LL Cool J and Chris O'Donnell Tease the 'NCIS: LA' Finale: Fans in for Surprises
After 14 seasons, NCIS: Los Angeles is coming to an end with its final episode airing May 21 on CBS. It will be a hopeful ending. Callen (Chris O’Donnell) will finally tie the knot with longtime girlfriend Anna (Bar Paly). Parade was at the wrap party for the series, and had the opportunity to speak with the four main cast members: O’Donnell, 52; LL Cool J, 55, who plays Sam Hanna; Daniela Ruah, 39, who plays Kensi Blye; and Eric Christian Olsen, 45, who plays Marty Deeks.
What has being on NCIS: Los Angeles meant to you?
Chris O’Donnell: It was an amazing gift. It’s a tough business that we’re in. I’ve been very fortunate to have a lot of success. Typically, it’s taken me all over the world and it’s a little bit of a gypsy lifestyle. To have a show that filmed in Los Angeles that went for 14 years is so beyond my wildest dreams because it allowed all five of my kids to be in the same school and not miss out on what their friends are doing. I got to be home, even though I was working really long hours, to either see them in the morning or at night, one of the two. It was just the best.
From a professional standpoint, we’re actors, we want to act. You don’t get to do it a lot. You’re hunting for jobs and then you do your job and that’s kind of it. It’s different than if you’re a theater actor and you’re on stage every night and constantly doing shows. We got to film, I don’t know, 2,500 days. We were just cranking out pages. You learn a lot about your abilities. Forget the 10,000 to make yourself an expert; we got 20,000 or 30,000 hours.
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LL Cool J: It’s grown me as a human being. I learned more humility. It made me appreciate people more. I understand people from all walks of life a lot better now. Because before this, even though I did some TV and film, I had a pretty insulated life in terms of being in the music game mostly. So, I was primarily around music people, which is kind of homogenous. [With this] I’m meeting people from all over the country, all different ethnicities, religions. It teaches you that human beings are all the same deep down in their hearts. A lot of the things that they want, a lot of their desires, hopes and dreams, beneath the surface there’s a lot of similarities. So, you feel that love. You learn a different type of respect for everything.
Daniela Ruah: It has made me grow into a woman and into a mother with a husband and two children. The show put me on the map in terms of this business. This is my first major job. Somehow, I was lucky enough that it lasted this long. It has really given me an opportunity to try different things and see what works and see what doesn’t work in terms of performance, in terms of exploring a character; in terms of all those things.
If you’re in a movie, every scene is so incredibly important because you only get to see 50 scenes in a movie. But when you’re in a show with over 300 episodes, you get to try stuff. Especially once your character’s become established and the audience loves that character, you can now step out of line of that character a little bit. So, I learned to take a few risks and try some things and if it doesn’t work it’s OK, I have another episode to go back to.
This has made me grow all around as a person, an actor, a professional. And, of course, I started directing on the show, so that was a whole new skill level that was introduced.
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Eric Christian Olsen: There are so many parts of this. We’re talking about 14 years. It’s high school, college, PhD, residency in one show. I don’t even know how to fully articulate it because life is so different and the opportunities that came from this, not only as an actor but writing an episode, shadowing people that I love and learning how to do everything and now producing on the side—which has become more of a full-time job—none of those things would be possible without the support of our writers and our producers and CBS. I can’t say enough about how remarkable this experience has been.
Will fans be happy with how NCIS: Los Angeles ends?
O’Donnell: I think they’ll be very pleased. I think that they’re in for a few surprises. I think they’ll be touched. And I think that Callen’s definitely at peace. It was a combination of not just the finale but the episode before that really focused on wrapping up a lot of his storyline. It was satisfying for me as an actor because you want to come full circle with everything. Have some closure.
Cool J: I think people will enjoy it.
Ruah: Oh, yeah. I think the audience is going to be really happy. It’ll be wrapped up in a very nice little bow.
Olsen: I do, because this is not plot driven as much as it’s emotionally driven, and so that’s an easier arc to end because you’ve played so much out as far as where these characters are going and what they’re searching for. The emotional button, I think, is easier to find than a plot-driven show where you have to have some giant reveal and some massive thing happens. I think between Callen and Sam and Kensi and Deeks, we’re going to have an ending that keeps people excited and fulfilled.
Next, Chris O'Donnell, LL Cool J and the Cast of 'NCIS: Los Angeles' Reminisce on Their 14-Year Run