November 26, 2018
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RJ Mitte, the twenty-two-year-old actor who portrayed Walter White Jr. on the acclaimed television series Breaking Bad, spoke at Rosse Hall this week on how he overcame the adversity of cerebral palsy. Mitte took some time to talk about his life, career, and mission with Matthew Eley ’15, an intern in the Office of Public Affairs.
Eley: Many of your fans are students who are not only looking for new shows to watch but also interested in supporting acting talent with disabilities. Are there other shows that feature actors with disabilities?
Mitte: The disability community, it’s a big community but a very small community at the same time. You have a lot of people who are trying to break into acting. There are a lot who have a body of work who don’t get the recognition they deserve. There are about eleven actors on television now that are working. When I first started there were only five.
What people see on television is what they carry over into real life. And when you have disabled actors, it brings a normality to that. Everyone in their own way has a disability, be it physical, mental, or [affecting] family or friends. Some people have more baggage than they care to realize, and that is a disability. People need to look at it as something they have to overcome, something they have to grow with, to evolve in society.
Eley: Having worked on Breaking Bad as well as a few other television shows, such as Hannah Montana, do you have a favorite acting moment?
Mitte: I loved working on the pilot of Breaking Bad. We had so much fun. We really had an amazing crew and cast of people. It’s the only reason why I’m still acting today. We had our own special thing, our own special experience, and we were lucky to have it.
Eley: Do you plan on continuing your acting career? You’ve made several moves into directing as well.
Mitte: Oh, I still act. I’m acting. But there are 400,000 people every year trying to do what I do, not even including the people already in the industry. The trick is being willing to work. I was in a couple movies this year. Who’s Driving Doug?, we shot that right before August. I shot a movie called Dixieland not too long ago. You just keep moving forward and keep on auditioning. I also speak and talk on diversity in the arts and media, and I travel and model.
Eley: Is there anything you’d like to see college drama departments do in regards to encouraging students with disabilities?
Mitte: I find colleges very accepting when it comes down to accepting disability in the community. I think [discrimination] really happens when you get into these bigger companies and these organizations that look at disability as not an asset but as a weakness. And that’s the thing, people need to look at disability as an asset, they need to look at it as knowledge. [Students] need to be prepared when they leave college to keep having that mindset, to keep wanting to create, wanting not so much to inspire themselves but inspire other people. Setting that example is a very big asset. People are watching, people definitely are watching, and we have more access than ever before. We have this media that we didn’t have five, ten years ago to have that impact.