[Editor’s note: The following contains some spoilers for Season 3 of NCIS: Hawai’i.]
The Big Picture
- LL COOL J enjoys playing his character, Sam Hanna, in ‘NCIS: Hawai’i’ and finds the new environment and cast refreshing.
- LL COOL J had no doubts about continuing to play Sam Hanna, after closing the book on ‘NCIS: Los Angeles’ and its 14-season run.
- Sam Hanna’s multifaceted traits allow him to be a watchdog, friend, and achiever, making him a unique and strong character.
While NCIS: Los Angeles came to its conclusion after 14 seasons, that’s not the end for Sam Hanna (LL COOL J), as he makes his way over to NCIS: Hawai’i as a recurring guest star for Season 3. In the premiere, Special Agent in Charge Jane Tennant (Vanessa Lachey) had to contend with Sam being the one to have to sign off on her return to work. Anyone familiar with Sam Hanna knows that he is uniquely qualified at understanding what it’s like when work bleeds over into the personal, and you have to handle the tricky balance between duty to country and your family. It will be an interesting adventure to see how Sam will both challenge and support Tennant and her team when he pops up this season.
During this interview with Collider, LL COOL J talked about why he wasn’t done playing Sam Hanna, his character’s unique point of view, having new adventures within the NCIS franchise, putting his heart and soul into everything he does, what most impresses him about Lachey, how the funniest moment in the Season 3 premiere came about, and being a big believer in the fact that dreams don’t have deadlines.
- Release Date
- September 20, 2021
- Matt Bosack, Jan Nash, Christopher Silber
- vanessa lachey , Alex Tarrant , Noah Mills , Jason Antoon
LL COOL J Says His Move to ‘NCIS: Hawai’i’ Is a New Location but the Same Sam Hanna
Collider: What’s it like to spend so many seasons on NCIS: Los Angeles playing Sam Hanna, and then pick him up and relocate him to Hawaii, surrounded by a different cast? Once a character is that familiar, do you feel like you can just drop him anywhere and he’s still Sam Hanna?
LL COOL J: Any place you put Sam Hanna, he will be Sam Hanna, that goes without saying. He’s always gonna be himself. That character has a certain point of view when he looks at the world. He protects those around him and he’s willing to risk his life to protect the people around him. That’s just who he is. In terms of being around new people, it’s just a completely and totally new experience. It’s fresh. I enjoyed my time on NCIS: L.A., and this is a wonderful new journey that Sam has embarked on. It’s great. I’m enjoying it. I’m having fun. They made me feel welcome.
Was it a no-brainer for you to continue playing this character? Were you immediately in to do this, or did you need a moment to think about whether you wanted to continue on with him?
LL COOL J: I have fun playing San Hanna. There wasn’t really that much to debate on. Obviously, I have other things going on in my life, but that being said, I really enjoyed playing the character. It was fun. There was really no reason not to. I like to see things all the way through, and if they wanted the character to live on, I was like, “You know what? Let’s have some fun. Let’s do it.” I enjoy it. This has never been laborious for me. I’m having fun.
The third season of the ‘NCIS’ spin-off will see the return of more familiar faces from across the ‘NCIS’ universe.
And now you certainly have an incredible view while working in Hawaii.
LL COOL J: Yeah, the view is something special. Sam cut his teeth in L.A., but it’s definitely something special with the views, the island, the culture, the people, and the energy.
On a personal level, you’ve made an impact on hip-hop and you’re carving out a place in TV history. Are you surprised that you’ve had such success that has also been lasting and enduring success, in not only one branch of the entertainment industry, but more than one branch. Are you someone whose work ethic is such that you were just going to be focused until you reached that level of achievement or have you been surprised by all this?
