Chris O’Donnell is one of several actors who first found fame in movies, and in recent years has reinvented himself has a TV star. While many actors who make this transition end up struggling before they land on a TV series that has staying power, O’Donnell did not have that experience, since his first starring role in a TV series (as lead agent G. Callen in the crime drama series “NCIS: Los Angeles”) has been an instant hit since the show debuted in 2009.
NCIS stands for Naval Criminal Investigative Service. “NCIS: Los Angeles” (a spinoff of long-running series “NCIS”) has its Season 3 premiere September 20, 2011 on CBS at 9 p.m. Eastern/Pacific Time. The stars of “NCIS: Los Angeles” visited Comic-Con International 2011 in San Diego to promote the show. Before they took the stage for the “NCIS: Los Angeles” discussion panel, I sat down with O’Donnell for this interview.
What can viewers expect in Season 3 of “NCIS: Los Angeles”?
I’m probably not the person to ask about this. I don’t know what Shane [Brennan, creator/executive producer of “NCIS: Los Angeles”] would say. But obviously, the season premiere picks up right where we left, right at the beach, in the sand.
It’s funny to come back two-and-a-half months later to kneel in the sand, where I had finished the last season. In fact, I sent a picture out on Twitter, of just this building in the background, and within a minute, people were like, “That’s from last season!” They remember all that.
So we pick up right there. There’s something very familiar about this area for Callen. He’s trying to figure out why. In the meantime, Hetty [Lang, played by Linda Hunt] is in trouble, and they’re going to go find her. And maybe Callen will learn a few things along the way.
Are we ever going to found out that the “G” stands for in G. Callen’s name?
I hope so.
Do you know?
I don’t. I’ve never pressed my luck with Shane [by] demanding to know. I would assume he’s got that all figured out, but you never know.
How has Hetty’s replacement (Lauren Hunter, played by Claire Forlani) affected Callen?
It’s a different dynamic, obviously, Claire is a very talented actress, and I enjoy doing scenes we’ve had thus far this season and last season. As far as Callen is concerned, she’s an outsider, and she shouldn’t be here. And why does she seem to know things about Callen that he doesn’t know? I think Callen doesn’t totally trust her.
How do you find balancing the comedic elements with the drama of “NCIS: Los Angeles”?
It’s great. It’s easy. It makes it fun. It’s the comedy, it’s the drama, it’s the action. We get to do all of it. I love having the banter with Todd [LL Cool J, who plays agent Sam Hanna] on the set. I love my scenes with Hetty that tend to be a little more personal. And I run around these cars with the guns with Kensi [Blye, played by Daniela Ruah] and [Marty] Deeks [played by Eric Christian Olsen], breaking down doors, and getting the bad guys.
How injured do you get during the scenes involving fights or stunts?
We get banged up once in a while. They always want us to be really careful. I have a great stunt guy, Eric [Linden], who doubles for me. They set up these elaborate stunts, and they’re all padded up.
I do dumber stuff at home. “Let me do that real quick. I can guarantee you I can do this very fast and get this done.” You have to be responsible, but at the same time, they’re sometimes overly cautious.
“NCIS: Los Angeles” has a lot of cutting-edge technology. In your household, who’s the most tech-savvy person and who’s the most techno-phobic person?
I’m definitely the most tech-savvy in my family. My wife wouldn’t have a clue, as far as getting the computer working. All of my kids, it’s amazing. Like everybody’s kids, they’re more savvy than I am, probably.
The computer seems easy because Apple makes the products so easy to use at home. It’s the simple things, like getting the TV set up or getting the speakers to work. That drives me crazy. Or which input [option] do you press to get the cable on. I just want to watch the NFL. [He laughs.]
Do you want more of Callen’s background to be exposed or do you want it to remain a mystery?
I like that it the fact that it’s mystery. That makes it interesting to play. It opens up a world of possibilities in Callen’s own brain. He runs into people or he sees certain things or he has certain feelings or emotions that come out of nowhere. It triggers certain memories, and it can be very confusing.
He lived with many different families. You try and put yourself in those shoes for somebody that lived that life. I came from a stable upbringing, and the idea that the idea that somebody went through that is fascinating. I just try to put myself in his shoes.
But do you think Callen wants his background to remain a mystery?
No. He wants to know what’s going on. He wants to know everything and he wants to know it now.
Are the show’s writers/producers going to reveal anything new about Callen’s background in Season 3 of “NCIS: Los Angeles”?
They definitely are.
[Says jokingly] Since you played Robin in two “Batman” movies in the 1990s, who do you think would be the Batman of “NCIS: Los Angeles”?
I don’t know. I’m just glad we’re not wearing tights.
For more info: “NCIS: Los Angeles” website
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