If you were born in the new millennium, I’m sorry but you missed out on quality children’s programming. But wait? It’s back? Yes, after years of petitions, social media harassment and letters, Nickelodeon finally brought back classic 90’s TV to their sidekick channel, TeenNick. I could only shed tears filled with smiles when I saw the first advertisement. For my older brother had Star Wars, my younger brother had Pokemon and me? I was lucky enough to have the plethora that was 90’s Nickelodeon. I remember spending hours on end being scared shitless of Are You Afraid of the Dark? and driving my mom crazy repeating lines from All That. Which leads me to this…I always wondered where those stars ended up life. We think that once the final credits roll they’re gone from our lives for good, but how wrong we are.
When TeenNick started playing All That and Kenan & Kel, I couldn’t help but search the internet for Kel Mitchell. Finding him tweeting away, my heart burst to see he was still out and about and had a lot going on. So I reached out and almost tinkled myself when he agreed to talk to me. I felt like I was on MTV’s FANatic as I tried to contain my excitement as he sat on the other end in a car dealership awaiting his mechanical miracle. You never know what it’s going to be like to talk to someone you admired as a kid, but I can say I was not let down. Kel was as humble as humble could be as we chatted away about the 90’s (of course), his current ventures in cartoons and with The Back House Party and a possible All That reunion (of course).
Kendra: I appreciate all things 90’s, and was overjoyed with Nickelodeon bringing back the 90’s lineup. What were some of your thoughts on the current resurgence?
Kel Mitchell: Man it was inspiring to me even two years ago fans were hitting me up on MySpace and Facebook saying that they were going to petition Nickelodeon to put 90’s All That television back on the air and have a whole block, so it’s really like exciting that these guys did this and now it’s happening and everybody’s humbled by it. And it’s really cool now because we have people who watched it when they were little who are excited, but then they have their children, and nieces and nephews watching it now. This opens it up to a whole new audience and I’m happy it’s touched so many people’s hearts and was part of their childhood.
Kendra: I know you’re embracing it, but what do you think of actors from that time who are kind of ashamed of it. I don’t think anyone from Nickelodeon is, but like Screech from Saved By The Bell and some Power Rangers want to kind of forget that time ever happened. What do you think of people being ashamed of where they came from?
Kel: You get a few actors who are like, well I’m doing dramatic work or I’m doing something else and I don’t want to talk about that, but for me it’s like, that’s where you got started and that’s your fan base and they loved you when you did those types of shows so I embrace it. I’m from the Southside of Chicago and never thought I’d be doing the things I’ve done and I’m doing now, so I’m really appreciative of it and happy that they enjoy it. So I always stop to sign an autograph. And say, “Welcome to Good Burger” when they ask me to do it. I don’t have a problem with it at all.
Kendra: You just touched on my next question, the catchphrases. You had some of the, if not the most memorable ones and like you said, you were just this kid from the Southside of Chicago, so did you ever imagine you and the show would have such a lasting impression on pop culture?
Kel: It’s amazing! We talk about this now some of the cast members, like we didn’t know it was going to be this big. Like we kind of felt it something about it on set, we just felt it because the audience would be going crazy and the kids we shot the show with in Florida just loved it so much. We knew something was going to happen big with it, but not this big. I mean this is just crazy and we’re just so excited about it, and I’m just glad everybody’s still saying all those sayings still today. Even when I go to certain restaurants and things like that, I have to be careful with what I order because a burger, if I get a burger, somebody’s talking about Good Burger. If I get an orange soda it ends with the “I do, I do, I do, I do-ooh.” It’s there, but it’s funny and we just crack up by it.
Kendra: Did you ever get tired of orange soda from having it all the time on the set?
Kel: I always liked orange soda but then drinking it all the time on the show was really, really crazy but I mean I never stopped liking the taste of it.
Kendra: After all the Nickelodeon shows, you went on to guest star in a lot of predominately black sitcoms, like most of the UPN roster. And I recently wrote an article on the lack of diversity in primetime TV and wanted to ask why do you think we’re seeing less minority characters on primetime TV?
Kel: I mean it’s really crazy back in the day you could see In Living Color, Martin, Fresh Prince of Bel Air. There was just all this wonderful programming then all those shows have gone off and now it’s like you gotta kind of look through the cable stations to find it. I feel like now it’s takes you back to where we have to be innovative and think of other ideas or get together and think of shows we can do and create, and as far as an actor, I’ve never been the kind to wait around for an audition to happen, you gotta make it happen for yourself. So as far as writing films, we need more writers who can get out there and create more shows for us and executive producers at those networks that will green light those shows that will have diversity in them, so that it’s more of that. We have to kind of find forces who can play those parts as far as writing and producing and making shows. Which brings me to I started writing as well. I have my own film coming out called Dance Fu which stars me, Cedric the Entertainer, Tommy Davidson and Katerina Graham from Vampire Diaries. I’m a firm believer in making those roles happen.
Kendra: Was there ever a time then or now that you wanted to quit it all, leave the spotlight and just be a normal person?
