Break­ing Bad star RJ Mitte re­veals how he’s trans­formed his chal­lenges into cov­etable ca­reer suc­cess, and why ‘can’t’ is never an op­tion.

Schon! - - Can’t Is A Four Letter Word - Words / Shama Nasinde

What de­fines us? Sit­ting across from 23-year-old RJ Mitte, one could say a lot of things. In his work­ing life, Mitte is as much a pro­ducer as he is an ac­tor, and is cur­rently in the midst of pro­duc­ing a doc­u­men­tary on the un­solved kid­nap­ping of stu­dent Tara Cal­ico. “There was a big cover-up in this small city,” he ex­plains. “Peo­ple have gone on to cre­ate lives and live their ex­is­tence. She’s still miss­ing to­day, but it’s about her dis­ap­pear­ance and the peo­ple that were in­volved.”

Within the con­fines of the Knights­bridge ho­tel room in which we con­verse, Mitte is warm, chatty and ex­tremely cour­te­ous, but to the out­side world, the young ac­tor is best known as Walt Jr. in Break­ing Bad – the cult se­ries named by the Guin­ness Book of World Records as the most crit­i­cally ac­claimed show in tele­vi­sion his­tory. How­ever, at this point in time, the most apt def­i­ni­tion for Mitte is cheer­ful, but tired. An early start to the day is set to be fol­lowed by a glit­ter­ing night at the BRIT Awards: “I have a re­ally cool out­fit for tonight,” he tells us. “I’m ex­cited.”

Mitte’s di­ary for the week reads like a work­ing ac­tor’s dream. He’s at­tend­ing an awards show, shoots, trav­el­ling and, as he proudly in­forms us, giv­ing a talk at Ox­ford Uni­ver­sity. A packed sched­ule may come with the ter­ri­tory, but Mitte’s foray into Hol­ly­wood was never in search of fame or for­tune. “I orig­i­nally moved to Los An­ge­les be­cause of my lit­tle sis­ter,” he says. “If you move to LA and you don’t go to school, don’t join a gang or don’t act, you’re not go­ing to meet any­one or do any­thing. So I started act­ing and do­ing classes to meet kids my own age. About six months later I au­di­tioned for Break­ing Bad.” Five au­di­tions and a flight to New Mex­ico later, “and the rest is his­tory.”

Since his break­through role in Break­ing Bad, Mitte’s ca­reer con­tin­ues to thrive. This year, he has starred in fea­ture film Who’s Driv­ing Doug?, which is about a char­ac­ter with mus­cu­lar dys­tro­phy. “He’s at the point in his life where he goes home, he goes to school and that’s it. “It’s a very ba­sic ex­is­tence,” ex­plains Mitte. “His driver ends up quit­ting on him and his new driver gives him an op­por­tu­nity to change his life. They take a road trip to Las Ve­gas. It’s cool.” The ac­tor also found time to shoot highly an­tic­i­pated movie Dix­ieland, work­ing along­side a star-stud­ded cast in­clud­ing Ri­ley Keough (Elvis Pres­ley’s grand-daugh­ter) and coun­try mu­sic star Faith Hill. “I love be­ing part of a crew,” he says. “When we do shoots and we have a good crew, good photography, you’re able to cre­ate some­thing that peo­ple en­joy. That’s fun for me.”

This en­thu­si­asm for all as­pects of his art, whether be­hind or in front of the cam­era, is in­fec­tious, but what sets Mitte apart from a lot of his young Hol­ly­wood peers, is that each of his pur­suits has a pur­pose: a pur­pose to ed­u­cate. “Peo­ple need to look at dis­abil­ity as knowl­edge,” he in­sists, “be­cause with­out my dis­abil­ity I wouldn’t be here. I would’ve never got Break­ing Bad. I would’ve never been a part of what I am now. Peo­ple have chal­lenges for a rea­son.” Much like the char­ac­ter he por­trayed in Break­ing Bad, Mitte has a mild case of Cere­bral Palsy, a hur­dle he has taken in his stride and turned into a voice for change and em­pow­er­ment. “Can’t is such an in­ter­est­ing thing,” he muses. “I grew up with a marine grand­fa­ther so can’t wasn’t an op­tion. Peo­ple say, ‘I can’t over­come this.’ No, you’re choos­ing not to. You have to fight. No one has an easy path. But [it’s] an op­por­tu­nity to change your per­spec­tive and your mind-set.”

Mitte is adamant that th­ese chal­lenges not only have the abil­ity to change the in­di­vid­ual’s per­spec­tive, but those of oth­ers too, and it’s this open­ness to dis­cus­sion that has led to an award be­ing named in his hon­our (Me­dia Ac­cess’ RJ Mitte Di­ver­sity Award) and earned him a po­si­tion on the Screen Ac­tors Guild as spokesper­son for ac­tors with dis­abil­i­ties. As with ev­ery­thing else in his ca­reer, he takes this re­spon­si­bil­ity to heart: “It’s im­por­tant to show how nor­mal a dis­abil­ity is,” he says. “Peo­ple need to be less fear­ful and more will­ing to step out of their realm of com­fort: to step out of what they think they know.”

It’s an in­dus­try that’s be­com­ing in­creas­ingly ac­ces­si­ble. “You don’t have to have a big pro­duc­tion any­more,” Mitte points out. “You can cre­ate your own projects us­ing your iPhone.” It would seem that for pro­gres­sion to truly take place, per­haps we should start by tak­ing can’t out of our vo­cab­u­lar­ies.

Tal­ent / RJ Mitte Photography / Paul Whit­field Fash­ion Edi­tor / Mar­i­anna Fran­nais

Pro­duc­tion / Huma Hu­mayun Hair / Kei­ichiro Hi­rano @ David Artists

us­ing Bum­ble and bum­ble Make up / Ju­lia Wil­son us­ing L’Oréal Photography As­sis­tant / Chris­tos Markou

Styling As­sis­tant / Ria Poly­chro­ni­adou Spe­cial Thanks to The Welles­ley Ho­tel, Lon­don

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