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LL Cool J's Career Heats Up

In the new film "S.W.A.T", James Todd Smith, aka Grammy Award-winning LL Cool J, plays officer Deacon "Deke" Faye, an outstanding beat cop with an impressive arrest record, who has just been picked to join the LAPD's elite crime enforcement unit.

The handsome performer tells The Early Show co-anchor Harry Smith how his hard work is paying off.

Though acting is somewhat new for LL Cool J, he notes he has been seriously studying the craft for five years. Working with Samuel L. Jackson on this movie gave him the opportunity to see "a really great actor at work."

He says, "Sam is obviously an extremely talented actor. He embraced me. He doesn't always play the warm and fuzzy character, but behind the scenes, he's a really nice guy. We had a lot of long interesting conversations about acting, works in film, working in theater - different conversations about the craft of acting in general. He gave me a lot of good advice."

The film also offered him the opportunity to learn how real SWAT teams operate. He says, "We did everything from weapons training with all kind of kinds of different weapon, to watching actual video of SWAT teams in operation dealing with a crisis. We learned formation, how to enter rooms. We learned tactics and strategies for entering and exiting buildings that were occupied by dangerous suspects. We did so many different things that it was really, really just incredible."

But what female viewers may be enjoying the most is seeing the rapper flex his muscles. LL Cool J attributes his great shape to working consistently hard with his trainers. "Really staying focused. Hard work is paying off," he says.

"I have had a wonderful career in music thus far. Many people know me, but for lots of people, I'm just being introduced to them through film. I'm just thankful for the support. I hope more and more people get into what I'm doing and enjoy it," he says.

It has been a long way for him from where he grew up, he tells Smith. "As a black man growing up in Queens and growing up in a neighborhood -- I wasn't poor, but I wasn't the richest guy on the block either. Growing up basically in the 'hood, the ghetto, it's an amazing accomplishment for me to sit here with you and have these conversations. I respect it and appreciate it."

To people who ask him how he did it, LL Cool J says, "I tell them focus, determination and commitment. With me: Faith in God, determination. You have to dream it in your mind. You have to see these things before they happen. You have to see yourself doing what you're doing right now. You have to believe in yourself. When there are obstacles, you have to fight through them. There are a lot of people watching that are thinking of giving up in some area of their life. You have to fight through it. You have to work through it. You have to find the positive in any negative. That's what I try to do."

About LL Cool J:

  • Raised in New York City. Dropped out of high school after the ninth grade.
  • 1985 - Debut single "I Need a Beat;" also debut of Def Jam Records.
  • 1987 - Made early TV appearance singing on Diana Ross special.
  • 1991 - Made film acting debut, "The Hard Way."
  • 1992 - Co-starred with Robin Williams in "Toys."
  • 1993 - Started own record label, P.O.G. (Power of God); signed multi-album deal with Def Records.
  • 1995 - First collaboration with Debbie Allen, starring in her feature directorial debut "Out of Sync."
  • 1995-1996 - Starred with Allen in the NBC sitcom "In the House."
  • 1995 - Hosted NBC science special, "Breakthroughs: Amazing Things to Come." "In the House" moved to UPN network.
  • 1998 - Had a featured role in the successful horror sequel "Halloween: H20."
  • 1999 Had prominent role as the compound's cook and part-time preacher in "Deep Blue Sea."
  • 1999 - Won plaudits for his effective turn as an evil drug dealer in "In Too Deep."
  • 1999 - Co-starred as a football player in Oliver Stone's "Any Given Sunday."
  • Formed company Rock The Bells to produce music.
  • 2000 - Appeared as Mr. Jones in the big screen remake of "Charlie's Angels."
  • 2001 - Had leading role in the feature "Kingdom Come."
  • 2002 - Co-starred in the remake of "Rollerball."
  • 2003 - Co-starred as a womanizer who meets his match in the comedy feature "Deliver Us From Eva;" marks his first lead role.
  • 2003 - Cast as Deke in the action thriller "S.W.A.T."
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