Kel: Let me think. I have had times where it was like okay, what am I gonna do? That whole auditioning process where it’s kind of like you come from a kids show and now you’re getting a little older so it’s that transition so you have casting directors saying, I can’t really see him as a doctor just yet, but I don’t really see him as a kid anymore either. And that’s when I found out I’m not going to leave the entertainment business and get upset because you have actors that will, but then you have to say, I’ll create some better content, I’ll change the rolls that I’m doing. And I think that if you do it that way, it’ll definitely work out for you. That’s what I did and I do other things like charity and also love working with kids and I feel like I’ve been through this for a reason so that I could touch other people and give them great advice as far as like my life and things I’ve learned.
Kendra: You just mentioned you love working with kids and I know that you got into voiceovers. Was that a result of you having your own kids at home?
Kel: No, I’ve always enjoyed cartoons. I’m a big cartoon head. I’ve loved Ren & Stimpy, Rugrats all those types of cartoons and Thundercats, you know way back. But for me I always wanted to get into voiceovers. So now I’m doing all sorts of cartoons now. Clifford was a big one because John Ritter, rest in peace, who played the Big Red Dog. He was just a great guy to work with and he was actually someone I looked up to as far as physical comedy because the things he did on Three’s Company were just amazing, and I really enjoyed working with him.
Kendra: We just mentioned that you have kids of your own and I believe there’s not much out for them to watch these days. There’s not even quality Saturday Morning Cartoons. So with that said, what are your kids watching? Do you ever push dad’s work on them?
Kel: (Laughs) No, I don’t push dad’s stuff on them. I just feel like I let them watch the cartoons but at the same time you have to know what your kids are watching so because I watch cartoons as well, I watch cartoons with them. My kids like some of the old stuff too like Tom & Jerry, Spongebob, you know all those types of show. And I think too that like it’s all animation, it’s all the same funny story so those same cartoons that you grew up on, you can grab the DVDs and let them see those or there are those retro cartoons that come on other stations, it all still works.
Kendra: Well okay kids to have iCarly and Victorious, which I’m not ashamed to say I enjoy. And that’s probably due to Dan Schneider being a part of them. Dan is someone you’ve worked closely with both on All That and Kenan & Kel. What’s the magic behind that guy?
Kel: He was on a show for teens called Head of the Class, him and Brian Robbins who also worked on Kenan & Kel. I just feel like they just get it. I always felt it was cool having an actor that understands what you’re going through because they’ve been there so when they’re producing you and directing you, they can write in a way where they know exactly where you’re coming from and how you’re thinking as well. And the thing about Dan is that he’s just a big kid. He really knows comedy timing like he has it down to a tee. He’s really smart, and I don’t know if you’ve noticed as far as how he spins off certain shows, takes a character off one show and spins off and turns that into a show and it takes off?
Kendra: Oh, yes that’s definitely something I’ve noticed over the years with his shows. Well now that you’re writing and creating, do you come across any kids who you see having that special something. That something along the lines of the next Kenan & Kel or Amanda Bynes?
Kel: We do a live competition show out here in LA and a lot of the kids who come up, you know some of the Hollywood actors, they’re really talented. Many of the kids are just coming from LA just to dance in the show; they’re very talented as well. Even the cast of iCarly, I think they’re really funny kids.
Kendra: Oh yeah, the blonde girl who plays Sam. Jennette McCurdy is definitely going to go places.
Kel: Yup, that’s exactly who I’m talking about!
Kendra: Can you tell me a little more about the dance competition you mentioned?
Kel: You know I love to dance. If you’ve seen All That you’ve seen me break dance or dance like Michael Jackson or something at one point on Nickelodeon; so I love to dance. I saw that kids were dancing on the street as far as the whole jerk movement in LA, and me and my fiancé actually wanted to create a live show that we’d do for kids in the inner city. So we put on the show in Compton, CA and it’s called The Back House Party. And we have sketches on the show as well and the kids come out and dance; it’s a dance competition. We have a lot of fun and some of the stuff you see is a amazing. We have videos up at thebackhouseparty.com if you want to check it out. It’s an amazing time.
Kendra: Anything else we can look forward to from you in the near future?
Kel: Definitely like you said, I’m in the cartoons definitely and I have one coming out on Disney that will be coming out in December called Motor City about Detroit in the future, like the year 3000. It’s like Terminator and Fast and Furious mixed together. It’s a really, really hot show with a lot of cool cars in it. Then I also have a show I do with Rob Dyrdek, pro skater from MTV, he’s just amazing guy. We have a show called Wild Grinders based on his kids skate toy that he had and that’ll be on Nicktoons.
Kendra: Just a couple more before I left you get on with your day. With all that’s going on, can we expect an All That reunion any time soon?
Kel: You know we did the ten year reunion and everybody’s worrying about the 20 year reunion, so we’ll see, we’ll see. That would be really cool. We’ll see what kind of happens. We’ve all kind of been talking about it, so I don’t know.
Kendra: And since this is Golden Mixtape, can you give me your top five songs for a 90’s mixtape?
“Summertime” DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, a 90s classic.
“Never Lie” Immature.
Any of the New Edition record would be great.
“Shimmy Shimmy Ya” Method Man & Redman.
Kel asked to switch one out, but we’ll let him slide with six.
“I Used to Love H.E.R.” Common.
Originally published on September 6, 2011