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Actor RJ Mitte from Breaking Bad

by Ouch Team

10th November 2008

Here's a revealing, extended audio interview with 16 year old actor RJ Mitte, who plays Walter White Jnr in the gritty US drama Breaking Bad.
RJ Mitte in a scene from Breaking Bad
He joined us from a studio in Albuquerque, where the show is filmed. In the series, he plays a smart alec teenager in extraordinary circumstances. His father (Bryan Cranston) has terminal cancer and starts 'cooking' the hard drug Crystal Meth to pay for his treatment and support his family. RJ himself has mild cerebral palsy, but he had to 'act more disabled' for the role. His character uses crutches and has slurred speech - skills that RJ had to re-learn for the part.

In this 11 minute interview, find out how RJ Mitte became an actor. Now he's made it on TV, how is he finding being a young role model and a bit of a heartthrob? Plus, discover how a clause in RJ's contract has put an end to some of his outdoor hobbies! This interview is taken from Ouch's November 2008 podcast, presented by Mat Frazer and Liz Carr.

[+] Click to reveal transcript

Mat: With us on the line is the star of TV's Breaking Bad, it's RJ Mitte. How're you doing, RJ?

RJ: I'm good. How are you?

Mat: Very good, thank you very much.

Liz: We are well. Great to have you.

RJ: Good.

Mat: Now we've been talking about [singing] Albuquerque, which is where you come from. But to most British people the reason I sang it is because it comes from an '80s pop song. We want to know what's it like in Albuquerque. What's it like?

RJ: It's nice - big mountains, beautiful. It's like a lot of desert - if you just take the freeway about half a mile out you'll hit the desert.

Liz: Right in the middle of the desert. And that's where you're filming, that's where you're filming the series?

RJ: Yeah, we have a studio by the airport out here that's about ten minutes out of Albuquerque, and we have the sound stage there and we have all the entire house there. And plus about two hours from that we go out and that's where we cook Crystal.

Liz: Well, let's explain…

Mat: This is weird. We'd better explain the programme now ...

Liz: We should, yeah.

Mat: ... because this is a bit weird.

RJ: Oh yes.

Liz: Well, Breaking Bad is a gritty US drama currently showing on the FX channel in the UK. RJ plays Walter White Jnr, a smart-alec teenager with cerebral palsy whose father's dying of cancer. His father's a former chemistry teacher, and he deals in Crystal Meth in order to fund his ongoing chemo and to look after his family. Walter's regularly seen getting into all sorts of schoolboy scrapes. So here we've got a clip of RJ as Walter, trying on some trousers in the changing room of a clothes store.

Clip: Are you sure you don't want to get like the different kind? Like a - you know - the skinny jeans? Because those are really supposed to be in now.

Do I look like a skater?

All right.

They're my big boy pants. Mummy could you zip up ...?

Mat: After that - what happens in that clip after they tease you, RJ?

RJ: My Dad comes and beats the crap out of that dude. I mean that part takes place in just a store where I'm trying on clothes, and this dude starts making fun of me, and from there just my Dad can't handle it anymore. I've been getting made fun of by this jerk, and my Dad comes around and just beats the dude up.

Mat: Wow!

RJ: Yeah.

Mat: In real life I don't know what your parental background is like. Are your parents still around?

RJ: Yeah.

Mat: Okay.

RJ: Actually my Mum is in the sound studio right now.

Mat: Hey, RJ Mum!

Liz: Hello Mum!

Mat: I hope you're proud of your boy? But listen, what would you have done if that had happened in real life? If your Dad had gone up and stamped on the leg of a teaser?

Liz: Would your Dad do that? Would your real Dad do that?

RJ: I don't know. Maybe. I'm not sure. That stuff doesn't really bother me because I just say "Ah, they're jealous because I've got a real job".

Mat: Obviously for the listeners ... ah ha, nice one! ... for the listeners, obviously, RJ has cerebral palsy like the character Walter that he portrays.

RJ: Yes.

Liz: Yeah, which I think is fascinating, RJ. …

Mat: Oh yes.

Liz: You have to what we like to call 'crip up' a bit, don't you? You have to act more disabled?

RJ: Yes, I have a very mild case of cerebral palsy and the character has it more severely.

Mat: Wow!

Liz: So what do you have to do?

Mat: You might get an Oscar.

RJ: For the character role I have to kind of ... I overcame a lot of stuff. They said I'd be on crutches or I'd still be in braces. Well, two years ago I just had enough of that so I got out of that, when this role came up I had to relearn a lot of that.

Liz: So you'd thrown away the crutches in real life, and now you've got them on in the show, yeah?

RJ: Yeah. I de-progressed, I ...

Liz: You've regressed, you've gone back.

RJ: I regressed.

Mat: Hey RJ, are there any other impairments you fancy having a go at? I'm just joking. Now younger disabled people - it's clear they're crying out for a disabled role model on dramatic television. I mean, really, we don't get examples of this. So what you're doing is quite a rare thing. Gideon, you're with us ...

Gideon: Hello.

Mat: That's your life being portrayed - that's your early life in a way kind of being portrayed. How do you feel about it?

Gideon: It's extraordinary - I've been gripped by the show. I've just never seen something like that. I've never seen just an ordinary guy with cerebral palsy, a teenager doing regular stuff, going out and trying to drink and hanging out and those experiences. That's just amazing to see on regular TV. Quite often the disabled characters come in and just do a small part, or they're just an extra. But here, this guy is a teenager and he's one of the main characters - it's really great to see.

Mat: That's the effect you're having on some people, RJ. Do you find that a fun responsibility or what?

