‘Breaking Bad’ star shares positive message

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(Photo by Heather Davidson)

RJ Mitte isn’t what you’d expect from an accomplished actor. He’s young, he’s down to earth, he’s funny.

And he has cerebral palsy (CP).

The 21-year-old, who plays Walter White, Jr. on the AMC show, Breaking Bad, has used his profession as a springboard to talk about diversity in the arts, living with a disability and overcoming adversity. While Mitte talks about the bullying and hardship he faced growing up with CP, for him, it’s part of a learning experience that he now gets to share with others.

“When you have a disability, people assume you’re disabled,” said Mitte, who spoke to a small crowd in the Hawk’s Nest at Wilfrid Laurier University last Friday, as part of Laurier Students’ Public Interest Research Group’s Rad Week.

“Living with a disability, you have so much knowledge.”

Mitte’s character on Breaking Bad also has CP. While Mitte characterizes his own form of non-progressive CP as “mild,” something he is able to keep under control with careful physical training, Walter, Jr. wears assistive walking devices and like Mitte, has slightly altered speech patterns. It’s a role he describes as an honour.

“There are so many types of ailments and physical disabilities and we do not portray that in arts and media. We do not see that in television. And that’s the thing, people want to relate,” said Mitte.

“When they see someone like them on television, it makes a world of difference.”

For Mitte, it’s all about forward momentum – learning from your past without dwelling on it. Recognizing that the actions you take in your life impact not only those you know, but a wide network of people, he believes, is an important part of this.

“What will I do and say that other people will see me for? What will I do to another person, what will I say to another person, that will change someone else’s life?” he said, are things to consider in day-to-day life.

But Mitte knows better than most that unexpected challenges are bound to pop up. His solution: persevere.

“You are trying to better yourself as a person and better this world. And there’s so many times when people just want to break you down. There will always be an obstacle, but at the end of the day, it’s just an obstacle,” Mitte told The Cord. “You have to get around it, you have to go over it, you have to go through it. And there’s always a way.”

With Breaking Bad now airing its last season, Mitte has turned to other projects to keep him busy and says he’ll work for “whoever will hire me.”

He’s currently working as executive producer for the documentary “Vanished: The Tara Calico Story” and has been filming for his role in upcoming film “ZAK: The Theory of Everything.”

Mitte, however, says that he won’t forget his Breaking Bad “family.”

“I wouldn’t be who I am or where I am without Breaking Bad. I am who I am because of the show, I am who I am because of people involved in the show. I grew up on the show,” he reflected.
And what does Mitte, known for his character’s breakfast scenes, start off his day with? Bacon and mayonnaise sandwiches, on white bread.

It’s not exactly gourmet, but according to Mitte, “it’s the best.” And when they’re bringing it straight to your trailer, who can argue with that?

-With files from Justin Smirlies

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