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Michael Weatherly revealed that his decision to leave NCIS stemmed from a combination of the recent departure of Cote de Pablo from the series, as well as his desire to branch out professionally. Here's how he put it to TV Insider:
Their great dynamic, the badinage and sparring and flirting between [Tony and de Pablo's Ziva] and how they would swing from siblings to near lovers and back to buddies, that was gone, and then I got to the point where I felt I’d stayed at the party for too long. I would look around the room and other people were really in sync and having fun. The show was a huge success, but I just suddenly realized that I probably had other things that I should be doing. And then the wanderlust set in. I directed a documentary. I have a production company. And I wanted to spend time with my family.
So it seems that one of the biggest reasons for his departure from the series came when Cote de Pablo’s Ziva also left the CBS drama in Season 11. With that specific relationship no longer in play on the series, Michael Weatherly began to feel like Tony DiNozzo’s time on NCIS had more or less run its course. There's something so sad about him likening his recent time on the show as staying at a party too long. Parties aren't supposed to get old, and DiNozzo isn't supposed to be bored.
We cannot exactly say we blame him for wanting to find a new gig for himself, though. 13 years in the same job would be enough to make anyone stir crazy. Weatherly got a taste of creative freedom by directing a documentary and establishing his own production company, so in the end, he just came to the realization that it might finally be time to retire Agent Tony DiNozzo and let the man behind the agent branch out more.
However, the fact that he decided to leave the series does not mean that he made the decision lightly. Later in his interview, Michael Weatherly admitted that his departure from NCIS was a tearful one, and it took all of his acting chops to keep it together during a number of his scenes. Although he takes solace knowing he will spend more time with his family at home, it's clear that he understands that also means leaving another family behind.
With that in mind, if you’re a longtime fan of NCIS, prepare yourselves for a rather emotional finale to a beloved character arc. Michael Weatherly will don his badge and gun as Tony DiNozzo for the final time when NCIS airs on May 17.