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‘Kenan & Kel’ actor Kel Mitchell on the upcoming ‘Good Burger’ sequel, mentoring new child stars as ‘Uncle Kel,’ and the controversial producer Dan Schneider

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Actor Kel Mitchell appearing at the People's Choice Awards (right), and playing his character Kel Kimble on the show "Saturday Night Live" (left).Kel Mitchell is best known for his roles in Nickelodeon productions like “All That,” “Kenan and Kel,” and “Good Burger.”

Rosalind O’Connor/Chris Polk/E! Entertainment/NBC/Getty Images

  • Nickelodeon legend Kel Mitchell spoke to Insider this week about his career and the upcoming sequel to “Good Burger.”
  • Mitchell told us that he’s excited to step back into his iconic roles, and sees himself as an “Uncle” to new child stars trying to make it in the industry.
  • He also spoke about his working relationship with Dan Schneider, the ex-Nickelodeon producer who’s faced accusations of bullying and misconduct with young actors.

It’s not an exaggeration to say that for many “90s Kids,” Kel Mitchell is the face of their childhood.

The Chicago-born actor got his start on the sketch comedy show “All That,” before gaining worldwide fame as co-star of the iconic Nickelodeon sitcom “Kenan & Kel,” alongside the future “Saturday Night Live” legend Kenan Thompson. The two also co-starred in “Good Burger,” a 1997 comedy film that’s become a cult classic among millennials and Gen Zers.

Since “Kenan & Kel” ended, Mitchell has split his time between voice acting for cartoons, making one-off cameo appearances on various TV shows, and eventually returning to the world of Nickelodeon sitcoms with a starring role on “Game Shakers.” He’s also become a youth pastor, and partnered with charities like World Vision as a “celebrity ambassador.” He’s kept himself busy, yet largely out of the mainstream spotlight.

But following a recent appearance on “Saturday Night Live” where he revived (and then promptly killed) his classic Kel Kimble character, and the confirmation that him and Thompson are working on a “Good Burger” sequel, Mitchell wants to remind the world that his acting and comedic skills haven’t dulled.

This week, Mitchell spoke to Insider about his work off-camera, the upcoming “Good Burger 2,” and the advice he gives new child stars. We also touched on his experiences with the former Nickelodeon producer Dan Schneider, who’s recently been accused of inappropriate conduct with young actors.

The following interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.


I want to start off by talking about a facet of your career that I think some people overlook, which is your voice acting work. You’ve been doing voice acting for two decades now, whether it be childhood classics like “Clifford” or cult favorites like Disney’s “Motorcity.” You’ve even been nominated for a Daytime Emmy for your work in voice acting. How does your voice acting differ in emotion or mindset from your live action work?

I love doing voiceover work because I love cartoons and I love animation. I’ve worked with a lot of different voiceover actors and it’s just awesome because it’s still physical. I really get into it. I get up from my chair and really get physical within the characters that I play. I want my characters to have the same physical comedy or the same energy that I have, so I really get into it. [Another] cool thing about voiceovers is that you can go however. You can go in your pajamas if you want to!

The characters T-Bone from "Clifford the Big Red Dog" and Dutch from "Motorcity."Two of the characters that Kel Mitchell has voiced include T-Bone from PBS’ “Clifford the Big Red Dog,” and Dutch from Disney’s “Motorcity.”

Scholastic/PBS; Titmouse/Disney Television Animation

Speaking of animated work, last year, Brian Robbins [director of “Good Burger” and Paramount Pictures CEO] said that he wanted to create a “Good Burger” animated series. Do you have any knowledge about that?

I do have knowledge about that. That was a great conversation that we had. He called me up and was like, “Hey, let’s do an animation with ‘Good Burger,'” and I believe Chance was part of that too, Chance the Rapper. I might be giving away too much information for you. But yeah, they’re definitely part of it. We were super excited but then that went on hold because of something else we’re doing with Good Burger, which I think you might know.

Well, I think that that’s a pretty good segue into what I wanted to talk about next, which was “Good Burger 2.” You’ve hinted at it a few times online and on TV. It’s been a rumor for years and now it sounds like it’s finally going into becoming a real thing. I’d like to know: How did that go from being a Jimmy Fallon skit to an actual realized movie?

Oh, man, I was shooting “Game Shakers” at that point when they called up to do the Jimmy Fallon sketch. Kenan and I both just had so much fun doing that. Seeing the fans’ reactions was awesome.

