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Weatherly with Jamie Lee Curtis on NCIS
Monty Brinton/CBS

Michael Weatherly wanted to be a musician but ended up on one of the biggest shows on TV.

Interviewing Michael Weatherly, the actor best known as Special Agent Anthony “Tony” DiNozzo on NCIS, is like trying to guard Kobe Bryant: You can’t stop him; you can only hope to contain him.

What was supposed to be a quick chat evolves into a 40-minute conversation that touches on everything from the impact his parents’ divorce had on him to his admiration for his former fiancée, Jessica Alba. At one point, the self-deprecating Weatherly refers to himself as a flibbertigibbet, but we’ll just call him a consummate creative artist.

Weatherly knew he was different from an early age, idolizing comedy legends like Woody Allen and Steve Martin. “I know it seems ludicrous that an actor on a crime procedural would cite Steve Martin as a major influence,” he admits, “but in the early ’80s it made sense. I went to a coat-and-tie boarding school, and I’d make ties out of toilet paper and draw crazy polka dots on my white bucks. I adhered to the dress code but looked like a clown. Clearly that’s how I exhibited my inner turmoil.”

He channeled his energy into music when he moved from Fairfield, Conn., to New York, seeking management and recording demos. But by the time he was 24, he says, he was getting hired to be “idiot boy in front of a camera.” Despite music being his real love, it seemed the universe was pushing him to be an actor. “A confluence of events kept happening to get me in acting,” he says. “It was strange, because I didn’t really care about the acting — but maybe that’s why it kept happening.”

Before long, Weatherly became a soap-opera hunk on Loving, earned roles in films like The Last Days of Disco and found himself a tabloid favorite while dating Dark Angel co-star Alba. Since 2003, he has been a staple on the hugely popular NCIS. For a guy who never really wanted to be an actor, Weatherly seems content.

“I’m not as slim as I used to be,” he confesses with a laugh. “But I’m very happy, just enjoying this moment. I’m still young enough to chase a bad guy and tackle him but not so young that I’m making the errors I’ve made in the past. The most important people in my life are all still here, and I’m grateful. What do the Japanese call it? It’s cherry-blossom season. Cherry blossoms only come out for two weeks every year. This is my cherry-blossom season, and I’m having a good time.”