LL COOL J: That’s an interesting question. I just live in the moment and like to have fun. I never really gave it that much thought, in terms of making history or creating history. I always just follow my instincts, follow my intuition, have faith, and have fun. I’m only doing things that I’m really inspired to do and that I really love, and I try to do things with the fans in mind. I know there are people that were raised on my music. I know there were people that were raised with me on television. There are a lot of people that know me for a lot of things, and I just put my heart and soul into whatever I do. That’s it.
LL COOL J is a Big Believer that Dreams Don’t Have Deadlines
It’s pretty cool to see it all converging at a time when the decades of hip-hop are being celebrated while you’re also part of a hugely successful TV franchise when there are very few of those.
LL COOL J: It’s amazing. I’m very thankful. I’m grateful. And I am definitely having a good time doing this. Who would have thought? I write down my goals and my dreams, and I go out there and try to make them happen. I’m a big believer that dreams don’t have deadlines. You’ve gotta know what you want, and then you’ve gotta be willing to go after it and get it. That’s what I do.
We see Sam coming in this season as a bit of a watchdog for Jane Tennant’s well-being. What’s it like to be that sort of presence? Is it fun to be in a position where you can bring some tension along with some wisdom and support?
LL COOL J: Sam is multifaceted. The things that he does and the way he interacts with all these characters, you’re gonna see a lot of different sides of Sam. For me, with Sam Hanna, it’s very simple. He follows orders. He gets an order, and he follows it out, to the best of his ability. That’s who he is. Once he has orders, he’s the one who makes the decisions on how to bring those orders to fruition or bring the objective to fruition. He will achieve the objective. And so, when he needs to be a watchdog, he’s a watchdog. When he needs to be a friend, he’s a friend. When he needs to be the chef, he’s the chef. He’s a guy of many hats. That’s what makes Sam special. He’s a really unique and strong character who’s very grounded and centered. He has a lot of sides to him that make him a bit of an enigma in a lot of ways because it’s hard to get to know him. He’s a special character.
If any of this is real, we’re all in big trouble.
What does Sam like about Tennant? What most impresses him about her? And similarly, what most impresses you about Vanessa Lachey?
LL COOL J: For Sam, the fact that she’s decisive and confident and is willing to put herself in harm’s way goes a long way. When you have a team, especially him, coming from a SEAL team, he understands how important trust and loyalty and courage are. Sam has seen Tennant under fire, and he’s seen her under pressure, and he likes how she responds. In terms of me watching Vanessa, I’m just happy that she’s getting to live out her dreams. I couldn’t be happier for her, just to see somebody go after what it is that they love. I remember when she was hosting TRL (MTV’s Total Request Live), so to see her come full circle and do all this is really cool.
LL COOL J Says the Funniest Moment in the ‘NCIS: Hawai’i’ Season 3 Premiere Was Scripted
The chair gag in this episode was hilarious to me, with the guy lifting up the chair to hit you and you telling him to sit in it. That’s such a funny moment. Was that something that was always in the script? Is that something you found on the day? How did that come about and what was your reaction when you found out about that moment?
LL COOL J: It was a great moment. It was in the script, but we worked out how it would go. It could have gone a lot of different ways, and I just felt like that was the funniest way. He just realized it was over. On the day, it came together that way, working with the stunt crew and everybody together. It was a team effort. We just came up with a thing that we thought would be funny, at that moment. We’re out in Vegas, this crazy stuff is happening, these hackers are in this room, and he comes with the chair. It just felt right to me. We just played it that way.
Is there anything that you can do or are hoping you’ll be able to do on NCIS: Hawai’i that you couldn’t do on NCIS: Los Angeles? Are there things that you’d still personally like to explore with Sam that you haven’t been able to yet?
LL COOL J: You figure out something new to explore every day. I don’t think it’s about anything that’s been missing from NCIS: L.A. I just look forward to more exciting adventures with Sam in Hawaii. There are new people, new environments, new chemistry, new energy, but it’s the same Sam.
NCIS: Hawai’i airs on Monday nights on CBS and is available to stream on Paramount+. Check out the trailer for Season 3: