Ben's Workshop: Darryl Mitchell and A Gift to the Local Physical Therapy Clinic

Darryl Mitchel is a successful, diversely talented actor and performer. He was in the 90s Hip Hop band Groove B. Chill. Soon after, he would become a successful actor on TV and film, starring in roles on House Party, the John Larroquette Show, Veronica's Closet, Galaxy Quest, and 10 Things I Hate About You.

Fifteen years into his career, Darryl was involved in a tragic accident and was paralyzed. Yet he wasted no time getting back to work. He starred in NCIS New Orleans, Fear of the Walking Dead, and then finally, Ben's Workshop.

Ben said, "When Darryl and I talked, he said he wanted to build something that would help people who had spinal injuries. Erin's dad and brother are both doctors of physical therapy. So I went to them and asked, Okay, what could we build? We came up with the incline board; it's essentially an exercise machine that goes on a tabletop that strengthens mobility and the upper body."

After presenting Darryl with safety glasses and his official Scotsman Co. apron, the Woodshop duo got to work on their project.

Ben and Darryl laid the groundwork for their incline board using walnut, maple, cherry, and a specialty wood, Purple Heart. Not without a few curious questions and cheesy segues from Ben to learn more about Darryl's hip hop background. 

Darryl said, "I don't know any other genre of music that brings people together quite like hip hop. Groove B. Chill is my group, and we signed a record deal with Uptown Records. The guys who directed our videos were inking out a movie named House Party. They shot this movie for $2 million, and we thought, Okay, we're just happy to be in a movie, but we didn't know it was going to be this big of a movie. So I figured if I acted in more movies, I'd sell more records. I went to LA for two weeks and stayed for 15 years."

In the late 90s, Darryl's career soared to new heights with his role on Galaxy Quest and then on the teenage, romantic comedy 10 Things I Hate About You. Then tragedy struck. 

In his own words, Darryl shared how his vacation in South Carolina changed everything after his nephew offered his motorcycle to ride for fun. 

He says, "My nephew asked me to ride his motorcycle because he had it all tricked out. I went up the road, and it was good. When I came back the other way, I hit loose gravel, and the bike shot right out from under me. I just flipped and flipped."

Darryl went into a coma but miraculously awoke in the hospital three days later. He said, "The doctor came to me and said, There's a strong possibility you may never walk again. The only thing running through my head was, I got to get out of this bed... I got to get up to feed my family. The doctors told me that I had to do rehabilitation, surgery to stabilize my spine, and I said to myself, I'm going to fight. My inspiration to fight was my kids."

After months of rehabilitation, Darryl returned to work with a brand new perspective on life and a new obstacle to overcome in the acting world. He had to prove himself like he never had before. He got his first acting gig with Ducktales, but they weren't initially looking to add a cast member in a wheelchair.

He said, "They knew that they were looking to add another cast member, somebody new.. and I got the job after talking with them for a while. It was a test because I didn't want anybody to see me as a liability. One of the things I would ask is if they would send me my wardrobe the night before the show. That way, I'm dressed when I show up to work because I know what I got to go through to get dressed."

He continued, "A lot of people saw me as fragile, and I would tell them, Hey, I'm just injured. It's a severe injury, but it's an injury— and I'm alive! After people are around me long enough, the wheelchair disappears. It's like, Oh, it's just Darryl."

The woodworking duo got back to work and began creating sliding dovetail joints to lock the moving incline pieces together for stability. 

Ben remarked, "For the tray, we're going to do the French-style sliding dovetails, and that will allow our walls to lock. If we were to take it and glue them together and maybe put a tack in them. It would hold for a long time, but eventually, that joint will fail. Those sliding dovetails will last a lot longer than Darryl and me."

Daryl admits that he was nervous that he wouldn't have a successful career in acting after his accident. Fewer roles are written for people in wheelchairs, so part of his job became changing perceptions. 

He said, "Roles would come up that I wasn't able to do, so it got a little sketchy at one point. But I had dealt with that before because certain roles were specified for "white" men as well. So I had to go in there and change their perception. Now, I represent another community of people, and it should be more diverse, you know? It's good for the audience to see, especially people with disabilities, because they watch and see they can do it, too."

Darryl's persistence would land him multiple roles and challenge script writers to include people with disabilities in the TV and film industry for years to come. Thankfully, his career and the industry has changed a lot since his accident. 

He said, "I've worked with NBC, CBS, AMC. Now I'm here on HGTV, which says a lot about the change. I don't like to be limited to wheelchair roles. I've worked with some of the greatest actors and actresses that are disabled, but they just have never been allowed to do more."

He continued, "I've worked 30 years in the business—15 years able-bodied and 15 years disabled. I'm getting opportunities because people know me, so it's my responsibility to show up and show out. It's not only what I do in front of the camera that's going to create opportunities for other people, but it's what I do behind the camera, too."

We're so thankful for Darryl and his ability to build beautiful things with his hands and words. Be sure to stop by the Scotsman General Store and Woodshop to see what Ben makes next and watch new episodes of Ben's Workshop on Discovery+ now!