I spoke with RJ Mitte about Who’s Driving Doug, Breaking Bad, Switched at Birth, people’s misconceptions about disabilities, his anti-bullying campaign, working with Shriners Hospitals for Children and United Cerebral Palsy, his fashion work, and so much more. RJ played Walter White, Jr. on one of the best shows in television history, Breaking Bad. RJ has to be one of the most insightful, courteous, and inspirational people that I have ever spoken with. He gives so much of his time to help others exceed. Don’t miss the premiere of Who’s Driving Doug at the Santa Barbara Film Festival on February 6th. Sundance TV is also airing episodes of Breaking Bad on Wednesday nights. Who can resist a Breaking Bad marathon? I certainly don’t want to meet that person.
Lena: How much did working on Breaking Bad change your life?
RJ Mitte: It gave me a career. I started when I was 14 and I finished it when I turned 21. It gave me a job and opportunities. I’ve been lucky enough, ever since the show ended, to keep working and keep pushing forward and keep trying to create a career around what the show has given me.
Lena: What do you hope that people took away from your portrayal of Walter White, Jr.?
RJ Mitte: Someone can take away something from one character so many different ways but I think the biggest thing that I didn’t realize doing it until after the fact of what Walter, Jr. did. When you first started watching Walt, Jr. you saw a character with a disability—you saw the crutches and then you saw the character, but as you started watching the show you no longer saw the crutches, you saw the character. You saw the character grow and you saw a person, you didn’t just see a disabled person but you saw a person. That’s what I try to do and I think it’s important that we take away from real characters and real roles of what we have and what’s going on in our life. I think that’s what I try to do with all of my characters. When we create a character, and what we have of a character, is that we make them realistic and bring them to life and make you feel things and think of different situations that you wouldn’t normally think of. I try to do that with all of my characters.
Lena: Breaking Bad was such a great show. You were fantastic and I miss it dearly.
RJ Mitte: Thank you. We miss it, too. We were lucky to have it for as long as we did and I’m happy that we got to have an ending.
Lena: Do you ever find yourself thinking about what Walt, Jr. would be doing right now?
RJ Mitte: I have. People will ask me and I don’t think it’s a very happy ending. I think it’s very cold and lonely because they lost everything—they lost their family and friends and they lost people that cared about them because of Heisenberg. I think people need to realize that Heisenberg wasn’t a hero, he was a monster and he needed to be stopped. All of the damage that he caused was not just to him but his whole family. I feel that it really destroyed his family.
Lena: You serve as the official ambassador for Shriners Hospitals for Children and Untied Cerebral Palsy. Can you talk about working with them?
RJ Mitte: I always like to keep busy and I’m lucky enough to be able to work with some amazing organizations, Shriners and United Cerebral Palsy being a couple of them. I started working with Shriners as a patient. I grew up with them from 3-12 going to physical therapy, occupational therapy and getting casted and braces through them. I wanted to figure out a way to help them and see if I could do anything so I became an advocate and ambassador for them for the past few years now. I do a number of different things with the U.N., Shriners, and United Cerebral Palsy. I was actually lucky enough through Shriners to help create an anti-bullying campaign called Cut the Bull. I think that was really interesting to do because there are a lot of anti-bullying campaigns to stop and prevent, but I think we need to be reminded that to do that we need to stand up for what we believe in and at the end of it have to cut the bull. I’m very lucky to have these amazing opportunities because of so many different aspects of what Breaking Bad has given me, but I think that there is always a bigger picture to these situations and Breaking Bad, in the grand scheme of my life, has been such a big picture but it’s a small picture at the same time—it’s just an intricate piece of the puzzle. I love working with these organizations. I get to travel for them and meet amazing kids, people and parents, and share their stories. I’m very blessed to be a part of that.
Lena: How do you deal with people’s misconceptions about disabilities?
RJ Mitte: Well, I think the biggest thing about it is to remind people that disability is not a disability. When people think disability they think of physically disabled, mentally disabled, but when I think of disability I think of it as a challenge. I don’t think of it as something that we have to cure and fix but as something that we need to overcome and understand and grow with. I try to remind people that everyone has these challenges, everyone has these disabilities but the thing about it is that at the end of the day if you do nothing about them they will only get worse, so we have to overcome them and we have to evolve with them and grow with them. We have to use them as knowledge and strength and not use them as a crutch. You have to remind yourself that you have to overcome and persevere. I think more people have a tendency to feel sorry for themselves but at the end of the day the only person that is going to help you the best is you.
Lena: Do you have any advice for people that are being bullied? What do you wish bullies knew?
