Also, read our latest article: Chill Mitchell Conquers Hollywood.
Is he or isn’t he? Is the wheeler character named Patton Plame on “NCIS: New Orleans” disabled or just another Hollywood faker? These days I’m so cynical I assume any actor sitting in a wheelchair is a “pretender,” but in the case of Daryl “Chill” Mitchell, I was very wrong.
Mitchell was a successful actor before his 2001 motorcycle accident, and he’s even more successful now as part of the cast of the newest NCIS franchise, which airs Tuesday nights on CBS.
About the accident that left him paralyzed from the chest down, Mitchell has said, “It was totally my fault. I took off in the dark without a helmet on a road I didn’t know.
“The doctors told me that I had messed up my spinal cord and that I was paralyzed,” he told People Magazine. “It was more amazing to me than scary. Me, the most mobile person in the world, and I couldn’t move. I’d played basketball and baseball and wrestled in school and done a whole lot of swimming. And dance? Oh, my God, I was a great dancer.”
After rehab at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta, Mitchell was in the popular NBC series “Ed, in which his character, Eli, was involved in a high-profile love story. According to the Los Angeles Times, “Mitchell brought an edge to a comedy populated by quirky characters. Maybe too edgy; Eli was a hostile personality in his first season, but
“Usually the wheelchair is tangential to the character,” the Times reported. “One poignant exception was a show that painstakingly illustrated the time and effort it took Eli simply to get ready for work in the morning, a scene that grew out of his real-life experiences.”
After his success on “Ed,” Mitchell appeared on the TV series “Eve,” “The Suite Life of Zack and Cody,” “The Game,” “Brothers,” and the feature film “Inside Man.” On “NCIS: New Orleans,” which has helped CBS dominate viewership on Tuesday nights, Mitchell plays an investigative computer specialist, sporting a nifty laptop tray mounted on his wheelchair so he can provide Scott Bakula (Agent Dwayne “King” Pride) and his crew of investigators with the cyber info needed to catch the bad guys. (Think Timothy McGee on the original “NCIS.”)
“When we went to create the character, we wrote it into the script: Security Analyst Patton Plame, who looks and feels a lot like Darryl Mitchell. It is so rare that you get the actor you are looking for,” one of the show’s executives told Examiner.com. “Darryl is one of those actors, who the minute they are onscreen, you are drawn to them. He is funny; he is interesting. It is not an accident that he is a comedy actor in our show. He brings that level of energy into the scenes. That is one of the reasons we went and got him.”
Humor helped Mitchell, who is married and the father of four, make the transition into life as a PWD. In fact, there were plenty of wheelchair jokes on the Fox comedy “Brothers,” which aired in 2009. He told the Fresno Bee that when he makes jokes about the wheelchair others are more comfortable. “People associate the wheelchair with being a liability instead of an asset. So when you come in and let everybody know I am just as human as the next person – I drink, I have sex – then the wheelchair starts disappearing.”
After the accident, Mitchell told People, “you think no one cares, and then something like this happens. Everybody called—Kirstie Alley, Bill Cosby, Chris Rock, Bill Maher. Denzel [Washington] has been like a god-brother. He flew up from Miami to take me to the Mike Tyson-Lennox Lewis fight in his plane.
” I knew Denzel was going to win the Oscar. (He won the Best Actor Oscar in 2001 for his role as a corrupt cop in “Training Day.”) [Denzel] said, ‘If you’re so sure, come on out here.’ So I flew out. But guess what? I couldn’t go to the Oscars. That brand-new Kodak building did not have adequate wheelchair seating. That’s gonna change. Everyone’s going to know about wheelchairs now that I’m in one. I promise you that.”
The Kodak building better take care of that before Mitchell is nominated for an Academy Award because the successful trajectory of his career will undoubtedly land him on that red carpet.