LL Cool J's NCIS Hawaii Role Explained: Why He Joined the Spin-off

By Richard Nebens Posted:
LL Cool J, NCIS Hawaii

NCIS veteran LL Cool J gave longtime viewers a pleasant surprise with his unexpected return in the new spin-off NCIS: Hawaii.

While he is perhaps best known as a Grammy-winning rapper/producer, LL Cool J became a fan-favorite in the NCIS universe, playing Special Agent Sam Hanna in all 14 seasons of NCIS: Los Angeles. This came after he was first introduced in the two backdoor NCIS: LA pilot episodes that closed out NCIS Season 6 in 2009.

Sadly, NCIS: LA came to an end in 2023 after its 14th season, leaving fans wondering if they would ever see LL Cool J or his co-stars reprise their roles as the NCIS universe pushes forward.

Why Is LL Cool J on NCIS: Hawaii?

LL Cool J in NCIS: Hawaii
NCIS: Hawaii

In the Season 2 finale of NCIS: Hawaii in 2023, LL Cool J unexpectedly reprised his role as NCIS Special Agent Sam Hanna as he joined the Hawaiian team in the spin-off.

Following that appearance, Variety confirmed LL Cool J would be back for future episodes, announcing that he would be a recurring star in NCIS: Hawaii Season 3.

A combined statement from executive producers Matt Bosack, Jan Nash, and Christopher Silber celebrated the NCIS veteran's comeback, confirming he would add "his spectacular talent to [their] ohana (family) for Season 3:"

"All of us at 'NCIS: Hawaii' have been huge fans of LL Cool J for years and couldn’t be more thrilled or honored to be adding his spectacular talent to our ohana for Season 3."

Series star Vanessa Lachey echoed that sentiment, highlighting NCIS: Hawaii's "ability to bring the franchise together" and expressing her excitement to see Sam Hanna take on the challenges he'll see in the middle of the Pacific Ocean:

"One of the most beautiful things about working on ‘NCIS: Hawaii' is the show’s ability to bring the franchise together. We have had so much fun spreading the aloha to 'NCIS' and 'NCIS: LA' with the triple crossover. Now, we have the amazing opportunity to bring Sam Hanna to Hawaii to help the island solve some cases and maybe have a few laughs in the process. Welcome to the ohana, Todd! It’s going to be a fun ride!"

LL Cool J also hyped up his return to the show in a statement on X (formerly Twitter), exclaiming that the program "couldn’t keep Sam Hanna off the case for too long" after NCIS: LA ended in 2023:

"Couldn’t keep Sam Hanna off the case for too long!! Starting tonight, Sam Hanna will join forces with the 'NCIS: Hawaii' team as a recurring guest star in the upcoming third season. Tune in the season 2 finale of 'NCIS: Hawaii' on CBS at 10 p.m. ET/PT or on Paramount Plus for live streaming and on demand."

Speaking with Collider, the actor addressed how easy it was for him to return, noting that he "[has] fun playing Sam Hanna," and that there was "really no reason not to" continue playing the character:

"I have fun playing Sam Hanna. There wasn’t really that much to debate on. Obviously, I have other things going on in my life, but that being said, I really enjoyed playing the character. It was fun. There was really no reason not to. I like to see things all the way through, and if they wanted the character to live on, I was like, 'You know what? Let’s have some fun. Let’s do it.' I enjoy it. This has never been laborious for me. I’m having fun."

When asked if there is anything he hopes to do that he couldn't do on NCIS: LA or places he would like to explore, the actor simply explained how he "[figures] out something new to explore every day" in the role:

"You figure out something new to explore every day. I don’t think it’s about anything that’s been missing from 'NCIS: L.A.' I just look forward to more exciting adventures with Sam in Hawaii. There are new people, new environments, new chemistry, new energy, but it’s the same Sam."

In a separate interview with Hello Magazine, co-star Jason Antoon reminisced on how LL Cool J "loved being part" of the experience in Season 2, making his return for Season 3 an easy decision:

"He talks about loving what he saw with the cast and the island and he really loved being part of that. I think that's why it came to be that he's on our show now."

Antoon also used the word "cool" to describe LL Cool J and noted that the Grammy-winning recording artist brings "a different vibe."

Antoon reflected on 2023's unprecedented triple-crossover with NCIS and NCIS: LA before the Season 2 finale, remembering how LL Cool J loved being there and "really loved the vibe:"

"LL loves being here. When he guest-starred in the crossovers when Chris O'Donnell and Wilmer Valderrama came, LL really loved the vibe."

He compared it to "throwing a wrench into something" in a positive way for all the actors while also revealing that LL Cool J had the entire cast dancing and grooving on set by "blasting music" in between takes on the show:

"It's like throwing a wrench into something in a way that's only good for our show and as a group of people outside of being actors."

How Big Will LL Cool J's Role Be in NCIS: Hawaii?

While CBS confirmed LL Cool J will be a recurring guest star in Season 3 of NCIS: Hawaii, it is currently unknown exactly how many episodes he will be in during this new season.

After Sam Hanna wound up in the Moroccan desert in the NCIS: LA series finale, NCIS: Hawaii Season 2's final episode brought him back into the fold as Jane Tennant and Kate Whistler got a call from him as they were attacked in Venezuela.

Thus far, Sam Hanna has been seen in the first four episodes of Season 3, although some of the team members are growing suspicious about his true reasons for being in Hawaii in the first place.

However, even with that kind of tension, fans do not seem to be too worried about Sam Hanna's future on the series thanks to the character's place as a 15-year franchise veteran and the actor's continuing enthusiasm for being part of this team.

New episodes of NCIS: Hawaii air every Thursday night on CBS at 10 p.m. ET before arriving the following day on Paramount+.

Read more about NCIS and its spin-offs:

NCIS 2024: Release Date Schedule of New Season & Spin-offs (Confirmed)

Full Cast of NCIS: Hawaii 2024 - Season 3 Main Characters & Actors (Photos)

NCIS 2024: Ducky's Death & Tribute Explained

NCIS Hawaii: Who Is William 'Kono' Dahlin? Show Tribute Explained

- About The Author: Richard Nebens
Richard Nebens joined The Direct in March 2020, now serving as the site's Senior Writer and also working as an assistant editor and content creator. He started his journalism career as a hobby in 2019 and is passionate about sharing news and stories from the entertainment industry, especially comic book movies, comedy, and sci-fi. Richard looks to expand his knowledge about movies and TV every day, and he is eager to stay locked into the latest releases and breaking news at every opportunity.