Starting Sept. 22, NCIS fans will double their pleasure when CBS' high-rated procedural is followed by the series premiere of NCIS: Los Angeles. The much-heralded spin-off concerns the L.A.-based Office of Special Projects and its own team of Special Agents, led by Chris O'Donnell and LL Cool J. Here, the man who famously rapped about "Going Back to Cali" reveals how he landed in Los Angeles this TV season.
TVGuide.com: That was quite a performance you gave at the CBS upfronts. [LL Cool J surprised the crowd with a rousing performance of "Mama Said Knock You Out."]
LL Cool J: Oh, thank you, man. I had a good time with that.
TVGuide.com: Had you been on the hunt for a TV gig?
LL Cool J: I had a deal with CBS for about three years, and we were looking for the right show. We tried a few things and they weren't really right, but when this opportunity came along, I met with [NCIS boss] Shane Brennan and we clicked instantly. It felt like the right thing.
TVGuide.com: Tell me about the first meeting between you and Chris O'Donnell. How did it go?
LL Cool J: Very, very cool. We're culturally from two different places — obviously I've got an urban, inner-city vibe, and he's more of an outside-of-Chicago kinda guy. Our musical tastes are really different, our upbringings... So it was cool to have this New York guy and this Midwest guy getting together.
TVGuide.com: Does Special Agent Sam Hannah rap, like as a hobby?
LL Cool J: [Laughs] No, no, no.... I'm going to allow this to be a new chapter in my life!
TVGuide.com: What skills might you have to learn for the role?
LL Cool J: Well, he speaks Arabic and is fluent in a few other languages, and he deals with a lot of technology.... I have my hands full.
TVGuide.com: What was your reaction when Oscar winner Linda Hunt was added to the cast?
LL Cool J: It's hot. From what I hear, there's going to be some really cool dancing between me and her. She's gonna be in my face.
TVGuide.com: And I reported last week that Rocky Carroll is going to be on both shows.
LL Cool J: That's really, really cool — it ties the shows together nicely.
TVGuide.com: Now, tell me about MasterCard's "Break In a Pair of Jeans" campaign, for which you are a spokesperson.
LL Cool J: Anyone who uses their MasterCard [through Aug. 31] gets automatically entered into the contest. They can get a free pair of jeans, but the real cool thing is that they can win four tickets to anywhere they want to go. You can then break in your jeans anywhere you want.
TVGuide.com: One of the prizes is $200 to buy a pair of jeans. Does two bills buy LL Cool J a pair of jeans?
LL Cool J: Absolutely! My [Sears line of] jeans are maybe $50, so yeah, you can definitely buy LL Cool J jeans. The other cool thing about the MasterCard campaign is that at the Major League Baseball All-Star Game, they're going to have banners hanging up at the Home Run Derby. If a player hits a banner, MasterCard is going to donate a million dollars to Stand Up to Cancer. It's a very, very cool promotion and something I'm proud to be a part of.