Atlanta native and comedy actor Finesse Mitchell has been trying to hit a bigger level of fame and fortune ever since his three-year stint at “Saturday Night Live” from 2003 to 2006.
He wrote an advice book “Your Girlfriends Only Know So Much” in 2007, provided relationships advice for Essence magazine, got married in 2008, then divorced last year. “I guess I should have wrote a advice book for men instead women,” he said.
Mitchell nabbed a few film roles (”Who’s Your Caddy?” “Mad Money”) but living in Miami, he felt a bit disconnected from the Hollywood scene. So after he divorced in 2011, he moved back out to Los Angeles.
Within two weeks, he nabbed a role on a new Disney show “A.N.T. Farm” as fellow former Atlantan and lead China Anne McClain’s cop dad. (Season two starts this week) He actually reluctantly auditioned for the show because he had another audition earlier in the day. But the producers were fans of his and he got the role. The show has been a solid hit, which means job security for Mitchell.
“I love being on Disney,” he said. “But I do want to get back to my adult fan base, too.”
So he has an upcoming multi-episode arc as a bus driver/boyfriend on VH1’s “Single Ladies,” which has brought him back to Atlanta. Though I’ve talked and emailed with Finesse many times over the past nine years, we met for the first time at the W Hotel in Midtown earlier this month, across the street from the 14th Street Playhouse, where he plans to tape a TV stand-up comedy special June 23. He hopes to sell it off his website and iTunes, perhaps commission it to Netflix or Hulu or get it on Showtime or Comedy Central. (Ticket info below)
Mitchell admits he’s nothing like a blue-collar bus driver on “Single Ladies.” “I’m a male diva,” he said, with a chuckle. “I like nice suits, designer shades, the big trailer.”
He’s happy to expand his brand to different audiences. “I could walk through Hartsfield and some black dudes say, ‘I loved you on BET ComicView!’ White people say, ‘I loved you on SNL.’ And kids scream, ‘Hey, that’s him!’ ”
Mitchell will also be on a cheesy new dating show on Fox called “The Choice.” It blatantly steals the revolving chairs from “The Voice.” The men (and a few women) pick dates based on voice only.
As a newly single man, Mitchell jumped aboard for some free publicity. Sure, the show is a joke through and through. “I think for the record. I’m supposed to say, ‘This is a great idea.’ ” he said, a twinkle in his eye. And note: the chairs are blue, not red. And they pull a handle, not push a button!
His episode, which airs June 28, included reality star Rob Kardashian, tai kwan do champ Steven Lopez and Rob Gronkowski of the New England Patriots. “I was the last one to fill my team,” he said. “The producers came up to me and said, ‘We have two girls left. Unless you want to pick people out of the audience, pick one!’ ”
Would he consider dating a Kardashian? “Nahh… I’m cool. I couldn’t take the mama — or look at the dad!”
“I enjoyed the girl I ended up dating,” he added. And he’s proud of his comic performance on the show, which debuts June 7.
Overall, he said none of the girls were really ugly. “There were some 6’s, some 9’s and 10’s,” he noted.
He’s now dating El DeBarge’s oldest daughter. El DeBarge has had trouble with drug addiction but Mitchell said, “He’s a sweetheart. I love the way he loves his daughter. He’s doing okay.”
As for his own career, he said in retrospect, he didn’t do enough to leverage his “SNL’ fame while he was on “SNL.” Once he was off the show, he lost that leverage.
He hopes to one day be as powerful as Dave Chappelle, who lives outside of Dayton, Ohio. One time, Dave showed his friend Mitchell around town. Chappelle is such a common sight, he attracted no attention. Instead, people wanted to meet Mitchell. “It was crazy!” he said.
He said if he blew up like Chappelle, he wouldn’t run away the way Chappelle did. “I know fame and money drives the best of us crazy. Let’s just say I’m looking forward to going crazy!”
As for his show on June 23 in Atlanta, he anticipates a big homecoming and seeing old buddies from where he graduated, Douglass High School, and brothers from Kappa Alpha Psi.
Finesse Mitchell: One-Man Monster show
14th Street Playhouse – Main Stage
Saturday, June 23 at 7:00pm and 10:00pm
Buy tickets here.
By Rodney Ho, Radio & TV Talk