side, even though Michael Weatherly was thinking about leaving NCIS as early as several years ago, his exit from the drama has been pretty amicable. He's even signed on with CBS for a brand new drama called Bull, which will air on Tuesday nights alongside NCIS and NCIS: New Orleans. If you'd like to catch the "Inside Season 13" special feature, this week, Paramount and CBS Television released NCIS: The Thirteenth Season, a DVD set that is chock full of anecdotal stories and other extras from the NCIS set. You can order your own copy here.

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