Being a rap artist may not seem like the perfect background for playing undercover agent Sam Hanna of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service on CBS's 8 p.m. Tuesday sophomore hit "NCIS: Los Angeles," but LL Cool J — aka James Todd Smith III, or Todd, as he's known on set — has picked up a few skills along the way.
He says he's a "good shot" and is a few lessons short of being a certified scuba diver — helpful for playing a former Navy SEAL — but he did have to get better at one thing that just wasn't as important in the music world.
"The one thing I've had to learn the most? I guess, it's being on time," LL Cool J says.
On this day on the set of the show's Los Angeles headquarters, a refurbished Spanish mission built inside a soundstage at Paramount Studios in Hollywood, a new episode is just starting, one LL Cool J says will reveal more about Hanna's background.
"Without giving it up," he says, "we go into Sam's past in a real deep way."
Fans already know Hanna's Navy history and that he served in the Middle East. "That's the macro," LL Cool J says, "now we deal with the micro, which is what took place when he was in the Middle East, what took place when he was a SEAL, what took place in his life that shaped and molded him into the man he is today."
In the first scene, the agents are being briefed on their latest case, a missing military officer in possession of serious cyberinformation. Finding the officer isn't just a case of running and gunning, as LL Cool J has discovered.
"I've had to learn the whole idea of how every little piece matters, and how one spark can set a prairie on fire. It's actually more about the thought process than the running and gunning. The running and gunning comes later, after you put some thought into it."