Michael Weatherly & Cote de Pablo Talk Changing ‘NCIS’ Format With ‘Tony & Ziva’, What Spinoff Should Really Be Called & Who Else Could Join

With cameras soon to roll on their buzzy NCIS spin-off, Michael Weatherly and Cote de Pablo have gotten into the weeds on NCIS: Tony & Ziva. The pair were part of a large NCIS contingent here at the Monte-Carlo TV Festival to celebrate the juggernaut franchise hitting the 1,000-episode mark. It included the mothership series’ Brian Dietzen and Wilmer Valderrama who also talked about the expansion of what posters up for the Festival are referring to as the ‘NCISverse’.

What is known so far about the NCIS: Tony & Ziva spin-off is that it will follow Tony (Weatherly) and Ziva (de Pablo) and their daughter Tali, in Europe, and that they are forced to go on the run while trying to work out who is after them.

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Weatherly and de Pablo were careful not to give away plot points, but did talk about how and why the series came about. “We wanted to take these two characters away from the Agency and put them in a world, and the world that was attractive to us was international,” de Pablo said.

She added that wherever her and Weatherly went they were being bombarded with the same fan questions: “It was always like, ‘whatever happened to Tony and Ziva, do you think they’ll ever get back together, where are they?’ And all of a sudden, we had the opportunity to put it together into a show.

“We’re trying to address all of these questions, and the idea of trust, and how they move forward… they’re trying to make things work while also parenting and having a lot of challenges thrown at them.”

Weatherly said the show should really be called Tony, Ziva & Tali because the couple’s daughter will play such an important role, shaping the story and introducing “a new element of trouble.”

“Every choice that Tony and Ziva have to make in their adventure, their child is first and foremost in the front of their mind,” Weatherly said. “When we were on the NCIS the mothership, we didn’t have children.

“When you have a child, you have to navigate what is best for them. And then maybe you have a co-parent that you have a tumultuous relationship with… and oh, wait, we also have to save the world.”

In the core NCIS show, Weatherly’s character had left after Ziva’s presumed death to look after their daughter. When Ziva was discovered alive, the pair were ultimately reunited in Paris. Weatherly said the first choice was to shoot in Paris, but that was derailed by the Summer Olympics in the city: “Budapest will stand in for parts of Europe and the cameras will move some very exciting other places.”

Weatherly and de Pablo are exec producers – as is series writer and showrunner John McNamara. Filming is set to begin in four weeks. The lead actors both talked about the fact their show switches up the tried and tested NCIS format with a showrunner who has not worked on another series in the franchise: “It’s not an evergreen, procedural, it’s not structured the same way,” Weatherly said.

He admitted the change had the team asking themselves some serious questions: “Will the audience show up for that? Are we shooting out of our weight-class here with a different kind of story? John [McNamara] is not from the NCIS universe, so we’re introducing a new voice. I think those things that might a few years ago have been to our detriment became assets when people started really understanding streaming.”

Brian Dietzen and Wilmer Valderrama Want In

Could other NCIS stars make an appearance in Tony and Ziva’s spinoff? Dietzen, who plays Dr. Jimmy Palmer on the mothership, is game. In a lighthearted moment during a press event, he was asked about the spin-off: “I’m so happy for Michael and Cote and think John McNamara is going to do a fantastic job for them,” he said. “It sounds very atypical for NCIS as far as the storytelling because it won’t be a case-of-the week type of show. That said, if they say: ‘Hey we need Jimmy Palmer on a plasma screen’ at any point, I’d say hell yes, that’d be fun, I’d do that in a heartbeat.”

Fellow NCIS-er Valderrama said he would also like to some European action for his character in the mothership series.

“I’ve explored so much, I have got to do a lot of good things… but I’d like to maybe have my character be undercover somewhere in Europe, to leave Washington DC and have my character embedded in Italy, France or London,” he said.

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