Michael Weatherly doesn’t seem like the star of “Bull” so much as its gracious host – at least, if you’re visiting the Brooklyn sound stage where his new CBS drama is filmed.
Oh, there’s no question Weatherly is the show’s leading man. He’s got the title role of Dr. Jason Bull, whose mix of psychological training, gut instinct and predictive algorithms has made Bull the nation’s go-to jury consultant.
But there’s no sign of Weatherly pulling rank with either co-stars or crew. Between shots, he strolls through the expansive high-tech set meant to represent Bull’s Trial Analysis Corporation as he chats up his colleagues, occasionally tossing off a joke. The easy grin on his face is no performance.
No wonder. Having excused himself earlier this year from “NCIS” after 13 red-hot seasons, he is now off to a good start with his own series (airing Tuesdays at 9 p.m.).
“This has been an absolute dream experience,” sums up Weatherly, 48.
One of his goals for “Bull” has been to replicate the esprit de corps of “NCIS,” where he played Tony DiNozzo, one of its special agents investigating crimes that involve the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps.
He points to his former “NCIS” mates David McCallum and Mark Harmon, adding that Harmon drew on his experience with ensemble dramas “St. Elsewhere” and “Chicago Hope” to bond the “NCIS” cast.
“He empowered us,” says Weatherly. “I’ve tried to bring some of that to this show.”
“Bull” is a different kind of drama. Inspired by the early trial-consulting days of “Dr. Phil” McGraw, it “deals with human behavior and empathy and insight,” Weatherly says. And different from DiNozzo is his character Jason Bull, whose cardigan sweater and owlish black-rimmed eyeglasses signal someone “non-threatening, more professorial, not trying to be cool.”
Weatherly remains inspired by the philosophy of Jeff Bridges as set forth in his 2012 book “The Dude and The Zen Master.”
“He says: Think of the song, ‘Row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream. Life is just a dream.’ You do the work, go with the flow and be happy. It would be a great thing at the end of a hard week if our crew feels we had successfully rowed our boat gently down the stream.”
For Bull, it’s not that simple.
“He’s like a vampire for observing human behavior. He can’t help it. How would it be, hyper-analyzing things all the time? What a pain to live like that!”