“I’ve always been incredibly grateful for my career, and I was just saying this to a friend about three days ago,” he recalled. “David Hyde Pierce, who I was just interviewing for a Crossovers Live! We were talking just backstage, and I said to him, ‘David, I just can’t believe my life. I mean, do you ever feel the same way?’ And he feels the same way. I just can’t believe the way my life has turned out. I’ve been working only as a performer since even before I left high school. That’s what I was doing. I was making a living already doing that before I left high school. And this is in San Diego. This is not in Los Angeles, some fancy showbiz town.
“Then [I] went straight into a showbiz job, and then went straight from that into a television series that ran for seven years [Trapper John, M.D.], and then went right from there into my voiceover career, and then went right from there into my Broadway career. One thing, it just led to another,” he continued. “My concert career was the last thing that really took root, and the Christmas concerts there with the Tabernacle Choir have been an extension of that, and it just continues. It’s still going on. I still have concerts this year. I still have television offers that I’m doing. I still have Crossovers Live! that I’m doing. It just seems like it’s never ending, and I just feel so incredibly grateful. I still cannot believe my life.”
“To be able to work with such brilliant artists like all the people I’ve been interviewing—David Hyde Pierce, Audra McDonald, Kristen Chenoweth, Vanessa Williams, Bernadette Peters, and Marc Shaiman—and these are my friends now too, as well. It’s mind-blowing to me, and then to work with the Tabernacle Choir. I just can’t believe my life. It’s amazing.”
Yet as the saying goes, you get back what you put in. It’s no surprise that Brian Stokes Mitchell has had the career he does, both in terms of talent and in terms of who he is. If you watch some of his earlier performances with the Choir and then the new footage showcased in 20 Years of Christmas with the Tabernacle Choir, you see how he continues to evolve as an artist. He’s always been crazy talented but he never stops trying to get better, and that’s why it’s so exciting to see what he does next. Whatever it is, it’s always special.
Just as important as what he does on stage, though, is what he does off of it. Brian is the chairman of the board of The Actors Fund, which theatre fans have heard a lot about the last two years while they’ve been almost constantly fundraising to help entertainment professionals affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Choir leaders recently donated $100,000 to The Actors Fund as a thank-you for the contributions of Brian and all the other artists who have joined them over the years.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints also opened up their annual Giving Machines to support a number of charitable organizations this holiday season. The kiosks enable folks to donate any amount they can to a handful of great organizations, including but not limited to The Actors Fund, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York, the New York Board of Rabbis and the Mariano Rivera Foundation. Brian was on hand last week as the Giving Machines made their debut in Rockefeller Center.
“There’s all of these things that people can help out and buy individual things for people,” he explained. “It may be $150 [that] helps somebody build a well. $275 helps somebody pay for an out-of-work performer’s utility bill or their insurance. There are specific things that you can buy. It’s just a brilliant, brilliant way to help people out and it’s something easy to do. You just have to pull your credit card out and swipe it, and you choose the gift that you want to give to somebody.”
Through that and other efforts, Brian is actively working to make the world a better place, and encouraged fans to join him as we wind down another challenging year. “Holidays [are] one of the times people can be elated, but it’s also one of the times that people are the most down, and a lot of people go through terrible depression during these times, for whatever reason,” he explained. “One of the things that I have found throughout my life is if you’re depressed and if you’re feeling bad, the best way to make yourself feel good is help somebody else.
“Whether it’s somebody on the street, a homeless person, giving them some food, giving them money, going to work at a place where they serve meals to the homeless people or their shelter and help them, or delivering gifts to kids that can’t afford them or whatever. You cannot help but feel better by helping other people. That’s one of the reasons I’ve stuck with The Actors Fund, and I’ve been there 18 years now,” he continued. “Like the rest of the board members, I volunteer for this. I don’t get paid for this. It costs me money, actually, and all of the board members as well, because we donate and do all of these other things [for] The Actors Fund. The reason we stay on is because all of the people that are being helped by it and it makes us feel good. And we’re involved in an organization that really makes a difference.
“People in show business got hit really hard, and people in show business aren’t all the famous people that people think of,” Brian pointed out. “It’s the people that are working in the background, going from day to day, doing job to job. Gig workers, basically. Many of those people have had their lives destroyed by this pandemic because not only have they lost their jobs, they’ve lost their health insurance. They’ve lost their homes. They’ve lost their ability to work and their secondary jobs as well, which is oftentimes working in a restaurant or bar or something like that. None of those have been there. And these are the people that have got me through this crazy time…watching the work of artists that inspire us.
“That’s what’s great about this show with the Tabernacle Choir. This is a show that when people watch it, they’ll be lifted. You’ll feel better. I guarantee you. I did, even when I watched the cuts that have been going on. I’ve been moved by it. I’ve felt inspired by it. It’s made me feel joyful,” he said. “Surround yourself with joy. Surround yourself with people you love, and go help people. Help whatever charity it is that helps you.
“If you don’t know what you want for the holiday, ask for donations to charities,” he suggested. “Charities that light you up, that make you happy, that you know is going to help somebody. It’s going to help somebody, and all these other people will be connected to that as well.”
Brian Stokes Mitchell leads by example. Not only is he an incredible performer, but he’s the kind of person we should all aspire to be, and through projects like 20 Years of Christmas with the Tabernacle Choir, Crossovers Live! and his charity efforts, he’s bringing other people’s stories to life and bringing joy into our homes. Don’t miss the opportunity to celebrate the season with him and the Choir this month, and hopefully you’ll be inspired to then share that love and light with those around you.
20 Years of Christmas with the Tabernacle Choir premieres Dec. 13 on PBS, PBS.org and the PBS Video app, and Dec. 16 on BYUtv, BYUtv.org and the free BYUtv app.
Article content is (c)2020-2022 Brittany Frederick and may not be excerpted or reproduced without express written permission by the author. Follow me on Twitter at @BFTVTwtr, on Instagram at @BFTVGram.