Michael Weatherly may have been used to traveling coast to coast as Tony DiNozzo on NCIS, but the 48-year-old actor admits it's much more challenging in real life.
"It's very difficult to be away from the children -- that's the hard part," he told ET's Leanne Aguilera at CBS' Television Critics Association press day on Wednesday while promoting his new show, Bull. "My wife is an adult and she has a better sense of time and knows this will only be a certain period of time. With the kids, you know, one day when you're two years [old] is actually a considerable percentage of your entire life, so it feels a bit longer."
While time apart from his family has been tough, Weatherly says that technology -- namely FaceTime -- has made it much easier. "My daughter went into my closet the other day smelling my clothes because she missed me so much," he confessed to ET following Bull's TCA panel, sharing that his family will soon be visiting him in New York for three weeks. "That really -- when a 4-year-old says, 'Daddy, I love the smell of your clothes,' you're like, 'Oh, geez.'"
The former NCIS star has been traveling between Los Angeles, where his family is based, and New York, where he stars as Dr. Jason Bull in the new CBS fall series based loosely on Dr. Phil McGraw's early days as a trail consultant. And the father of three has no shame in crediting his children for helping him transition from ensemble actor to leading man.
"My 4-year-old and my 2-year-old 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," Weatherly told a handful of reporters after the panel. "NCIS was really crucial and instructive, but in terms of being front and center, it’s only scary in the way that fatherhood is scary."
"It's amazing and challenging," he added of his experience filming Bull. "Every day, I don't even use an alarm clock to wake up. I wake up at 4:30 and I'm ready."
The new role is quite a departure for Weatherly, who spent the last 13 years portraying DiNozzo on NCIS, but in his mind, the two characters might have actually gotten along.
"I don't think the universes are so entirely different," he told Aguilera, adding that it would be "fun" to have some of his old co-stars on set. "DiNozzo would think Bull was full of bull until he got to know him, and then he would have a deep, high regard for the Bull."
"The interesting thing to me about Bull is it's not a law show necessarily, because when you're getting into why people are going to go one way or the other in a jury and that sort of predictive analysis, it’s really like looking at how they are going to vote in an election," he continued. "People do fall into certain patterns of behavior and I think that is horrifying and fascinating."
Bull is set to premiere Sept. 20 at 9 p.m. ET on CBS, right after NCIS -- and Weatherly couldn't be happier.
"The coveted timeslot!" Weatherly boasted to ET in May. "We all know this is a blessing we take very seriously. We all jumped up and down, but then we took it seriously."
See more in the video below.
Additional reporting by Philiana Ng.