RJ Mitte, one of the stars of the AMC show Breaking Bad, spoke to students and faculty on Monday evening in the Salvatori Computer Science Center. The discussion, Breaking Barriers with RJ Mitte, focused on Mitte’s disability and how he uses his career to advocate for equality.
The event was sponsored by the Political Student Assembly.
Mitte played the character Walter “Flynn” White Jr., who suffers from cerebral palsy in the hit TV show Breaking Bad. In the show, Mitte is the son of a cancer-diagnosed chemistry teacher who produces and sells methamphetamine to help his family financially before he dies.
When Mitte was 3 years old, he was diagnosed with mild cerebral palsy. Mitte moved to Los Angeles in 2006 because his sister was recruited for a role in a film project. Mitte jokingly said that he started to take acting lessons because if you’re in L.A. and you’re not in school, in a gang or acting, you probably won’t meet friends. About six months later, he auditioned for Breaking Bad and got the part.
Mitte said his cerebral palsy doesn’t hold him back.
“I really don’t see [cerebral palsy] as a [hindrance],” Mitte said. “I see it as a strength. I see it as knowledge. There [are] so many things that come into effect when you’re in this industry and the more you have the better, I find. Yes, it can look hindering, but to me, it’s not.”
Mitte said individuals need to stop letting fear stop them from doing things.
“The main thing I’ve been really trying to get across when I do these speeches is not allowing yourself to be manipulated by fear,” Mitte said. “At the end of the day, we are able to do anything we want. We have the power. We have the knowledge. We have the ability as human beings to be very resilient and not give up.”
Mitte said people should always take the opportunity to create social change.
“When you have an opportunity to change something that’s bigger than yourself and you have people that will listen and seem to like what you have to say and seem to understand … I think it’s important to do it,” Mitte said.
According to Mitte, individuals need to change the way they perceive others.
“One of the most important things that we have to do is change the mindset of how we perceive people, not just with disability — but people in general — because you have a lot of people that perceive the wrong thing and that’s not what you need,” Mitte said. “They see the crutches; they see the chair; they don’t look at who that person is. That’s not what I see when I see someone; I see them and then I see an extension.”
Breaking Bad helped Mitte become more involved with helping others and changing mindsets.
“[Breaking Bad] gave me a career and my career changed my life,” Mitte said. “I’m lucky that I’m able to do what I do. There are so many people in my position that don’t get these opportunities. No matter what, I would always be working with organizations and nonprofits, but this has allowed me to amplify that and to unfold and bring awareness to certain things that really need to be brought attention to.”
Correction: A previous version of this story stated that Breaking Bad was a show on HBO. It was actually a show on AMC. The Daily Trojan regrets the error.