LL Cool J Teases 'NCIS: LA' Premiere: Callen Makes Sam Cross the Line

Robert Chan
·Writer
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Season 7 of NCIS: LA starts off with a hell of a ride. Chris O’Donnell’s Callen has gone rogue and the only one who has faith that he’s not on the edge of setting off a major international incident is his partner, Sam (LL Cool J). Backing Callen puts Sam in Hettie’s sights, and there’s a considerable amount of tension between them. 

Off-camera though, they were having a blast. The whole cast gathered to watch Linda Hunt’s Hettie take down Chris O'Donnell with a taser, and LL can’t stop laughing as he recalls the scene. “She hits him with the wattage! She hits him and he tightens up!” Every other word is interrupted with gleeful giggles as he relates how Hunt, “who’s 4'5″, pulls out this taser that’s bigger than she is!” Fortunately for O'Donnell, the taser wasn’t real, though Hunt joked at the recent PaleyFest panel that she wished it was. As for the rest of the episode…

Your relationship with Callen gets pretty strained this episode. You have to decide whether or not to trust him. Is there a line that Sam doesn’t want to cross when it comes to Callen?
There’s definitely a line and he makes me cross it in a lot of different ways. Especially this episode — he puts me in a position where Sam has to choose between listening to his boss and supporting his partner. His integrity is on the line, his word is on the line, because he has to make these choices. And I think people are going to be pretty shocked by what goes on this episode.

You also get to — or maybe you have to — spend a little time with Barett Foa’s Eric as he starts to prep for the field. Is Sam being gruff with him just because, or is he really worried about him going out on assignment?
One thing about Sam is he definitely cares about his team; they’re like his family. He wants what’s best for them, he hopes they stay safe and they return to headquarters in one piece. Eric going out on the road is definitely a concern. He doesn’t want Beale to end up in captivity. He doesn’t want these guys to get in trouble, to get all Keystone Cops where the whole team ends up in jeopardy.

All teasing is all done with love, it comes from a place of love. The dynamics between these characters on this show, there’s no one that genuinely dislikes another character… Not that I know of, you know what I mean? Let me qualify that! [laughs]

What’s your favorite scene from the premiere? And is there a particular kind of scene you look forward to in general?
I thought the scene where Sam Hanna confronts Callen — it’s in the middle of the night, he confronts Callen about what’s going on, why you acting like this? — it’s a good scene. [Sam]’s tracking him, he’s watching him, they end up drawing weapons and things ensue. 

I like scenes where two characters can actually communicate. They either have a problem that they need to solve, or they’re trying to become closer to one another, but they’re communicating. I love those kinds of scenes as opposed to exposition. But the writers are very good about even the exposition being designed in a way that clarifies things for the audience but keeps the actors engaged.

At PaleyFest, we got the cryptic, “There are things that happen to Sam and his family this season.” Do you know anything about that that you can tell us?
You know what? I don’t. I really don’t. I’ve heard a couple of rumors but I don’t want to put anything out there and be wrong. But it should be pretty interesting.

Are you looking forward to working with the Hanna family again?
Yeah, yeah that’s always a lot of fun, right? Because it’s a little more personal. There are some interesting dynamics — we get to see a different side of this guy. Because most of the time, he’s either with his friends or it’s him catching the bad guys. But this is a little more tender, a little more intimate. So it humanizes the character a little more. 

What are you most looking forward to doing in season 7?
The main thing I’m looking forward is I just want to continue to have fun. To do cool action sequences, continue to tell some good stories. This show, because it’s a procedural, there are some people that may say, “You know what? We pretty much know what this show is.” But there really is great character work in this show and these characters are pretty well developed. There are some interesting things that happen and dynamics that happen between the characters above and beyond just the procedural.

I would love to continue to delve into that area so people who haven’t tried the show can get involved, and for those who have been watching to champion and cheerlead for us even more. It is a lot of fun: The relationships, the dynamics, and some good character work.

The season 7 premiere of NCIS: LA airs Monday, September 21 at 10 p.m. on CBS.