|Kel Mitchell provides the voice for the character “Dutch” in Disney’s new film “Motorcity.” (Photo courtesy of Disney XD)|
Born in the Windy City on Aug. 25, 1978, Kel Mitchell began his acting career at the tender age of 12 with the ETA Creative Arts Foundation. A couple of years later, he got the opportunity of a lifetime when he flew to Florida to be a part of a new children’s television network that would later become Nickelodeon.
Kel was an original cast member on Nickelodeon’s “All That,” which enjoyed a successful run from 1994 to 1999. He and Kenan Thompson also co-starred in the spin-off series “Kenan & Kel,” as well as in the hit film “Good Burger.”
Kel’s resumé includes appearances on such sitcoms as “Sister, Sister,” “The Steve Harvey Show,” and “One on One,” and roles in movies like “Mystery Men,” “Honeydipper,” and “The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle.”
Kel has done a lot of voice work on children’s cartoon series, too, from playing the mild-mannered “T-Bone” on “Clifford the Big Red Dog” to the delightful “Ant” on “The Ant and the Aardvark.”
A versatile talent, Kel recently stepped behind the camera to write and direct “She Is Not My Sister,” an upcoming, faith-based feature film about bullying and forgiveness. Here, he talks both about that movie and about providing the voice of “Dutch” on the new Disney XD animated series “Motorcity.”
What interested you in “Motorcity?”
I had worked with the director and creator, Chris Prynoski, before on a Cartoon Network project. He had shown me some artwork from “Motorcity” when it was at the beginning stages, and I thought it was visually amazing. So when I heard the project got picked up at Disney XD, and he wanted me to be a part of the show, I was totally down!
What would you say is the show’s theme?
It’s like the “Terminator” meets “Fast and Furious.” It’s set in the future. There is this man named Abraham Kane who built a city of tomorrow above the city of Detroit. He controls the people still living in underground Detroit with robotic soldiers, ‘droids and tanks.
However, one thing stands in his way of total domination. And that is a group of teens with tricked-out cars who call themselves “The Burners.”
Tell me a little about your character, Dutch.
He is the brains behind “The Burners,” their cars, and all of their cool, hi-tech weapons. I have a lot of fun playing Dutch. He uses tons of technical words and gadgets with names that are fun to say. Plus, it’s fun to know my character is the one making the cars, because the cars in the cartoon are so awesome.
How is acting in a cartoon different from acting in a live-action adventure?
If all the actors are in the recording session at the same time, you can record all voices for one episode in an hour. Of course, the animation takes longer but the voice acting is done very quickly.
It’s a lot of action in “Motorcity” so, for example, a lot of times we’re jumping up and down and screaming in the studio. Consequently, it sounds believable when they animate our characters driving up a ramp shooting at robots. I love seeing what the animators do with my voice acting.
What interested you in directing?
I created and wrote “She Is Not My Sister” with the intention of directing it. This film is the first of many films that I plan to direct.
Tell me a little about the movie.
“She Is Not My Sister” is the story of how a high school senior’s life takes a turn for the worse when her father returns home from a business trip married to the mother of her high school arch enemy. It’s a fun, teen dramedy with a great cast.
How did you enjoy writing and directing your first feature film?
I enjoyed every minute of it. Hopefully, I will be doing it many, many more times in the future.
What message do you think people will take away from the movie?
How to forgive your enemies, which in and of itself is a very hard thing to do. Often, when you are upset and allowing your emotions to control you, forgiveness seems so out of reach.
But once you let go and let God take control, you begin to realize that forgiveness is the only way to really win. True forgiveness is the only real key to happiness in your life. Also, sometimes it’s not always an enemy you need to forgive — sometimes it’s yourself.
How big a role did your faith play in the production?
Faith is what drove this film. Faith is what I live by in everything that I do. I strive to give glory to God in every aspect of my life, even my films.
When I think of you, what immediately comes to mind are your Nickelodeon collaborations with Kenan Thompson on “All That,” “Kenan and Kel,” and “Good Burger.” Are you still in touch with Kenan?
No, we have not seen each other in awhile.
Are you ever afraid?
God does not give us the spirit of fear, so I do not choose to give in to fear because I know that the creator designed us to win no matter what we face.
When I am faced with a circumstance that in the past I would have been fearful about, I turn it over immediately to Christ. When I learned this principle as a Christian, I became fearless.
Are you happy?
Very happy! I treat anger, grief and strife as a sin, so I let all that go and I am no longer living a sinful life. Today, I command my days by confessing that every minute will be blessed and perfect. My confession then has no other choice but to confer blessings upon my life.
When was the last time you had a good laugh?
My wife and I have so many private jokes, and we share the same taste in humor, so we laugh constantly. It is one of our favorite things. We love to laugh!
What is your guiltiest pleasure?
(Laughing) Comic book stores.
What was the last book you read?
Dr. Kenneth E. Hagin’s “How to Turn Your Faith Loose.”
What was the last song you listened to?
“Battery” by V. Rose.
What was the best business decision you ever made, and what was the worst?
Worst: Not putting in place a viable plan for my future vision. Best: Writing the vision and making it plain.
When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
If you could have one wish instantly granted, what would that be?
That everyone I meet would give their life to Christ.
What is your earliest childhood memory?
One that immediately comes to mind is the day my dog “Busy” pulled me out of a deep pond that I fell into in winter.
Who is the person who led you to become the person you are today?
Every pastor, evangelist and teacher that the Holy Spirit used to speak the word of God to me, and every person that has prayed me through.
What key quality do you believe all successful people share?
What advice do you have for anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps?
Change the way you speak about yourself and others. Words have power. Speak positively and positive things will happen to you. Speak negatively and negative things will happen to you. Choose positive words.
How do you want to be remembered?
As a God-fearing man, led by the Holy Spirit, who showed love to others and served as an effective ambassador for Christ.