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LL Cool J comes to 'NCIS: Los Angeles'

September 20, 2009|Choire Sicha

LL Cool J returns to television in the new spinoff show "NCIS: Los Angeles," opposite Chris O'Donnell (and Linda Hunt), on Tuesday. The singer's first album came out nearly 25 years ago; now he has four kids. He also runs Boomdizzle, which is like a record label, "Star Search" and a Sears clothing line rolled into one.

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So you're gonna disappear from New York.

I'll be bicoastal! But I'm not going to uproot from New York. I'll get a crash pad.

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You don't have a plane, do you?

No. . . . I use public transportation.

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But you do have a bodyguard.

My security is not so much for, like, tough-guy rapper mode. My security is more for, every now and then it gets tough for me to get through airports. I'm one of those familiar guys. It's more like I'm standing there, signing pictures, missing flight after flight after flight.

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So did you have to audition for this show?

No. We had a deal in place. I met with Nina Tassler and Nancy Tellem and Les Moonves, I met with the whole team early on a couple years ago when we did a deal. I had a show prior to this one that we worked on that we didn't quite get right. So we all decided to take a beat but stay in business together. I ended up meeting with [exec producer] Shane Brennan -- I said that's a great look for me, the brand is big and because the brand is special and because I think that, you know, that will really give us an opportunity to succeed. . . . I feel like I'm getting on a winning team. It's like joining the Lakers . . . Like I always tell Chris, and he teases me about my quotes, but I tell him, "Teamwork makes it dreamwork." But ultimately that's what it's all about and we want to get people excited . . . I had great meetings with Mark Harmon.

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In this day and age, you see it more and more with brand extensions: They don't really fail.

I hope it doesn't. I'm not trying to downplay who I am -- I know my value -- but this is a great situation for me to be a part of. Then when I got to know Chris . . . and I saw how different we were culturally, I'm not talking racially, but culturally, we're very different. He's a really Midwest guy, who grew up listening to like some rock and some country with some rock, a whole different world. You could have two white guys or two black guys and they'd be so similar culturally that there's no difference.

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OK, I'm going to go there: I was watching the Michael Jackson funeral and thinking: Black men in America haven't come that much further since 'Thriller.'

I think that having an African American in the White House is a long way from "Thriller"! A black man couldn't get on MTV then. But I will say that there's more room for growth for America as a whole. I don't see the world in black and white. And I think that has been a great transformation as a guy who came from the inner city and grew up in a really black environment and the blackest music, hip-hop. Now we're much closer to what Dr. King meant when he talked about judging people by the content of their character.

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It goes away as a new generation takes over.

When I'm sitting around with my kids in the house, we're not saying anything racist. There's not any funny talk going on. So I know there's a lot of households that aren't black where there's also no funny talk going on. I think we're all doing it, man. I'm proud to be an American, and am happy to put my hand on my heart and say the pledge, for real. My grandfather was in World War II -- in the medic corps, so he was down and dirty.

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It has happened that people overextend their brands. And they're happy to because they're getting paid.

I'm an entrepreneur, and I'm a capitalist, and there's nothing wrong with that. Hey, if you're in America and you've got a job, you're a capitalist. You're a capitalist because you're participating in capitalism. But that being said, it's not about doing anything for money. I had a lot of time to get the "new car, new car, new car, gold chain" out of my system, so I'm not saying this from some pedestal. This is 25 years later, you're not talking to this guy who's been doing this seven years and is just now seeing these unbelievable checks. Now, well, I already have a cellphone, I don't need another one.

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Unless you work out that balance, you feel weird being rich.

I feel very normal. I don't have issues with the money thing. I keep it simple and I don't live in fear, I don't live cocky, and I know it can all go tomorrow but it can all be here for a lifetime. And it's all right to pick up the Good Book now and then. I know a lot of academia may not necessarily be supportive of that -- the scientific community might have an issue with that, there might be a few MIT guys who question that --

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It depends on whether you --

I believe in the Bible. But for me it's not about, you know, are you a Baptist, are you a Protestant, denominations and all that. I just want to --

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Yeah, the Bible's tricky. That's all fine, as long as you don't come out against evolution.

No, I don't necessarily think creationism and evolution have to be mutually exclusive. It's all about how you look at it.

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