Special Agent Tony DiNozzo is leaving NCIS, as actor Michael Weatherly confirms he will leave the CBS drama after being on the popular program for 13 years since it started in 2003. Weatherly said that his character was fun to play and that he considered his stint on the show a fantastic ride.Weatherly thanked fans for their support via his Twitter account, and says that he is leaving NCIS at the end of the season, but it isn’t known whether the character will be killed off or merely leave another way.

Agent DiNozzo leaving NCIS, details unknown at this time

NCIS is the #1 rated TV series that portrays the activities of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service and its agents. The program is set in Washington DC, and there are also spinoffs that feature agents in New Orleans and Los Angeles.Weatherly (47) is leaving NCIS despite the fact that he told interviewers several years ago that the DiNozzo character is essential to the show. His character provides comedic relief amid all the serious tones, and is essential in brightening mood.

He's one of the original actors on the show, and Weatherly says he's going to miss the cast and crew that have been like family.

Departure plot could include resignation, move to Israel

He says that they haven’t decided on how his character will depart the show, but says there's plenty of time to work all that out. Fans have already been speculating on possible ways the DiNozzo character could leave, such as transfer, promotion, or even by being killed.

It wouldn’t be the first time a lead character was killed off, as it happened in Season 2 when Sasha Alexander (who played Special Agent Kate Todd) was killed off.

Agent Ziva David (played by Cote de Pablo) replaced Todd, and when she left the program the writers had her resigning and moving back to her home country of Israel. Fans also talked on Facebook about the fact that the DiNozzo character was in love with Ziva and so one possible plotline could have him heading off to chase after her in Israel.

Weatherly to remain at CBS to work on other projects

It's doubtful fans will know anytime soon how Weatherly’s character will be written off NCIS, but Weatherly himself will be staying at CBS in other roles.The network says it's looking forward to developing new projects with Weatherly.

The show airs on Tuesdays at 8 p.m. EST on CBS.

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