Vanessa Lachey on What Fans Can Expect When LL COOL J Joins 'NCIS: Hawai'i' (Exclusive)

Sam Hanna is heading to The Aloha State!

Vanessa Lachey is thrilled to welcome LL COOL J to Hawaii! ET was on the set of the third season of NCIS: Hawai'i, when the actor, whose real name is James Todd Smith, brought Sam Hanna, his NCIS: LA character, to The Aloha State.

Lachey, who plays Jane Tennant on the franchise's Hawaii iteration, gushed about the addition to the cast, which came after LL COOL J wrapped a 14-season run on NCIS: LA.

"Todd fits in great," Lachey told ET. "... He fits in like he's part of the family. That is the beauty of NCIS, and the beauty of casting as well. They put so much thought in their characters, into their agents, and there definitely is a camaraderie that they have. It's an unwritten and unspoken rule, and I think more so in Hawai'i. We welcome everyone with open arms. It's called our Ohana for a reason. We've definitely welcomed him."

Lachey added with a laugh, "He fit right in, just smooth and silk, but don't tell him I said smooth and silk. I don't want it to go to his head."

The actress additional noted that she is thrilled to have LL COOL J around as much as possible, for both personal and professional reasons.

"First of all, Vanessa Lachey would keep him here because he's constant entertainment, but I would be a terrible Special Agent in Charge if I didn't keep Sam Hanna in Hawaii and utilize him for what he can give," she said.

As for how his transition to the island life has been, LL COOL J told ET that it's "just a different world, but I'm enjoying it."

"Los Angeles is obviously much more cosmopolitan. Hawai'i is an island, and it has an island vibe, and an island feel. There's definitely a good energy and a charm," he said. "... A lot of the tensions that exist on the mainland don't really exist here. They're much more subtle. Its volume is turned way down on a lot of the social and political rhetoric that may be so prevalent on the mainland... It's just good energy and a good vibe here."

When it comes to his season 3 arc, LL COOL J teased, "We're delving into this special unit that Sam was a part of called NCIS Elite. He has a lot of tricky things associated with NCIS Elite. It's a top secret thing, a little pilot program. He's talking to Jane about it, things transpire, different things happen. Sam's on a mission. I promise you, it's always a surprise, baby."

Not a surprise is the NCIS franchise's continued success, as it gears up to celebrate its 1,000th episode.

"I still can't believe I'm a part of this incredible franchise. To be the newcomer -- the baby at three seasons -- and to be able to celebrate 1,000 episodes of a television show, I don't know if people really know how big of a feat that is," Lachey told ET. "... I'm just honored and I'm constantly humbled and I'm very grateful. But I also don't take it for granted."

LL COOL J agreed, noting, "It's pretty amazing. It feels nice to be a part of a big franchise like this. It's one of the biggest television franchises in the world and the fans are embracing it and loving it. It's pretty impressive."

The reason for the franchise's success, LL COOL J speculated, is thanks to "the banter, and the fun, and the humor combined with the action."

"The fact that it really delves into things that are going on in the real world," he added as another reason the franchise continues to be popular. "... The cases may be more condensed and we may solve them a lot quicker, but ultimately, we're dealing with stuff and stories that are out there. There's an endless supply of material and writers really care about what they're writing."

Lachey concurred, noting, "Every time I get a script I know it's going to be something that I'm going to have to live up to and that excites me."

"I think that that's why this team is so great at what they do; they don't get complacent," she said. "... They want to keep bringing it to the fans, and they want to keep reinventing it, and they want to keep evolving it. I mean, we brought Sam Hanna to Hawai'i. Who knows what's gonna happen next! That's what I love about it."

Season 3 of NCIS: Hawai'i will premiere Feb. 12 on CBS.



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