Toronto-born actor Kenneth Mitchell is opening up about his health, revealing to People that he’s been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), sometimes referred to as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
Mitchell, who’s played multiple roles on “Star Trek: Discovery” and was recently seen in The CW’s “Nancy Drew”, revealed that he was diagnosed with ALS in 2018 after experiencing what he at first thought to be a pinched nerve or possibly early symptoms of MS.
“The moment that they told us it was [ALS], it was like I was in my own movie,” Mitchell told the magazine. “That’s what it felt like, like I was watching that scene where someone is being told that they have a terminal illness. It was just a complete disbelief, a shock.”
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Admitting that he and wife Susan “grieved and mourned really hard,” they decided to put the focus on their children, aged 12 and 7, pulling them out of school in order to spend quality time together on family vacations.
“We had meetings with all their schools, with the principal, the counselors, their teachers,” he explained. “Everyone was in support and understanding the situation and that we might be pulling them out of school more than most, just so we can spend some time together as a family while I was still healthy.”
Mitchell, 45, has been using a wheelchair since October 2019, and described how some productions did everything they could to accommodate his new reality.
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“When I started [‘Nancy Drew’], I was playing a character that was ‘normal’,” he explained. “They were aware of my limitations and my illness, but they still wanted to work with me. Although it feels more challenging to play this character who doesn’t have any disabilities, it’s the process that they do. They accommodate and make it work. We use the double, the stunt double, the body double, punching and on closeups, and medium shots with me. Or my shots will be me, the scenes will be me seated or leaning up against something. They just make it work. They do it in a way that they don’t ever make me feel like I’m dragging things out or a hindrance or anything. It always makes me feel like I’m still an asset. That’s really empowering.”
He’s going public with his diagnosis, he added, in hopes of helping others going through similarly trying experiences.
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“I’m just getting more comfortable with what’s happening with me,” he said. “I think there’s something I can offer and I want to be a part of that. A lot of people helped me along the way, through my actions, or if I can inspire one person that would mean a lot to me. So, I just feel like it’s time. There’s a practical aspect of it. I can’t hide it anymore. I thought instead of shielding myself away in my home, which, if that’s your choice that’s fine, too. I wouldn’t make any judgment on anyone. I don’t think anyone would on me. But, I just feel like it’s time that I get out there and be a voice.”