LL Cool J talks about NCIS: Los Angeles, the Grammys and more

The high-action TV series NCIS: Los Angeles, about undercover agents working in the Special Projects division of the Naval CIS Office, will be returning to CBS this Fall for its fourth season. To celebrate the launch, star/musician LL Cool J talked to local media this morning about the show. He also discusses what it was like having to host the Grammys the day after learning of Whitney Houston’s tragic death, what message he’d like to send young viewers and how he balances his family life. Tribute was there and we’ve got some of highlights of what the actor had to say.

On the success of the series:

“If we could just achieve the level of chemistry that the original show had, that would have been amazing to us. We’re still striving to get there but we feel like we’re going in the right direction. You never know with these things. Nobody was sitting around like, ‘We have the recipe for success.’ It was none of that going on. We were just kind of lucky enough to become a part of something that seems to work and we’ll continue to try to do the best job we can for you guys. For those who haven’t seen it, who haven’t checked it out, I hope they give us a shot because it’s pretty entertaining TV.”

On what’s coming up for his character Sam Hanna, a former U.S. Navy SEAL turned Special Agent:

“It’s one of those things where we get surprised just like the audience, no lie. The writers are always coming up with something for us, something fresh, something creative. I know that my character, we will delve more into my character’s personal side of his life and his relationship.”

On acting like a superhero and if it’s something he always wanted to do as a kid:

“Growing up as a kid, I always wanted to do something heroic. I used to watch movies about guys like Bruce Lee and those great heroes. Getting a chance to play a real life hero — you know we talk about those in the military in Egypt. They go out there and risk their lives to preserve democracy and the Western way of life. I think that it’s cool to be able to represent that on an international level and represent that mantra and that ideology in a positive way. And it’s not one-sided, it’s not judgmental. It’s just the good guys versus the bad guys. It’s fun to be on the good-guy side.”

On what he would like to see happen with his character on the show:

“I think they have done a good job of keeping me engaged, keeping me excited, I think delving into the sensitive side of this guy’s life, his humanity, his vulnerabilities, all these good things. We do play superhero types but I think it’s important that the character stays human because a lot of the times, that’s something that I think people can relate to, humanity, because everybody’s not bulletproof.”

On hosting the Grammys and being compared to previous hosts:

“The Grammys were bittersweet for me because of Whitney Houston’s passing. It made it very difficult and really different. So I never really got a chance to give myself the personal pat on the back. But that being said, before all of that happened, I knew from the beginning that I’m not Billy Crystal. I’m not gonna match that level of comedy, I’m not gonna be that guy. So it was pointless for me to try to go there. I just felt like I needed to be myself and just have fun and not take it too seriously and try to welcome the audience into this world.”

On preparing to host after getting the news of Whitney Houston’s death less than 24 hours before show time:

“I had a dinner that night. I was in the bathroom on the phone, on my cell phone, every 15 minutes speaking to the producers, speaking to [Executive Producer] Ken Ehrlich, speaking to people at the network, just trying to figure out what we could do to give her the proper respect because you don’t get a second chance to get something like that right. This is someone’s legacy and someone’s life and millions of people are watching. And it’s tough because we have a lot of people like Aretha [Franklin]. So it was just a lot of conversations and I just felt like the only way that I could interpret it personally was through a prayer. But I didn’t want to try to force anything on the rest of the world. That was just my personal way of trying to get through it.”

On hosting again next year:

“We don’t know yet. We’ll see. If they come to me I’ll gladly accept but you never know. So we’ll see what happens.”

On getting behind the camera and whether he would ever consider directing:

“I’d like to focus on acting right now. I’m okay with being an artist. I do a lot of different things but I don’t have to do everything. I’m having fun. I’m just acting and that’s okay.”

On what it’s like on the set of NCIS: Los Angeles:

“We have a very positive set — check your ego at the door, we’re here to have fun. It’s not about which movie you were in or what world you’re from. It’s about what we’re doing now. Like I always tell the guys on the set, teamwork makes the dream work. That’s like the mantra on the set so I make sure that they go by that. Chris [O’Donnell] and I, we try to make sure we have fun — light, good vibe, not a lot of chest bumping and bravado and nonsense because let me tell you something, when you deal with somebody 12 ,15 hours a day, believe me, if there was a personality clash it’d be obvious. You have to maintain that balance.”

His message for teens and younger audiences:

“With the teens, I think ultimately it’s about understanding first that dreams don’t have deadlines but at the same time, you have to get started. I think procrastination is probably a teenager’s worst enemy. You’re sitting around, you’re  procrastinating, saying, ‘I’m young. I have time.’ And the next thing you know you’re 35 and you got to do what you always wanted to do. It happens quickly. So I would advise teens to, you know, get it going. Don’t say, ‘Oh I’ll get to that hurdle. Oh, I’ll get to it.’ You have to get started with it. That’s one of the things I encourage my kids to do, get rolling. I told my son the other day. I said, ‘Listen, you have goals but you have one column where it says this is what I’m about to do or thinking about doing, and you have a column of this is what I’m doing. Now I want you to look at your goals and look at those two columns and you tell me where both of your goals fit.'”

On balancing his career with family life:

“I do my best. I try to prioritize. When my daughter has a volleyball game I try to make sure she sees me on the sidelines. I try to make sure I go to the soccer games, I go to the dance recitals, I do the father-daughter dances…I’m participating. I don’t want to just throw my kids to the wolves. So I’m trying to make sure that they understand why I’m out doing the things that I’m doing but at the same time I do love them and they deserve to have a father that cares about them and wants to make sure they grow up in the best way possible. I don’t spoil them either. ~Soriyya Bawa

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