“Good Burger” is just the gift that keeps giving, since so many people have so many fond memories of the first time they watched it. I met a couple that said that [seeing “Good Burger”] was their first date, and then they got married, and now every anniversary they go and see “Good Burger” because it’s part of their life, so it’s so deep to me.

When we decided to do “Good Burger 2,” what was really important is the writing process, because the thing about it is that we didn’t want to ruin it for fans because they loved “Good Burger” Part One so much. For Kenan and I, it’s very important that the story is really put together well. That’s why I decided to post the script for the table read, because the script is in a really good place.

A post shared by Kel Mitchell 💯 (@iamkelmitchell)

Any hints on what Good Burger 2 is about? What we can expect from the movie?

I can’t say too much because they’re going to do a big rollout. But what I can say is, it’s Part One on steroids. All those same enjoyable moments you’re going to have in Part Two. It plays well together with you watching Part One and then watching Part Two right afterwards. But you could totally watch Part Two and then go back to Part One.

In terms of content, “Good Burger” was obviously a movie that all ages were able to enjoy. But it was still a Nickelodeon movie marketed more towards the younger market. Is “Good Burger 2” going to stay that way, or is it a movie that’s grown up with its audience?

I would definitely say a little bit of both. We understand that we have the fans that grew up with “Good Burger,” and now they’re adults and we want to cater towards them. Because we have a lot of fun gems and fun moments in there where they’ll go, “Oh wow, that happened in Part One!” and so that’s fun for us. Then also too, you can bring the whole family because the kids are really going to enjoy it too. We have enough zany in there for them to enjoy.

Do you have any idea when we’ll start seeing some more details about what’s inside “Good Burger 2” in terms of story?

Well, we don’t have the release date just yet, but as far as and Nickelodeon giving up more information, I would definitely say around this springtime you’ll be hearing some things. But that’s just tentatively, I’m going to put it like that.

Between “Good Burger 2” and your recent appearance on “Saturday Night Live,” you’ve been stepping back into your old roles a lot recently. How does it feel to come back to those roles after so much time away?

Man, it’s been great. It’s been surreal doing this and people still enjoying it. New fans, and then people that have followed me all my life… And it’s cool because I look at it, I love the Rat Pack, I love Lucille Ball. I love the entertainers from back then that were just killing it at different ages of their life, where they could still do the physical comedy and still do it well.

I feel like I’m built like that, because I’ve watched all these great comedians since I was a kid. I’m glad I stayed working out and taking care of myself because my characters have a lot of physical comedy. Even with the Kenan & Kel reboot that we did on SNL, I was ready! I was ready and that was awesome. I always say, “You stay ready, you don’t have to get ready.”

Actors Kel Mitchell (left) and Kenan Thompson (right) posing for a photo at the People's Choice Awards.Kel Mitchell and Kenan Thompson posing for a photo at the People’s Choice Awards.

Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic/Getty Images

I think my favorite part of your appearance on Saturday Night Live was when you’re on the floor, and you can see your lips blubbering. Just seeing that killed me.

[Laugh]. Yes!

Kel Mitchell to Lucille Ball isn’t a comparison that many people would make, but I think you make a very good point there. Comedy, it’s a skill, but it’s also like riding a bike. You come back to it after so many years, but you can still feel the spirit. I like that.

Yeah, and the longevity. I mean, she did that for years, dude! The longevity that’s involved in that and to still give 100% every time she performed, that was great.

So you’ve been stepping back into these old roles. You can step back into the old roles or you can create new characters that inspire new generations. Which do you prefer? Is it creating new characters or is it going back to older ones?

I love creating new characters. I love working with a lot of great comedians. It’s so fun putting a smile on people’s faces and making them laugh. Laughter is medicine, and I love creating characters. I mean, ever since “All That,” I love just having fun, creating new characters and old characters.

But it’s something with the nostalgia. I feel because I grew up in theater, it’s very important to me to really know your character and create a world for your character. I think my characters have their own — I almost sound crazy when I say this — but I feel like they have their own life, my characters. And when people see them, it’s not even me. They’re just like, “Oh, Ed,” or “Oh, Coach Kreeton,” all these different characters.

When we did the reboot of “All That” in 2019, every time I got into character, I remember walking back to my dressing room and I walked by the mirror — this happened with Ed and with Coach Kreeton — and I just was like, “Oh, hi! Hello, old friend. Let’s go. Let’s do this thing.”

Kel Mitchell playing his character Coach Kreeton in the Nickelodeon show "All That!"Kel appearing as his character Coach Kreeton in the “All That” reboot.

Nickelodeon/Viacom

That’s fantastic. I think about writing, how people say the best characters are the ones that the writer doesn’t necessarily control. They’re so strong that they can lead the script by themselves.

