When someone said "LL Cool J," they had Michelle Trachtenberg at "L."
Trachtenberg is guest-starring in a new episode of LL Cool J's series NCIS: Los Angeles, airing Tuesday on CBS and Global.
But the gig came up randomly at a time when Trachtenberg had told her agents she was unavailable for acting roles.
"I'm also a writer, I'm WGA (Writers' Guild of America), and I have to deliver a couple of screenplays before the end of the year," Trachtenberg says. "So I told them I was out of commission on the acting side until those were done.
"Then they called me and they were like, 'Yeah, but this offer just came in, and it's the one with LL Cool J.' And I was like, 'Ahhh ... you got me.' I have to put everything in perspective, 20 years later, being an eight-year-old girl in New York listening to his music. He couldn't have been nicer, and I did get him to sing to me."
Trachtenberg, 28, acknowledges that having been so well known as a teen actress - largely through her role as Dawn on Buffy the Vampire Slayer - has influenced her recent decision-making. Post-Gossip Girl, Trachtenberg is coming off her role as Marina Oswald in Killing Kennedy.
"I was really adamant to my people that at a certain age I wouldn't be accepting anything in high school any more, and then at a certain age I wouldn't be accepting anything in college any more," Trachtenberg says. "Unless it's (Martin) Scorsese, and then I literally will be a nine-year-old girl, I will tape my boobs down and be a pre-teen if I could pull it off. There's an exception to every rule.
"But I'm 28 years old. I still look very young, but brain-wise, maturity-wise, I just can't relate to the naive, doe-eyed, 'Oh my gosh, I'm just so scared of the world,' type of girl. That never has been me. I did a little of that when I was younger, it's just not something that interests me now."
Along those lines, there is one phrase that drives Trachtenberg crazy.
"I've been told not to really say it, but I still do take great offence any time my name precedes or follows the statement, 'All grown up,' " Trachtenberg says with a weary laugh. "I'm almost 30. At what point do I stop being 'all grown up?'
"It actually was written on my Maxim cover, which I had rebelled against doing for so long. After years of them saying, 'How 'bout now? How 'bout now?' I thought, okay, I have to have something that, when I'm 60, I can look back and say, 'Everything was in the right place.'
"But then on the cover it said, 'Michelle, all grown up.' I was like, 'Really, you guys?' That's so weird, it's a weird caption."
Hey, if all roads have led Michelle Trachtenberg to working with LL Cool J on NCIS: Los Angeles, there are silver linings to everything.
"It's a massively action-packed, filled-to-the-brim episode, and having LL Cool J protect you is pretty special," Trachtenberg says.
"I kept pushing for a love triangle. They said, 'Wrong kind of show.' Or is it? We don't know. I can be very convincing."