RJ: I find it an honour that I can affect so many people by just me being in this great show. It's a real honour to be able to just go and do what I love, and really show people about CP and be a role model to some people, I guess.

Liz: It's like ... Gideon's our web assistant and researcher on Ouch, and you're a role model to him. Okay, so would you rather be a role model or a heartthrob?

Mat: Huh-ha!

RJ: Yeah, that's a hard one. Is there a chance for both?

Mat: How unlike a young man.

Liz: A good looking role model. I think you probably fulfil that, that's fine.

Mat: Yeah, apparently the word on the streets is that you're a bit hot and the ladies on the set are keen on you, so you're obviously having that kind of effect. When you get a bit older, do you think your television and film career is going to develop and you'll end up being possibly the first ever disability heartthrob?

RJ: Maybe! You never know!

Liz: Because before this you'd done - what other shows have you done? You've done Grey's Anatomy, yeah?

RJ: Yeah, I did a small part, but really I haven't ... I did actually kind of start acting three or four years ago, and I worked on Hannah Montana and some stuff like that. But this is mainly Breaking Bad - this is my main role pretty much.

Liz: And you know what? We've been sitting here, and I've got no idea - what does Breaking Bad mean?

Mat: What does it refer to? Is it something to do with ...?

RJ: Breaking Bad - I've heard that question phrased in many directions, and it always means the same thing. It's when someone can't ... when a decent person can't take it any more. They just kind of turn and go in the opposite direction.

Liz: So this is about your Dad, because your Dad in the show is a teacher. He's a chemistry teacher, and he decides to start making Crystal Meth to make a bit of money.

Mat: What is Crystal Meth?

RJ: Crystal Meth is like a hard drug; it messes with the mind, your teeth, your body. It's like one of the worst ... apparently. Look at it as one of the worst drugs out there.

Liz: Have you tried it? No, sorry, I can't ...

RJ: No, I haven't!

Mat: Liz, thank you very much. We're talking to a ...

RJ: I don't mess around with that stuff.

Liz: No, of course, no.

Mat: No.

RJ: I'm in school and I have to actually use my brain, so ...

Mat: Yeah, it's a bit difficult when you're fried, isn't it? Hey, what's it like at school now that you're the film star? Do you get bullied? "Here comes Mr Big Film Star" - do they say that when you come in or are they happy for you?

RJ: No, actually the way I do school it's kind of like a homework; it's kind of like home school.

Mat: Have you got hippy parents?

RJ: No.

Mat: RJ's Mum, are you a little bit liberal?

RJ: Oh yeah, here she comes. I think she's on the mic.

RJ'S Mum: No, I'm not.

Mat: Phew, that's a relief!

RJ: Can she ... can you talk?

RJ'S Mum: How about open-minded conservative?

Liz: Ooh, what does that mean?

Mat: Well, we heard they existed.

Liz: We've never met one - hello! Wow!

Mat: How lovely. Anyway, sorry, back ...

Liz: Your schooling, I mean ...

Mat: Schooling - what's it like?

RJ: It sucks. I personally don't like school, but you have to do it if you want to get through life, so pretty much I put up with it.

Liz: And what subjects are you doing at the moment?

RJ: English, Science, basic Geometry ...

Mat: Always useful for an actor.

RJ: Yes.

Liz: You've got to know the right angles.

RJ: Yeah, Chemicals ...

Liz: Good for the Crystal Meth.

Gideon: That comes in handy.

RJ: Yes, what's ironic is when I'm on set and they're off, I'll go to Bryan and just say, "Here's my science. Do you want to do it for me?" Because it's pretty much all the basic chemicals and the table elements.

Gideon: That's Bryan Cranston, who plays your Dad in the show?

RJ: Yes, he plays Walter White.

Mat: Is the show going down well in the States?

RJ: Actually, it is. I don't know, but we got two Emmy's ...

Mat: Wow, congratulations!

Liz: It's going well, then. Are you filming the second series now?

RJ: Actually I am, right now. I'm doing that as we speak. This is like my first week off.

Liz: When you're not filming and you have off - you said you've got some off time now - what do you do? You say in the clip: I'm not skateboarding, I don't need those, I'm not that trendy. Are you in real life, though?

RJ: I'm actually very active. They actually limit me, because I have something called a mortality clause where I can't break any bones.

Mat: Wow!

RJ: I had to cut out a lot of my activities.

Liz: Like what ... what would you do if you could?

RJ: I like to dirt bike ride, four wheeler, go-kart. I can't do any of that any more. Football and stuff like ... I do a lot of stuff. I go shooting and paintballing.

Mat: Paintballing?

RJ: Pretty much anything.

Mat: What do you shoot when you go shooting?

RJ: Targets, pretty much. I like going out with rifles and just with a bunch of friends to just blow a bunch of targets away.

Liz: They're called the locals.

Mat: How unlike a teenage American boy.

Liz: That doesn't fulfil any stereotype we have of Americans at all - no, no.

RJ: No, it's not. For me it fits a lot because I'm not actually from Albuquerque, I'm from Lafayette, Louisiana.

Mat: Oh, Louisiana, huh?

RJ: Yeah.

Liz: From the south.

Mat: RJ Mitte, thank you so much for talking to us.

RJ: Oh, I'm glad you let me on.

Mat: Listeners, if you want to catch Breaking Bad, it's on the FX channel on Sundays at 10.00 pm. That's channel 164 on Sky, channel 179 on Virgin Media and channel 10 on Tiscali TV. RJ, goodbye.

Liz: Thank you so much.

RJ: All right. I hope you all have a good day.


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