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For Mitte, ‘Bad’ Rep is Good

Roy

By Kathi Wolfe

(The following is one of an ongoing series of articles on actors and performers with disabilities.)

Actors with disabilities are being seen more and more on the small screen. Such is the case with Roy Frank “RJ” Mitte III.

Mitte, who has cerebral palsy, plays Walter White Jr. on the critically acclaimed AMC cable TV series “Breaking Bad.” Though Walter also has CP, his disability isn’t his defining characteristic. “He’s a regular kid,” Mitte said in a phone interview.

Walter Jr. is the son of high school chemistry teacher Walter White, who has lung cancer. But if you think the Emmy Awardwinning drama is an “afterschool special" kind of show – think again. The senior White, unbeknownst to his loved ones, becomes a methamphetamine dealer to provide for Walter Jr. and the rest of his family. That’s just the beginning. Over the years, the show’s aficionados have been enthralled as “Bad” has gotten darker and edgier with each passing season.

Mitte, who spent his early years in Texas and Louisiana, where he was born, didn’t get into show business until his family moved to Los Angeles in 2006 – and that was because his younger sister, Lacianne Carriere, wanted to pursue an acting career.

“When I came to L.A., I didn’t know anybody,” Mitte said. “I took acting classes as a way to meet people.” Mitte got his part on “Breaking Bad” through a combination of being talented and at the right place at the right time. Talent manager Addison Witt was working with Mitte's sister when he suggested that her brother audition for “Bad.” “It’s a perfect part for me,” Mitte said, adding with a laugh, “I’m a workaholic! I like to work!”

Though Walter Jr., his character on “Breaking Bad,” has CP, his disability isn’t overemphasized, Mitte said. On the show, Walter Jr. “is treated like everyone else,” said Witt, now Mitte's talent manager.

When he’s not filming “Breaking Bad,” Mitte keeps busy sorting through offers for movies, Witt said, because “so many filmmakers are inspired by him. They face their own challenges.”

The teenager recently finished a stint in Portland, Ore., where he worked on a movie “House of Last Things.” The thriller is scheduled for release this year.

Mitte gets fan mail from people with and without disabilities, Witt said. “Some of them (the fans) say ‘you inspire me’ in some way or another,” Mitte said. “I’m happy if I’ve inspired somebody to get up and do something.”

People are starting to be more accepting of people with disabilities in the arts and media, said Mitte, a spokesman for the IAM PWD (Inclusion in the Arts and Media of Performers with Disabilities) campaign. “As times goes by, we’ll see more people with disabilities on TV,” he said. "We’re working so that actors with disabilities will get auditions like everyone else.”

People are starting to be more accepting of people with disabilities in the arts and media, said Mitte, a spokesman for the IAM PWD (Inclusion in the Arts and Media of Performers with Disabilities) campaign. “As times goes by, we’ll see more people with disabilities on TV,” he said. "We’re working so that actors with disabilities will get auditions like everyone else.”

“This industry” is a business, Mitte said. “To get one part is a great honor.” It can be overwhelming, “but everyone has talent in (his) own way.”

Mitte has many plans for his future. “I want to direct, produce – to study acting and all forms of art. You can’t understand just one part of acting. Acting is made up of many different processes.”

The fourth season of “Breaking Bad,” was "a game-changer – a rough time for my character!" Mitte said. "You’ll have to see what happens!”

For more information on “Breaking Bad,” go to www. amc.com.

Kathi Wolfe is a writer and poet. She is a contributor to the anthology “Beauty Is a Verb: The New Poetry of Disability,” a Publisher’s Weekly Top Ten Fall 2011 poetry book.


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