'NCIS: New Orleans': Daryl 'Chill' Mitchell on Working with Real-Life Pal Kurt Yaeger
In the April 2 episode of NCIS: New Orleans, Patton (Daryl "Chill" Mitchell) takes center-stage as he attempts to solve the murder of a close friend.
The episode "In Plain Sight" also features a large cast of extras and guest stars who are all affected by disabilities much like "Chill," who is paralyzed from the waist down. One of those guest stars is Mitchell's friend Kurt Yaegar (Sons of Anarchy), who will portray Kevin Simms — a law enforcement officer dealing with a life-altering injury.
Ahead of the special episode's debut, we spoke with "Chill" about working with Yaegar, the importance of representation and more.
This episode is huge for Patton. What should viewers expect?
Daryl "Chill" Mitchell: When they give me a full episode, they know I'm gonna show up — without a doubt I'm gonna show up. But having this supportive cast… I mean, you have to separate your emotions because I'm feeling so overwhelmingly happy for Kurt [Yaeger]... that I had to contain myself... He's my friend, so it just made it so much easier when I work with him.
How much were you involved with the story side of this episode? Was there any collaboration between you and the writer's room?
The good thing about it was [that it had] the good and the bad. The good part about it is, you have Katherine [Beattie] who is the writer and the bad part is she knows my pain, unfortunately. So there wasn't really much I had to do, it was in the words. I just had to attach the emotion to it, so that was the main thing. But Katherine nailed it — she nailed it and… once I get it and put that music to it, it's a whole different song.
Kurt Yaeger guest stars in the episode. What can you tease about his role?
Kurt is usually a bad guy in a lot of things he does, but this time Kurt is not the bad guy. He shows a lot of range and emotion, and he shows some true vulnerability that you wouldn't usually get out of a guy like him... I think it made it easier because you know we were feeding off of each other's energy.
You've been friends with him for nearly 10 years. How did you meet?
Me and Kurt used to meet at functions, like different benefits and things like that. And I would be crackin' on him and he'd be crackin' on me... Over the course of time we would see each other and always say, "Oh yeah, man, we gotta work together." We were always trying to work it out — what type of idea we'd come up with to work together.
So he'd give me stories about his life, and I'd give him stories about my life, and we were always trying to figure out how we could mesh them together and ... he gets called to do NCIS: New Orleans, and I'm like, "Yo, this cannot be real…." I told him one day, "Somehow, someway, I gotta get you on this show" and I don't know what it is… I had nothing to do with it.
This episode features law enforcement personnel and former military members who have disabilities. How does it feel to see that kind of representation taking place on your show?
Most of the time, if you see disabled people in a movie or a TV show, it's a documentary. These are true actors, people that studied the craft and came out here to perform on one of the top-rated franchises in television. So, I have to take my hat off to CBS, because when they allow things like this to happen, that's them really making a difference.
We have Paralympians on the show, and they wanted to hire stunt people ... Katherine was like, "Nah… you think anybody can fit in a wheelchair and push? No, you can't." And you know what? The funny part was to see LeVar Burton, who directed a scene, said "Cut." You should have seen how many crew members ran to get in those chairs just to feel the impact.
They ran to the chairs, because they were so blown away by the way that these guys can move the chairs and how we're doing what we're doing ... It's opened their eyes ... So, I hope that's what it does when it airs.
Patton also deals with the loss of a friend at the beginning of the episode. What is it like tapping into his emotional side?
The thing with me, once I get into it, I know the temperature of my character, of the character we're supposed to be. I know what my friends mean to me, I know what my family means to me, and I can go into that. Once I'm in that world, I'm in that world. A lot of times, people will go into the world and still be themselves, I go in as Patton ... Once I lock in, that's it, I'm gone.
What do you hope fans get out of this episode?
It's not something that I hope, it's something I know is gonna happen. A lot of people don't see it, but the world is changing. It's becoming more acceptable, it's becoming more knowledgeable, and this is just gonna give confirmation to what a lot of people already believe — that disabled people are people, they count. And they've been here and they are here and … we are people, they're gonna see it. We deal with stuff, and that's what I like about this episode, cause we're dealing with something, ain't no short cuts. We dealin'.
NCIS: New Orleans, "In Plain Sight," Tuesday, April 2, 10/9c, CBS