LL Cool J on 'NCIS: Los Angeles'' "Tough" Sam Storyline, Falling for On-Set Pranks

"This is going to be my seventh season as a pincushion over there," the star tells THR about his castmembers' propensity for targeting him.
Courtesy of CBS
A still from Monday's 'NCIS: Los Angeles'

The next time NCIS: Los Angeles' LL Cool J (Sam) sees his face on the cover of a magazine, don't blame him if he's a little skeptical. 

The CBS procedural is currently airing its seventh season, and Monday's episode centers on the team investigating a Peruvian massacre from 20 years ago after a rumored survivor is facing new threats.

LL Cool J spoke to The Hollywood Reporter about what's next for Sam and Callen's (Chris O'Donnell) partnership, all the pranks he has fallen for on set — no, not every magazine cover he's appeared on is available on newsstands — and which of his castmembers would emerge victorious on Lip Sync Battle, the Spike competition series that he hosts.

We've seen Callen having a tough time and going off the grid to start the season. What will his relationship be like with Sam after that?

It puts Sam in a tough spot because he has to choose between listening to his boss and taking orders, and supporting his partner. And I think that that definitely has an effect on their relationship moving forward. But we'll see where it goes. 

It sounds like there's some big stuff for Sam coming up this season.

Yeah, we learn about his family. We delve a little deeper into his personal life. We find out more about what makes him tick. One little tidbit is how he turned down a football scholarship in order to join the Navy, and why he did that, so there's some interesting stuff that comes up.

What is the dynamic like on the set after seven seasons? There have got to be some pranks. 

Come on, man — the pranks don't stop. This is going to be my seventh season as a pincushion over there. (Laughs.) They prank me out — it's crazy. 

What's the biggest one you've fallen for?

All kinds, all kinds. Fake magazine covers — all kinds of stuff. (Laughs.) Believe me — it gets foul, too. It's not just all polite. 

What are some things that go on behind-the-scenes that would surprise viewers?

Everybody enjoyed seeing Callen get Tasered [in the season premiere] — that was phenomenal. The crew gave him a lot of applause for that — it was phenomenal — as he fried. [Also,] craft service is the worst enemy. It's your worst enemy. (Laughs.) It's so good. They'll have you looking like a sumo. 

But you must work out constantly.

I do, I do. I stay in the gym. I try to get an hour, hour and a half [per day].

What will it take to get the NCIS: L.A. cast on Lip Sync Battle

I'm totally open to the cast coming on, you know what I'm saying? It could be fun. It's just a matter of scheduling. They got to do NCIS: Los Angeles, and we film around the same time. If everybody's on Lip Sync Battle, then who's going to be doing NCIS: Los Angeles? But if we figure it out, I'm definitely open to it.

Who would win?

I don't know! They're all so talented. Renee [Felice Smith] (Nell Jones) and Barrett [Foa] (Eric Beale) are very talented — Barrett is a Broadway guy, Renee is a dancer, Daniela [Ruah] (Kensi Blye) is talented.

What would you like to see Sam doing more of, or where are you hoping he's headed?

I think he's doing what he has to do. Probably interacting a little more with his family, which I know is coming up this season. Continuing to do great action scenes, which is happening. It's working — it's all good.

What's been the most fun scene of the new season to shoot? 

We're only four or five episodes in, so it remains to be seen, but we've done some crazy scenes already. We've blown up some stuff — we've blown up some buildings, flipped some cars over, blown up cars. It's been crazy.

How does this season differ from previous ones?

I think it's a little innovative. I think the writers got even more creative. Sam goes deep undercover in some new episodes — he has to go deep undercover and do some things he's never done before, interact with some really dangerous people, so that's going to be exciting. We get to learn more about his ability to go undercover and adapt in the moment. 

What's the secret to staying on the air for seven seasons?

You know what? If I knew the secret, it would be 70. But what I can tell you is that it's just giving respect to people, giving love for people, not taking it for granted, being excited and grateful and happy that people are into your show. And trying to put the best work out there you can. 

How many more seasons as Sam do you have in you?

I don't know, man. I want to see. Let's get through seven, and we'll see what happens from there. (Laughs.) One season at a time. 

What other projects are you excited to be working on?

I'm excited [to be] working on a lot of new music — about to celebrate 30 years of the release of Radio, celebrating 25 years of the release of Mama Said Knock You Out

NCIS: Los Angeles airs Mondays at 10 p.m. on CBS.

Email: Ryan.Gajewski@THR.com
Twitter: @_RyanGajewski

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