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Michael Weatherly goes from ‘NCIS’ into the world of Dr. Phil on ‘Bull’

‘Bull’
Phil “Dr. Phil” McGraw, center, with Geneva Carr and Michael Weatherly at the Television Critics Assn. press tour Aug. 10.
(Richard Shotwell / Invision/Associated Press)

“We all know it’s the National Crop Insurance Service,” joked actor Michael Weatherly about the meaning of the acronym “NCIS,” the show he called home for 13 years. (Of course, it’s actually Naval Criminal Investigative Service.)

The hit series inevitably became a topic of conversation during the Television Critics Assn. panel for Weatherly’s new CBS legal drama “Bull,” premiering Sept. 20, following, handily, the season premiere of “NCIS.”

When asked whether he had an lingering questions about his former job portraying Special Agent Tony DiNozzo, Weatherly said, “When I got in the elevator for the last time I thought, ‘I understand it all. It’s time to leave before I have another question.’”

On “Bull,” Weatherly plays Dr. Jason Bull, an attorney based loosely on the legal career of TV’s Dr. Phil McGraw — better known, even to some of the cast, as Dr. Phil. McGraw is one of the executive producers of the show, and he was quick to point out there’s a lot separating him from his fictional counterpart.

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“This is not autobiographical, this is not biographical,” said McGraw. “I want everyone to know that this is fiction.”

“All conversations with Phil McGraw are protected by attorney-client privilege,” joked Weatherly about Dr. Phil’s input into his role. “Jason Bull isn’t Phil McGraw — and I think that’s a great relief to Phil.”

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But McGraw did joke about his physical resemblance to his fictionalized younger counterpart in Weatherly, “We’re really kind of twinkies,’’ he said.

Weatherly sounded as if he relished the change of scenery from “NCIS.”

“It’s not relief, but it is an amazing change and discovery,” he said of moving part-time to New York to shoot “Bull” and one hour later on the CBS schedule. “I mean, not only because that was an extraordinary, unique ride. I mean, 13 years, it really felt like a circle that had gone all the way around and I really felt happy with the resolution of the character and my time on the show.”

He also explained that he enjoyed the simple act of not having to wear a plastic gun every day. “So you didn’t wear a gun?” he asked McGraw, seated behind him.

“As far as you know,” he replied.

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