How RJ Mitte of ‘Breaking Bad’ blazes trail for disabled actors
Actor RJ Mitte (“House of Last Things”, “Step Up Revolution”) was brain-damaged when he was born but self-reliantly walks without crutches. He speaks with a slight slur but it’s hardly discernible from his Louisiana accent. Read more about the brilliant Mitte and how his role in the hit series “Breaking Bad” broke borders for differently abled artists.
Did you know that Mitte wasn’t almost casted as Walt junior? Stuff.co.nz reports that Vince Gilligan, the series creator initially thought that Mitte was not right for the role. Gilligan penned the part of Walt junior as homage to a good college friend with cerebral palsy, so he was firm on finding the right actor to play it.
Addison Witt, Mitte’s handler convinced Gilligan to take a second look and after besting others in all four auditions, Mitte influenced the “Breaking Bad” creator that he could own the role. “Vince originally wanted someone who really used crutches, but I knew how to work with them and make them look authentic,” Mitte said.
The young Mitte was only 14-years-old and would spend the next six years with his “Breaking Bad” family.
Looking back, Mitte shared that his biological parents put him up for adoption while he was still in his mother’s womb. “They popped me out the womb and passed me down the line.” She had an extremely difficult labor that lasted for four grueling days. Without health insurance and being admitted during a busy time at the hospital, Mitte’s birth mother was parked in a hallway. The tension didn’t die down after an emergency caesarean, as the baby started flat lining but Mitte conquered his first ever challenge and survived the ordeal.
He also survived bullies growing up with the help of his grandfather, a former US marine. “You can’t stop it, but you can stand up for yourself and not allow yourself to be manipulated and intimidated,” he said. “People don’t want someone that fights back.” he added.
Mitte’s acting career grew from doing small roles on “Hannah Montana”, “Weeds”, and “Everybody”—until “Breaking Bad” came. Armed with a daring plot, the show seemed promising but the network, AMC, was only just earning a reputation for original drama “Mad Men”. Gilligan casted Bryan Cranston (“Malcolm in the Middle”, “Godzilla”) for the lead role and we can say that, the rest is history.
“Breaking Bad” ended in September 2013. Primarily, it was difficult to accept, thinking other acting jobs wouldn’t be as fulfilling but it had equipped Mitte with irreplaceable visibility and more importantly, a prospect to encourage disabled actors.
Mitte’s upcoming gigs were in modeling. He got to work for Vivienne Westwood, Gap, and Diesel, among others. Soon after, Jamie Brewer became the first model with Down syndrome to walk for New York Fashion Week and just last year, Jillian Mercado, a fashion blogger, who has spastic muscular dystrophy, became the face of a Diesel campaign.
Mitte felt very positive from the developments. “A lot of people think that perfection is a six foot tall, hundred-pound (1.8-metre, 45-kilogram) model girl. I don’t know what world you live in, but I don’t see girls like that on the streets too often. I do see people with disabilities and diversities, and I think that’s what we need to show as beautiful and true, even with what people consider imperfections.”
As an active proponent of the nonprofit I’m A Performer with Disability, Mitte stresses the money to be made. “The best way to change the minds of these people is to show them that this is a lucrative side of the industry: that disability is a market.” he said.
Mitte remains to serve as an inspiration to all. “Without cerebral palsy, I wouldn’t be in this position. If I did not have this way of living, this idea of living, I wouldn’t be able to do what I do.”
Photo Source: Twitter/RJ Mitte