LL Cool J is looking back on his time on NCIS: LA.
The longtime star of the outgoing CBS procedural reflected on playing Special Agent Sam Hanna for 14 seasons in an exclusive sit-down on the ET stages with Nischelle Turner on Thursday, where he acknowledged he has learned quite a lot from playing the same character for a decade and a half.
“Taught me a lot,” he shared. “Because day in and day out, I work with people from all over the country and all over the world. You know, I would have never been exposed in the same day. I have one guy celebrating Rosh Hashanah and another guy from West Virginia and another guy who’s in a biking thing and another guy who’s Irish and… this person from the islands, and I’m working with all of these people every day. So you learn.”
“You learn that people are people. You learn that people are human and all of those unconscious bias that you have that makes you hesitate to embrace certain types of people, all that falls away because you realize everybody’s the same,” LL Cool J continued. “It’s different, but we the same, you know what I’m saying?”
With his character constantly in the line of fire due to his day job, the 55-year-old actor-rapper said Sam’s mentality and approach to life has, in some ways, spilled over to his real life off set.
“The way he thinks,” he elaborated. “They have to think strategically. His understanding of military strategy, all of those things, you can’t help but learn it because you’re in it every day. How they approach life. The difference between strategy tactics and operations — all of that helps, but just the humanity, that for me it was just… It’s just a dope character.”
“He’s a very strong, solid character,” LL Cool J added. “I mean, it’s 322 episodes. Pretty good. Not bad. Not bad for a kid from Queens.”
But he assures he’s not closing the door on Sam Hanna even if NCIS: LA itself is ending with its final episode May 14.
“No, no. He’s still alive, unless the script says otherwise,” LL Cool J said, leaving the door slightly ajar for a possible return within the NCIS universe. “Sam Hanna is still out here and ready to pull his gun out and preserve democracy.”
As far as what his legacy will be, LL Cool J — who has been in the business since the 1980s — is leaving that up to higher powers.
“I’m gonna let God take care of all that. I’m just gonna do what I’m led to do,” he answered, “and inspired to do.”
“It’s like your string. Your spirit has a string and it’s being pulled. And a lot of people, they try to break that string or do everything, but where that string is pulling them, I’m just gonna go with where that string pulls.”
At the GRAMMYs earlier this month, LL Cool J opened up about NCIS: LA ending.
“Well, I gotta tell you it’s not hard at all,” he told ET. “CBS did an amazing thing with us; it’s been an amazing run. We talking about 14 years. We not talking about two-and-a-half, three years and ‘Oh it was fun while it lasted.’ This was 14 years.”