Michael Weatherly spent 13 years as special agent Anthony DiNozzo on NCIS, but in May “it was time for DiNozzo to go off and become his own man,” the actor tells PEOPLE. “And I guess the same could be said about myself.”
Now Weatherly is leading a team of social savants on Bull, a new drama inspired by Dr. Phil McGraw‘s pre-talk show days when he used psychology to help clients like Oprah Winfrey. (He consulted when she was sued by the beef industry in 1996; she ended up winning the case.)
Luckily, the actor feels that his years of experience in Hollywood have prepared him for the role.
“I definitely think being an actor you are forced to be a little bit of a psychologist just by virtue of the fact because you are playing someone else,” says Weatherly, 48. “You have be compassionate and understand what the context of their situation is and why they are making these choices. Bull in his predictive analysis is really – he’s an expert, almost like a casting director of knowing what someone will do.”
He adds, “There are people in advertising and politics and all over the place that do the same thing Bull does in the legal field.”
Although he’s previously sat in the director’s chair for two episodes of NCIS, he has a more permanent behind-the-scenes credit to add to his résumé. In addition to starring on the new CBS drama, Weatherly is also serving as a producer – a position he says family life has prepared him for.
“It’s exciting to step into a leadership role,” he says. “It’s been a transition, but I was ready for it. I’m a father [to August, 20, Olivia, 4, and Liam, 2], so I’m used to being in a position of authority – although, really, my wife [internist Bojana Jankovic] is the boss.”
Bull premieres Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET on CBS.