We love Michael Weatherly, and when he left NCIS we were lost. After all, he had been on the show for 13 years, and now he was just… gone.

So naturally, we were excited to hear that he’s headlining this new CBS show, Bull, and despite the fact that his character has hair on his head, not under his nose, it’s based on [and exec produced by] Dr. Phil McGraw, who ran a trial-consulting firm before Oprah discovered him.

So before the show kicks off next Tuesday at 9/8c, we chased him down to find out wtf is up with that. He only gave us a few minutes, but that’s more than we had before. Here’s what he had to say about his old role, his new role, and his hair.

“My character is the leader of a team, but he rules with a more inclusive approach and a little bit of a mind fuck along the way.”

You were on NCIS for 13 years. Why did you leave?
NCIS was an extraordinary, unique ride. But it 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. I wasn’t burnt out by NCIS, but I was ready for a new challenge. This came about at the right time. Sometimes a change is as good as a rest, and that’s what this has been for me. What’s hard is that this shoots in New York City and my family [wife Bojana and three kids] is in Los Angeles. We FaceTime three times a day and they come to visit.

What are the biggest differences between playing DiNozzo and Bull?
I solve problems the same way as an actor, but it really requires a lot of different muscles. I wake up every morning and I pinch myself that I have this opportunity, and I’m deeply grateful and humbled by it.

Do you see a similarity between them?
I think there is. The DiNozzo that is in him is that he has a twinkle in his eye. But Bull’s a little bit more expansive in his thinking. DiNozzo needed Gibbs to sort of sit on him and hold him down, and mentor him. He needed that approval and validation and that inclusion. Bull is the leader of a team, but he rules with a more inclusive approach and a little bit of a mind fuck along the way. One of my inspirations was Marcello Mastroianni’s character in 81/2—he’s trying to direct a movie but it hasn’t quite come together so he’s faking it a little bit. Bull does the same until he gets the answer. He’s trying to figure something out and at the same time projecting an air that he already knows it.

Hence the name Bull.
Yeah, people ask if it’s his name or is he full of shit. It is a play on that, but also “strong like bull.” I think he’s probably a Taurus. A minotaur: half man, half bull. Or a bull in a china shop.

What’s it like to play a character based on a real person that’s living and can tell you what he thinks—and is one of the producers?
Jason Bull isn’t Phil McGraw, and I think that’s a great relief to Phil because that would be heavy to have to try and keep that thing going every week. I didn’t want to be imitating him. But I did ask key questions and it was really instructive to see his reactions. When you really get to know people is when you find out the stuff that makes them them. I want to create a dynamic, interesting character that audiences can have fun watching but that feels somehow familiar.

What aspects of your NCIS experience did you want to carry over?
Everybody knew what they were doing. We were free and loose and none of us wanted to play any other character. There was no envy. Everyone was having fun, collaborating and helping each other. I’m really trying to foster that at Bull. One of the most rewarding and wonderful aspects of NCIS was going to work, loving all the people that I got to know so well and that I miss every day, and really trying to take that apart and understand what made it so good so I can I apply that to this environment. It doesn’t happen overnight. You have to put yourself at the service of the greater thing, not acting like you’re the guy, but saying, “We’re in this together.”

“My hair is a wig—Shatner’s wig from T.J. Hooker. I have a team of highly paid professionals who take care of it.”

But you’re the star here. Do you feel any pressure in carrying the show? Does it scare you at all?
It’s only scary in the way that fatherhood is scary. My kids have taught me an extraordinary amount about what it means to be a leader, what it means to be in charge, how to have patience. It’s an amazing challenge and every day I don’t even use an alarm clock to wake up. I wake up at 4:30 and I’m ready to go.

You have an enviable head of hair. Any grooming secrets?
It’s a wig—Shatner’s wig from T.J. Hooker. I have a team of highly paid professionals who take care of it. And the designer stubble.

What does it mean to be a gentleman in 2016?
We did an episode on Bull about gender bias—opening doors for people, is it chivalry or chauvinism? I think what matters is paying attention to the social mores of the world you live in, listening and being open-minded. The viewpoint I have is I open the door for my mother and for my wife. I have a clear understanding with them about that.

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