Innovative rap music superstar LL Cool J made the successful transition to actor/musician in the 1990s, with several major films and a TV series to his credit. Born James Todd Smith in Queens, LL Cool J established himself as one of the major figures in rap music in the 1980s and '90s; he made his movie debut as himself in the 1985 rap movie Krush Groove. Although LL Cool J also appeared as himself in B.A.P.S. (1998), his 1990s movie career revealed that he had the acting chops to go with his musical talent. Following roles in the light-hearted cop movie The Hard Way (1991) and the ill-fated fantasy Toys (1992), LL Cool J spent four seasons as one of the stars of the primetime TV sitcom In the House (1995-1999). During his years on TV, LL Cool J also showed his dramatic versatility in the romantic comedy Woo (1998), crime dramas Caught Up (1998) and In Too Deep (1999), and horror sequel Halloween: H20 (1998). After starring as potential shark bait in the mutant mako actioner Deep Blue Sea (1999), he finished the decade by winning critical kudos as an immodest football player in Oliver Stone's sports drama Any Given Sunday (1999). Hit former career in music all but forgotten, LL Cool J would give action films a shot with Charlie's Angels (2000) and Rollerball (2002) before living up to his real life reputation as a ladies man in the comedy Deliver Us from Eva. Starring as the stud wrangled into taming Gabrielle Union's shrew Eva, LL Cool J notched his first romantic comedy lead and took another step away from his musical past by billing himself under his real name. Following the less than stellar Eva, LL Cool J added his voice to the animated Rugrats Go Wild (2003). Further bolstering his action movie credits (and returning to his street moniker), LL Cool J then joined the multicultural cast of Samuel L. Jackson's elite police squad in the summer popcorn movie S.W.A.T. (2003). Later, the rapper-turned-actor's role as Sam Hanna in a two-part 2009 episode of NCIS led to regular work on the spin-off series NCIS: Los Angeles, as well as a crossover appearance as the same character in the 2010 Hawaii Five-O revival.
Biography by Lucia Bozzola
- Stage name was shortened from the original "Ladies Love Cool James."
- 1985 debut single "I Need a Beat" was also the first song released on the Def Jam recording label.
- Appeared in the 1985 hip-hop movie Krush Groove; first lead role was in the 2003 comedy Deliver Us From Eva.
- Has written several books, including an autobiography in 1998, I Make My Own Rules.
- Launched his own clothing line, Todd Smith, in 2008.