By 2001, long-time Suwanee resident Daryl “Chill” Mitchell had a pretty decent resume as an actor: “House Party,” “Galaxy Quest,” “The John Larroquette Show,” “Veronica’s Closet.”
Then he got into a nasty motorcyle accident that year that paralyzed him from the waist down. But that didn’t end his acting career. After rehabbing at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta, he nabbed a role as a fast-talking bowling alley manager on NBC’s “Ed” and a part in the action film “Inside Man.”
Now he’s co-starring in “Brothers,” a sitcom debuting Friday at 8 p.m. on Fox featuring Mitchell (who goes by Chill in real life and on the show) and Mike Strahan, a former NFL player, as bickering brothers. I interviewed him by phone yesterday during a break shooting the show, which is the only program on broadcast network television featuring a minority cast. And he happens to be the only lead character in a wheelchair.
On being the only broadcast minority TV show: “It is weird. I tell everyone, we’re going ‘black to the future!’ I commend Fox for giving us a chance. And I’m not only part of an African-American family, I’m a person who uses a wheelchair. I’m not pitching for one community. I’m pitching for two. This isn’t just a TV show. It’s a movement.”
On his character on the show: “You won’t feel sorry for him. I’m a ladies man. But I don’t win all the time. That’s the key. That’s the reality of life. We deal with sexuality and disability. And I run a sports bar. This doesn’t mean I feel bad for myself and fall into liquor.”
How his character got into an accident: “He got into a car accident getting a ride from someone. Mike was supposed to get me. I was supposed to be the football star, not him.”
How he and Mike got to work together:“We met five years ago at a Nets game. He introduced himself, said he’d read my story. He said if you need anything, give me a call. A little while back, he said he wanted to do a TV show and wanted to work me. He was a big character. This dude’s a celebrity… He knows the mechanics of working in front of a camera. I wasn’t worried about his abilities but did he have the gas in the tank. Dude has more energy than six year old child!”
On Strahan’s character’s money problems that force him back to his parents’ house: “We’re working on that right now. Snoop Dogg plays his lawyer. He’s working it out.”
On CCH Pounder, who plays her mom: “She’s the best act on the stage hands down. And she’s got a voice like a horn. You gotta pay attention!”
On moving to Atlanta in 1997: “I had a friend here who had moved back to Georgia. I came to visit. I was so intrigued by a place that caters so much to the young African-American community. And I didn’t realize what a big black college town it was with Spelman, Morehouse and Clark. There were clubs like 112 and Velvet. Whoa! Great restaurants, good plays. Then you had Freaknik. All these good things made me say I want to be here.” [He also keeps pads in New York, his hometown, and Los Angeles.)
On his nickname Chill:“A guy gave that name to me in high school. I was always a cool cat. Someone called me Chili Dog. Then it became Chill… That name don’t belong to me. It belongs to everyone and the fans.”
On his limitations getting roles: “All I ever ask for is an opportunty to show what I can do. I’m not asking for handouts or favors. If I’m extended the courtesy, I’ve often gotten roles that weren’t written for people of color, even before the accident.”
His favorite night spot in Atlanta: “The Velvet Room. That’s the spot! Tony and I are there chillin’ on Friday nights!”
Check him out at Twitter.com/darylchill.