RJ Mitte: I think the biggest thing you have to remember is that people see what’s happening and you need to stand up for yourself. If you stand up you won’t be alone. You will have people with you that will back you. You need to fight back and shouldn’t be intimidated by fear and manipulation but be able to be yourself and be who you want to be and not let people try to control you and manipulate you. When it comes down to bullies, bullies are just as afraid as the person being bullied but they’ve turned their fear into anger and hate and you cannot prosper from that. You may think that you are stronger but at the end of the day you are the weaker person. The person that rushes to anger is something that we should not be afraid of because they have already lost. At the end of the day, you can give advice all you want but it’s the person that’s going through this thing has to do something. I can only give you ideas but you have to carry out that plan and you have to do it for your life and for what you want of your life.
Lena: Who’s Driving Doug will be premiering at the Santa Barbara Film Festival on February 6th. What can you say about the film and your character Doug?
RJ Mitte: It was fun and really cool. It’s loosely based on the real life of a friend of ours that wrote this. I think it was an opportunity for me to see a different side of disability that I’m not necessarily used to. I play a character with muscular dystrophy. It’s about this kid that falls into a routine and one day this man changes his routine and changes what he is. He gets convinced to go on a trip and it changes his perception of this world and what it is to make friends and to be a part of society. I don’t know what people will think of it. We had a lot of fun making it and I hope people enjoy it as much as we did. It’s really an interesting concept and I hope people just appreciate it. You never know what people are going to think. I just hope for the best.
Lena: It was written by Michael Carnick and directed by David Michael Conley.
RJ Mitte: Both of them have become very good friends of mine. I made a lot of amazing friends through that. Paloma Kwiatkowski and Ray William Johnson are also starring in it as well. We were just creating something unique and something out of the box and we really had fun doing it. It kept evolving and growing. I haven’t seen it, but I’m not going to watch it. I’m good. I’ll leave it to the viewers to watch. People are either going to love it or hate it. I think people are going to find it interesting.
Lena: I’m looking forward to it.
RJ Mitte: Thank you. I hope you enjoy it. It was cool because we got to shoot in LA and then we were shooting in Vegas for a week. We got to have some fun at the Riviera. The Riviera is gone now. We were one of the last films to shoot there.
Lena: Are you going to be filming any additional episodes of Switched at Birth?
RJ Mitte: I don’t know. That would be amazing. You never know. When it comes down to that, I just wait for the phone call. If they want me back I’d be more than happy, but we’ll see what happens. Pilot season is coming up and I’m going to do some auditions and see what happens from there. I’m doing a lot of different things. Right now, I’m in the middle of shooting a movie called Triumph. It’s about high school wresting, so I’m just trying to stay fit. I’m getting ready for the premiere of Who’s Driving Doug and just going from one place to another.
Lena: You must have some really great fan stories from meeting people that are only familiar with your work on Breaking Bad and Switched at Birth. Are they surprised when they see you walking around unaided?
RJ Mitte: It’s funny. Most people don’t recognize me because of not having crutches, braces, or being in a chair. I think it’s funny because people say that they know me from somewhere but I look a little different. “Yeah, you can walk?” “Yeah, I can walk.” Especially when I go snowboarding. It’s good. I like that. The thing that I like about this industry is that I don’t like to play me. I don’t like being me. I want to be someone else and I like playing these characters because they are not me. I’ve been lucky enough that I’m able to play unique and quirky characters and they apparently work out. I’m all for that.
Lena: That’s the fun part of acting, right?
RJ Mitte: Yes. That is the whole point of it, to just not be yourself. That’s what I enjoy.
Lena: Are you planning on doing any additional runway or fashion work?
RJ Mitte: I was just talking about that. I was talking to one of my agents the other day and I would like to. I would like to do some more fashion. I would like to create my own line. I’ve wanted to do that for quite a few years now. That takes money and I want to be able to do it the way that I want and it’s going to be a little pricey. I’m just trying to stay in shape and fashion week just started actually. I think I might try to hit up fashion week in London while I’m there and see some of the shows. It’s very interesting for me because I’m not a model, I don’t really have a six pack and I’m not the skinny person. For me, from the standpoints of what we have to do is go from my acting standpoint and Breaking Bad’s standpoint and that ship is kind of getting old. We are just waiting for the right moment and the right group of people. I’ve met some amazing friends in fashion week and I’m just waiting for the right one to do it again. I enjoyed the shows. I enjoy fashion and like doing the shows.
Lena: Do you have any other projects coming up or anything else that you want to speak about?
RJ Mitte: I think we pretty much covered everything. I hope people enjoy Who’s Driving Doug and look out for it. It was so much fun making it and we were really lucky to have the people that we had. I think it worked out perfectly.
Who’s Driving Doug premieres at the Santa Barbara Film Festival on February 6th.
Sundance TV is airing episodes of Breaking Bad on Wednesday nights.
RJ Mitte on Twitter: https://twitter.com/RjMitte
RJ Mitte on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/RJ-Mitte