Following NCIS: Hawai'i Cancelation, LL Cool J Reveals How He's Stayed Relevant In Hollywood Over The Long Haul

 LL Cool J in NCIS: Hawai'i screenshot.
LL Cool J in NCIS: Hawai'i screenshot.

Only a select number of stars are available to maintain true longevity within the Hollywood landscape. Some have their “moments” of fame, while others stick around and remain relevant for decades. LL Cool J is such a star who’s been able to remain popular for years. And, in that time, he’s not only delivered widely loved music but has solidified himself as a solid actor, especially through his work on the NCIS franchise. He most recently appeared on the Hawai’i spinoff, which was canceled just a few weeks ago. Now, the actor is opening up about how he’s stayed successful and sought-after for the long haul.

It would be a gross understatement to say that the 56-year-old star – whose real name is James Todd Smith – is one of our most successful entertainers. He’s produced a wide array of songs, many of which found success on the charts. There’s also his two Grammy Awards, two Billboard Music Awards as well as a smattering of other honors, including his status as a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. And, of course, one has to mention his lengthy tenure in the role of Sam Hanna, which he originated on NCIS: Los Angeles in 2009. While appearing on an episode of The Shop, LL and a number of others discussed the idea of staying afloat in the business, and the multi-hyphenate laid down some sage wisdom:

You can be blessed. You work hard. You put the energy in, right? Your attitude determines your altitude, you know what I’m saying? And a lot of people, you know, in order to be successful for a long time, you can’t… it’s a few things. 1. It means you ain’t lazy. The other thing is, you have some people who they’re successful, but they’re over it.

I couldn’t agree more with the knowledge that the entertainer threw down. His sentients conveyed the notion that one must have a positive attitude, in addition to strong work ethic, if they want to go far in the entertainment industry. Within that argument, he made a particularly strong point about the danger of becoming complacent after one becomes famous. In the YouTube clip, the “Mama Said Knock You Out” performer expanded on that thought with the following comments:

They just can’t wait to get off practice or get out of here. Everything’s about what I gotta do over there. At the same time, they’re kicking and screaming about the things they claim they want with that attitude, you see what I’m saying? … You got some vets who are over it, and some vets that treat it like they’re rookies forever.

Sure, that method could help a person hold onto their high-profile status for a while. But, in the long run, it may not help one attain the kind of durability that LL Cool J referred to:

To me that is a huge part of long-term success. Like decades as opposed to 10 years and what happened.

More on LL Cool J

NCIS: Los Angeles' LL Cool J as Sam Hanna in NCIS crossover
NCIS: Los Angeles' LL Cool J as Sam Hanna in NCIS crossover

What's The 'Secret Sauce' To Keeping NCIS On The Air For More Than 20 Years? Calling LL Cool J 'Todd' Has Something To Do With It

It’s not hard to see why LL Cool J has managed to remain so beloved by the Hollywood community and the general public. What I appreciate even more than his talent, though, is the sheer amount of work he puts in. I mean, he did 14 seasons on NCIS: LA, before it was canceled and, all the while, he took on other jobs like hosting the Grammys and co-hosting Lip Sync Battle. The star particularly had quite a “ride” while working on NCIS and other ventures, and one would hope that his work within that franchise isn’t done.

Many were pumped when it was confirmed that he’d be heading to NCIS: Hawai’i and reprising his role as Sam Hanna. His recurring role was mostly well received and was one of the reasons why it was so crushing when the program joined the list of shows ending or canceled in 2024. There are other series in the media franchise that are still airing or are set to be made, though it’s unclear whether the rapper will return as Sam at some point in the future.

Whatever happens on that front, though, I’d expect LL Cool J’s star status to remain intact. He’s firmly etched his place in the history of music, TV and film (with the third being through roles in movies like Deep Blue Sea and Any Given Sunday). So, given his desire to work hard, don’t be surprised if he pops up on your screen again sooner rather than later.

You can stream LL Cool J’s NCIS: Hawai’i episodes using a Paramount+ subscription, and keep checking the 2024 TV schedule for information on other shows that are premiering or returning.