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WITH AN EYE ON . . . : The life and times of Daryl Mitchell help make 'Larroquette' go 'round


Daryl (Chill) Mitchell of NBC's "The John Larroquette Show" has found that his own life translates well on screen.

In 1989, when Mitchell was working as a musician and deejay, he met Reginald and Warren Hudlin, brothers in search of a movie concept for rappers Kid N' Play.

"I talked to them about how a group of us got together, played music and rapped at parties," Mitchell recalls, on a break from "Larroquette." "And they decided that's what their movie should be about." The Hudlins' movie evolved into 1990's successful "House Party" (Reginald directed and Warren produced).

On the set of "Larroquette," where he plays angry lunch-counter vendor Dexter, more of Mitchell's stories about his past have found their way into the series' scripts.

"I can say, 'This stuff happened to me, but it was like this . . . ' and they'll put it in," he says. "You can write it, but if you can't feel it or relate to it, you won't really know it. But when I can talk about my life and it gets in, it works good."

Despite what he calls a "rough" childhood growing up in Long Island, Mitchell says he's never as angry as Dexter. "For me, when things got negative, I fought back in a positive way. Dexter's anger is a cop-out, a way to pass the buck, blame someone else. No one's forcing him to stay there. He controls his destiny. But I think he's gonna start maturing and growing."

Growing up, Mitchell was grateful to rest on the laurels of his three older brothers' tough reputations. "It was a rough time. I have five siblings, but my father had a total of 14 kids, and at one time we all lived together."

He searched for activities outside the home: "Where I grew up, we didn't have Little League or football, or anything like that. Rap is the Little League of the ghetto."

Mitchell's interest in hip-hop grew when his friends got together to rap. "We had the hip-hop thing," he explains. Acknowledging it sounds like the old '40s "Let's put on a show" movie mentality, he explains: "We got a crew together of 20 kids who pitch in and buy equipment, form a crew, do parties and rap in people's back yards."

That crew evolved into the three-man rap groove group Groove B. Chill, which eventually put out two records. While the group no longer performs as an act, they produce music together. Currently, Mitchell is producing three other acts: a solo R&B artist, a "girl group" and a rap artist.

His own music remains constant and he'll soon return to it as a solo performer. "I've been reluctant," he says. "First, my acting career took off, and second, rap music took a turn into a gangster profile and that's not me. I listen to it, there's something to be said there, but it's not me. It would be like me trying to do ... salsa!"

He likes to listen to what he doesn't perform: "I even listen to opera. I don't know a word they're saying, but I like the way it sounds."

Mitchell says he'll patiently wait until his own melodic rap style comes back: "Everything has its time. Once it goes back to my flavor, then it's my time again."

It's certainly his time on television, says "Larroquette" creator and executive producer Don Reo. "He's a natural and one of my favorite actors in the whole world. He has this ability to take what we write and make it real and believable and honest. And he's a really nice person to work with," Reo says.

Next week, Mitchell appears in the Hudlins' "Cosmic Slop" on HBO. "It's crazy," he says of the show, "like 'Twilight Zone,' but really out there."

And next month he begins shooting the feature "Quiet Time in Hollywood," about a youth's tough time growing up on the streets of Hollywood. Alluding to his own youth, he says, "Ah, it's all the same, what's happening in Hollywood is happening everywhere. It happens in New York, South Carolina, all over."

"The John Larroquette Show" airs Tuesdays at 9:30 p.m. on NBC. "Cosmic Slop" airs Nov. 8 at 10 p.m. on HBO.

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