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Last updated 05:00 08/01/2013
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Chris O'Donnell

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NCIS: Los Angeles returns on January 15 for its fourth season and starring again is Chris O'Donnell as ace Special Agent G Callen. O'Donnell is thrilled to be back.

CBS crime drama series NCIS: Los Angeles, a spinoff in 2009 from wildly popular NCIS, is back for its fourth season.

Starring again as Special Agent G Callen is the versatile Chris O'Donnell, known variously throughout the years for his role as Robin in two Batman and Robin films, as Charlie Simms in Scent of a Woman and as Peter Garrett in Vertical Limit.

Coming back to NCIS: Los Angeles, he says, "is like coming back to your school".

"You've missed everybody in the off-season and you get right back into it and it's so exciting when the new scripts come out and to hear some of the banter that the writers have come up with for us. I'm going to direct an episode this year, I think episode 17, so a lot to look forward to. It's exciting."

In the finale of the third season, Callen killed someone at point-blank range and was taken away by the constabulary but it's not, O'Donnell says, exactly as it seems.

And in the new season, his relationship with Sam develops.

"You just realise more and more the fact that for Callen, Sam and Hetty - that's his family. But Sam is really the closest person in his life. They're kind of best buddies, almost like brothers. They like to give each other a hard time but at the same time know that they'll always have each other's back."

The levity in the fourth season is as important to O'Donnell as it has always been. Humour is, he says, part of the formula for the success of the series.

"Traditionally, procedurals don't have that sort of comedic element but I think that's part of real life. In some of the most dramatic moments of your life, something funny can happen. It's part of the spirit of our show and although we can be dealing with very serious issues on a worldwide level with serious threats to our country and our safety, we're also dealing with dramatic things on a personal level with different characters.

"There are definitely some romantic sparks on the show and more in this season."

Romance, though, takes a back seat to action scenes, and O'Donnell is full of admiration for the special effects team.

"We have an amazing crew of special effects people and stunt people. There are episodes where they really get excited, when they get to blow up a building or do a crazy stunt with a guy in a motorcycle exploding and flying up in the air.

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"Sometimes you're in the studio and it feels like a very small world you're working in and then you get out in the field and you're doing some of these big scenes and it's a big production involving explosives. It's amazing what they're doing.

"We have an amazing crew - and an amazing work ethic on our show. We get in there and everyone has a great time but everyone is there to work and get it done. It doesn't feel like a grind. I feel energised by it.

"The first season was really hard because it was getting your body ready for that schedule but I think you get conditioned to it. We're going to do an extra episode this year so we'll do 200 days. We're halfway through the season and I feel good."

O'Donnell says he doesn't stop to think much about the international success of NCIS: Los Angeles. He's too busy working.

"If I had more time to travel around the world, I'd probably get a better feel for it, but we're working so hard. We're going to film 200 days this year, so it's a tough schedule. But I'm glad people are watching.

"The people who watch NCIS: Los Angeles are so passionate about it and genuinely love it so much that they'll come over to introduce themselves and compliment you, and it's as if they want you to know that they weren't just trying to recognise you and get your attention.

"They're kind of looking like, ‘You don't understand, we really love the show, we never miss it'. And it's a really nice thing to hear that people really enjoy it."

THE DETAILS

What:

NCIS: Los Angeles

When: Starting January 15, 9.30pm

Where: TV3

- Fairfax Media

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