Chris O’Donnell and LL Cool J have something very heavy weighing on their minds.
As the stars of the new CBS drama NCIS: Los Angeles, neither is really concerned about leading a television series for the first time in their careers.
Critical reception of their NCIS spin-off about the Office of Special Projects, a team of covert operatives tasked with apprehending elusive criminals who pose a threat to national security, is probably the least of their worries. What’s gnawing at the veteran film actor and seminal rapper is whether or not fans of the original series will enjoy the show.
How appropriate, then, for the pair to confess their unease in an old Spanish mission.
“My biggest concern, and I think for most of us, is to please the current NCIS fans first and foremost because there are very loyal fans and a huge following,” says O’Donnell, who is sitting on the set of OSP headquarters, a converted mission, and plays Special Agent “G” Callen in the series.
“If new people tune into the show, that’s great, but I feel more pressure to live up to their expectations than I do maybe to the network or the studio expectations, to be honest with you.”
LL Cool J, who plays Callen’s partner, Special Agent and ex-Navy Seal Sam Hanna, hopes fans of NCIS will tune in — particularly because the original regularly makes the Top 10 in ratings — but isn’t making predictions on the success of his show.
“I think the main thing for us is approaching (the show) with humility and being clear that nothing is guaranteed, that our job is to do the best work that we can,” he says. “Obviously, we want to maintain the current NCIS fan base. We don’t want to, you know, make them have an allergic reaction to what we are doing on screen.”
Last time on NCIS: Los Angeles …
• NCIS: Los Angeles was launched as a spin-off during a two-part episode of NCIS last season. It concluded with L.A. lead Chris O’Donnell, who plays Special Agent “G” Callen, lying bloody on the sidewalk after being shot. The official series premiere picks up four months later, executive producer Shane Brennan explains.
“It’s Callen’s first day back on the job, and we see his scars,” Brennan says. “We literally see his scars. And he rolls into this new venue (the Office of Special Projects headquarters seen in the NCIS episodes was compromised after Callen’s shooting), and away we go from there.
• NCIS: Los Angeles begins airing Tuesday night on Global