A Farewell to ‘NCIS: LA’: LL Cool J Looks Back on Sam’s Journey
It was back in May 2009 that viewers first met the Office of Special Projects, as part of a backdoor pilot on NCIS. That September, NCIS: Los Angeles premiered, and 14 years later, it’s saying goodbye after a fantastic run of cases, family, and, of course, explosions.
Ahead of the official NCIS: LA sign-off, TV Insider chatted with cast members to hear about their favorite memories and get their thoughts on their characters’ endings (no spoilers, we promise!). Next up, ahead of the series finale on May 21, is the man who plays Sam Hanna, LL Cool J.
What is your favorite moment from NCIS: LA that is really representative of your character?
LL Cool J: In the series premiere, when I walked into the bullpen with my arms outstretched, like I was flying a plane and we were taking off. I had a lot of great stunts, and a lot of crazy fun things happened. But that day I remember very vividly.
Which episode or scene was the most physically challenging?
A lot of fight scenes were crazy — running and jumping and exploding. I don’t know if it’s the most physically challenging, but the craziest one for me was riding the horses, because I’ve never been a master of horseback. Whereas Miguel [Ferrer, the late actor who played Assistant Director Owen Granger from 2012 until his death in 2017], he was the coolest man in the world. He looked like something straight out of a Western. He handled horses with ease.
What was the most emotionally challenging?
When Sam’s wife Michelle [Aunjanue Ellis] passed away [in the 2017 episode, “Uncaged”] and he had to dig into that. Finding a way to tap into those types of feelings, that was definitely emotionally challenging, gut wrenching.
Did you take something from set as a memento?
I took my Hanna bulletproof vest with the knife in it, my holster, a chair, a couple of little knickknacks that were on the table in the boathouse. I took one of Callen’s shirts because, just seeing Chris [O’Donnell] in that shirt all those years, I wanted to make sure I had that. Those things bring special memories, a special vibe, and they’re very meaningful to me.
Which trait from your character will you strive to keep alive in yourself, in your real life?
That he tries to look out for those around him, he cares about people. He’s always looking to help. I love that quality of Sam. He’s a strong person. He’s fearless, he’s courageous, and he’s always willing to lend a hand to those in need who are weaker. That’s a great quality.
Are you happy with how Sam Hanna’s storyline wrapped up and did you have any input into it?
I don’t know that Sam Hanna’s storyline was totally wrapped up. His dad is off in the home and he’s dealing with that. But the best is yet to come for Sam Hanna. So we’ll see. Hopefully you never know what can happen.
NCIS: Los Angeles, Series Finale, Sunday, May 21, 9/8c, CBS (CBS Presents A Salute to NCIS: Los Angeles, an Entertainment Tonight special, May 21, 10/9c)