“Call me LL… LL is fine,” the 43-year-old rapper, actor, author and star of "NCIS: Los Angeles" confidently says over the phone.
His real name is James Smith, and his famous alias, LL Cool J, is an acronym for Ladies Love Cool James. Raised in Bay Shore, New York, this multi-talented star has visited Japan many times. Right from the beginning of our interview, LL makes it clear he is sending his love and prayers to all those people affected by the recent Tohoku disasters, adding that he feels sure “they’ll do an excellent job recovering.”
Best known for romantic ballads like “I Need Love,” “Around the Way Girl” and “Hey Lover,” LL explains that "NCIS: Los Angeles" — now going into its second season — takes place within the special operations office of the Naval Criminal Investigations Service.
“We do sting operations, we do busts, we do surveillance, we do all the work involved with terrorists, people that are threatening democracy or anyone who might be a threat to the safety of the public, especially if it’s perpetrated by anyone against the Navy, certain parts of the military, Marines, etc…”
LL, a former Boy Scout and paperboy, plays Agent Sam Hanna, a former Navy Seal. “My character is a very, very focused guy. He’s all about protecting his team and the people around him, and it’s very important for him to do whatever’s necessary to make sure the good guys win.”
On the show, Sam Hanna is fluent in Arabic and an expert on the Quran. LL, who in real life dropped out of school to pursue a recording career, adds that Hanna has made use of those specially-acquired skills to better understand his targets’ backgrounds.
I was curious to know if LL could speak any Arabic. The Def Jam rapper responded with some Arabic-sounding terms, but I wasn't sure if he was just pulling the Afghan over my eyes. However, the in-demand superstar, who started rapping at the age of nine, did say, “I’ve definitely been studying [the Arabic language] so that I can understand what I’m saying and so I can understand the culture.”
When asked if he could actually rap in Arabic or if he’s considered busting out any Arabic rhymes in one of his songs, he impulsively adds: “No, no… I don’t think you want to hear me try that.”
To train for the part of Sam Hanna, LL said he visited Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, where he met and engaged in in-depth conversations with members of the special ops. “These are guys who are willing to put their lives on the line and they gave me a lot of insight, helping me to understand why my character does what he does.”
Since he brought up the Navy Seals, I asked his opinion on the way they handled the recent bin Laden situation. LL paused for a moment, then said with confidence, “I think they definitely won that chess game. Checkmate. And the tournament’s still ongoing.”
LL admits not having been a fan of "NCIS" before he got the part, but after checking it out he enjoyed the banter, energy and vibe of the show. As he says, “I got into it!”
"NCIS: Los Angeles" airs weekly on FOX Japan: Fri 9:30-10:30 a.m. & 8-9 p.m., Sat 12-1 p.m., Sun 9-10 p.m., Mon 3-4 p.m.
This story originally appeared in Metropolis magazine (www.metropolis.co.jp).© Japan Today