Breaking Bad Actor RJ Mitte Visits UNCW

Breaking Bad fans know him as “Walt Jr.” or “Flynn,” but on March 19, RJ Mitte came to UNCW to speak about issues more important than Heisenberg, or breakfast. The actor has a mild case of Cerebral Palsy (CP) and the goal of his speech was to discuss the condition and talk about bullying. He did allow for questions about the show in the question and answer period.

Name: RJ Mitte (The R. Stands for Roy)

Age: 21

Occupation: Actor

Hometown: Lafayette, Louisiana

 

At the age of 15, Mitte began working on AMC’s Drama, Breaking Bad. In Breaking Bad, Mitte played a character with CP, which was based off on a college friend of the show’s director, Vince Gilligan. Mitte is a spokesperson for the national organization “I AM PWD,” which he explained stands for “Inclusion in the Arts & Media of People with Disabilities.”

Mitte’s inspiring message was that no matter what the obstacles, we can surpass and overcome anything life throws our way.

Mitte’s warning to UNCW students was to be extremely careful what we post on Facebook and social networking sites. He stressed the point that even something we post or share with good intentions can easily be misinterpreted or used to harm others. He said even though we may log off of a site, our words remain there always, constantly speaking for us and show people who we really are. Mitte also reminded us that nothing online can ever truly be erased or forgotten.

As a child with CP, Mitte grew up constantly attending therapy sessions. He said he spent a significant amount of time with casts on his feet, which he would always try to break off by pretending to fall into the bathtub. The foot casts gave his peers a reason to bully and tease him, which is why he wanted them removed.

Mitte eventually realized that the casts and other tedious forms of therapy were only going to help him, so he stopped resisting therapy and became the strong, confident and witty person he is today. Mitte’s mother, who was also present at his UNCW speech, used to make him repeatedly fold stacks of towels which she would then knock over and have him start again. Mitte said this helped hone his motor skills and hand and muscle control.

In 2006, Mitte was discovered by a talent agent and began his acting career. At first, his mother was worried that the endeavor would not go successfully because of his condition. Mitte has now won three consecutive Screen Actors Guild Awards, for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series from 2011-2013.

Mitte said that he grew up with a veteran grandfather who had served in the Marine Corps. With him, “I can’t,” was an unacceptable response. Mitte thanked his family for supporting him, and he never allowed himself to have a view that he was limited.

I was fortunate enough to meet RJ during the meet and greet period, and only had time to ask him one thing. How do you pick just one question? Well, I went with a classic: “Who is your biggest inspiration?” The response I received took me by surprise.

Mitte said, “People always ask me that.” And to myself I thought, “I knew I could have chosen a better question.” But what followed is what really made me think. He said that we have to look within and strive to push ourselves, that we should be our ultimate source of motivation for success in our lives.

Breaking Bad fan bonus:

(Pictured Above: Familiar scene from Breaking Bad with the White family at the breakfast table. For those who did not watch the show religiously like the rest of us, breakfast time was one of the only things that held the fictional family together.)

At the end of the speech, one person in the audience asked Mitte what his favorite breakfast food is. To that, he quickly responded. "Bacon. Bacon comes first, that's why it's called 'Bacon and Eggs', and not the other way around." To his dismay, a girl in the audience commented that she didn't like bacon. Mitte was armed with a humorous comeback, "Why?! The only reason people shouldn't eat bacon is for religious reasons."