‘Breaking Bad’ star talks disability, fame

RJ Mitte spoke Wednesday night in Missouri Theater.
Actor RJ Mitte smiles at the Missouri Theatre Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2015, in Columbia, Mo. Mitte spoke to the audience about his disability and experience as an actor.

Some crowd members came because they were fans of “Breaking Bad” or “Switched at Birth.” Some were aspiring journalists. And some were there because they shared a common trait with the speaker.

“I don’t know who he is,” said John Kruse, a Columbia resident with a learning disability. “I like listening to those with disabilities because I have one too.”

Actor RJ Mitte spoke at the Missouri Theatre on Wednesday night at the event “Celebrate Ability.”

The venue was prepared to accommodate, with reserved seats for the disabled near the front and two sign language interpreters. The speech was projected in real time behind the podium.

After a brief introduction, Mitte began talking about his upbringing and cerebral palsy diagnosis. The condition was not recognized until Mitte was 3, when a car dealer asked Mitte’s grandmother if he had it.

The dealer was a Shriner. Shriners International is an organization which has several children’s hospitals across the nation. Soon after this encounter, Mitte began treatment at the Shriners Hospital for Children in Shreveport, Louisiana.

“Without Shriners, I wouldn’t be here,” Mitte said.

Now, Mitte gives back by working as a Love to the rescue Ambassador for Shriners Hospitals.

Mitte’s acting career began after his family was approached by an agent at a waterpark. The agent wanted his younger sister to come to Los Angeles and audition for a part. The whole family moved from Texas to California.

Mitte said this career picked him. The agent asked him if he wanted to give acting a try, so he did.

“If you want to get into acting, find your local background or extra work chapter,” Mitte said. “It gave me that opportunity to learn and to grow because when I landed Breaking Bad, it was my first time ever being a lead character, so it was a little nerve wracking, but I was able to utilize everything I learned and saw… Not many people get that opportunity… I have seen the best and worst in people. It taught me lessons and it taught me what I needed to do and what I needed to do was to set an example.”

Mitte also addressed fame and social media.

“Who is on social media? Don’t even raise your hand, it’s pointless,” Mitte said. “Today, more than ever, people are watching. It’s not just me, it’s you as well. People see you for who you are.”

He said that people have access to each other, and everyone’s reach expands globally.

“You need to be careful of what you put out there, especially online, because it defines you, even if it’s not real,” Mitte said. “Your internet fingerprints will one day be your future resumes. You have to protect who you are and what you stand for.”

At the end of his speech, some members of the audience lined up to ask questions. One member asked what his favorite scene in “Breaking Bad” was.

“I enjoyed tackling Bryan [Cranston],” Mitte said. “I like emotional scenes. I have an affinity for tears. I enjoyed the level we had to get to. It stretches that muscle. It’s like therapy. Not a lot of actors get that opportunity.”

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