Exactly, yes. That’s so true.

Over the last few years, you’ve been doing a lot more work with Nickelodeon again. You had a starring role on “Game Shakers,” “All That,” “The Substitute,” and because of that, you’re working with a new generation of child stars. As a former child-to-teen star yourself, what is it like working with this new generation of actors?

It’s awesome. The kids are very talented. It’s awesome to see the choices that they make with the different characters, coming up with their own characters, the roles that they’re getting now. On “Game Shakers,” they called me “Uncle Kel” because I was always giving them advice. These are my nieces and nephews, and seeing them go and work on other projects with Netflix and Viacom, it’s just so awesome.

As Uncle Kel, do you ever give them any sort of advice about how to navigate their careers?

I definitely tell them that you have to look at it as a job. Something that I told them is that it’s smoke and mirrors a lot of times when you’re playing these characters, and you don’t realize you’re not your character.

When we did “All That,” I told everyone in the table read, the first one that they had, that this is not the thing that makes you special. The job is not the thing that makes you special. You were made special when you were born in the womb, in your mom’s belly you were made special, and this is just one step in a very long career. Then, hey, if you might not want to act and you want to become an author, or you want to do all these different things, just understand it in that way. That way you give them a chance to have joy playing the characters and to take it seriously, but know this is a job among many other jobs.

I even flew my parents in to speak to the parents [of the child actors], because the kids are coming into it green and the parents are too. The parents were tearing up in there, and got to ask questions to my parents that experienced it.

I think that’s what’s important as us as the seasoned child actors who’ve grown up through it, is to just give advice to the other actors coming through. Then seeing them go through the ranks and working and just doing awesome and having all these blessings. It has been awesome. They listened.

Have you felt that Nickelodeon does a good job helping these young stars transition into a healthy adult career?

I definitely do. Nickelodeon is all about kids and for kids, and they have great talent. They have handlers that are there to make sure everything goes smoothly, which is awesome. Like I said, for the actors and the entertainers that have been there — the alums — I think it’s very important that we reach out.

Nickelodeon is a university like that. We all reach out to each other and give advice to each other. It’s just like a university, all of us hanging out.

Staying with Nickelodeon, I want to piggyback off of what my colleagues at Insider have reported earlier this year and ask you a little bit about someone whose shows you’ve been on a lot, which is Dan Schneider. Now Dan Schneider spent two decades as Nickelodeon’s live action breadwinner, and you starred in a variety of his shows, whether it be the original “All That” or “Game Shakers.” Can you talk about what Schneider was like to work with?

Schneider? As far as with his work, like with “Good Burger,” he just really understands comedy. He grew up in it as well, being on “Head of the Class.” He allowed us to improv in our character roles, so with that, he’s definitely, definitely talented as far as writing these characters.

I mean, you’re talking about all these fun characters in shows like “Sam & Cat,” and “All That,” and “Kenan & Kel,” and “Game Shakers” as well. Yeah, he just had a real zany comedic mind.

Ex-Nickelodeon producer Dan Schneider standing with actors Kel Mitchell, Benjamin Flores Jr., Cree Cicchino, Madisyn Shipman and Thomas Kuc.Ex-Nickelodeon producer Dan Schneider (top-left) posing for a photo with Kel Mitchell and the cast of the show “Game Shakers.” Schneider has been accused of bullying co-workers and young stars, including sexually suggestive content in Nickelodeon shows, and discriminating against female writers.

Eric Vitale/Getty Images

According to Insider’s reporting from my colleague Kate Taylor, actors and writers who have worked under Schneider have accused him of bullying behavior, of acting inappropriately towards child stars. Do you have any comment on these stories or did you witness anything similar?

I feel everyone’s stories are different. As far as with me, I didn’t see that. But I feel everyone’s story is their story. People need to tell their truth and be courageous in that and tell their truth. Yeah.

Okay. Lastly, I just want to bring this all full circle. You’ve produced work in all sorts of industries — TVs, movies, music, books. You’re even a youth pastor. Are there any other formats or industries that you want to try your hand at next?

Man, I would just say I love this journey of life that I’m on. Even outside of entertainment, being a youth pastor as well as an author, I just go where God leads me. I find the gratitude in every character that I play, every job that I do. He gives me the grace and He gives me the endurance to go after these witty and fun ideas that He gives me

I just want everybody to have joy as they work through everything. For me, as I look at my career from the past, now in the future, it’s great. I’m just really enjoying this journey.

Read the original article on Business Insider
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