|Michael Weatherly with new co-star|
Geneva Carr in CBS' Bull.
When Michael Weatherly decided to leave NCIS after a 13-season run, his respite turned out to be incredibly short lived. Weatherly’s Anthony DiNozzo said goodbye to the Major Case Response Team on Tuesday night, May 19, and by Wednesday morning the actor was on the red carpet at New York’s Carnegie Hall, talking about his new character, trial consultant Dr. Jason Bull. “I got about an 8-hour break,” Weatherly says with a wink.
Just a few months earlier, as he was preparing for his final scenes on the megahit, CBS had approached Weatherly with the new procedural drama Bull, whose lead character is based on the previous career of talk show host Dr. Phil McGraw. Attracted by the talent behind the new project – not only McGraw, but producer Steven Spielberg and writer Paul Attanasio, creator of the acclaimed medical drama House, M.D. – Weatherly signed on to play the brilliant and brash Bull – after a brief moment’s hesitation. The actor was already familiar with the real McGraw, the founder of one of the most prolific trial consulting firms of all time, whom he finds to be “a really fascinating character: part Machiavelli, part P.T. Barnum. When we met, I asked him if he’d ever had a moment of insecurity, and he just stared at me and said, ‘No.’” And so, when offered the chance to portray McGraw’s alter ego, Weatherly admits that “Initially I was scared, because I didn’t know if I could play such an intense character. And then I realized that that was why I should do it.”
Of course, Weatherly’s version takes some artistic license – “I don’t have a bald cap and a moustache waiting in my kit bag,” the actor jokes – but Bull is “inspired by the world that Dr. Phil understands so well.” Joining Dr. Bull within that milieu are Freddy Rodriguez as Bull’s ex-brother-in-law Benny, the defense attorney at the company’s mock trials; Geneva Carr as a neurolinguistics expert who honed her skills working for the Department of Homeland Security; Annabelle Attanasio as a helpful hacker; Chris Jackson as a stylist and image consultant; and Jaime Lee Kirchner as a former NYPD detective-turned-private eye.
Bull’s team works to analyze jurors’ backgrounds and behaviors, creating strategies to tip the scales of justice in their clients’ favor; it’s a discipline that most of us laymen never knew existed. As Rodriguez enthuses, Bull brings us “a side of the legal drama that I had never seen before.” In fact, Weatherly predicts, after watching the show, most of us will never look at jury service the same way again: “The next time you serve, you’ll realize that people are paying attention to you – noting where you went to school, and whether you like cats or dogs.” Trial consultants can sway us “by getting really granular on human behavior,” he notes – “and every week we’ll investigate how it’s done.”
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