Last year I became obsessed with the AMC TV show that was widely regarded as one of the greatest television series of all time, Breaking Bad. I spent countless days and nights watching every episode of every season. This obsession continued to grow after I tweeted one of the actors, RJ Mitte (Walter, Jr. aka Flynn) and he followed me back. Fan girling for a moment…
Breaking Bad is a crime drama television series created and produced by Vince Gilligan. The show originally aired on the AMC network for five seasons, from January 20, 2008 to September 29, 2013. The main character is Walter White (Bryan Cranston), a struggling high school chemistry teacher who is diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer at the beginning of the series. He turns to a life of crime, producing and selling crystallized methamphetamine, in order to secure his family’s financial future before he dies, teaming with his former student, Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul).
CMU Program Board brought RJ Mitte to campus on October 28, 2014 as a motivational speaker to the students. RJ Mitte let his cerebral palsy speak for itself when he became the actor on the show who also has CP. He was able to embrace his disability on a much larger scale and become an advocate for over 17 million people diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy. Mitte lived a life of physical and emotional pain with countless surgeries, braces and bullies; “I had kids that would push me and shove me. I had my hand broken,” Mitte said. “Dealing with bullies and dealing with it growing up, it was interesting, but it taught me to show — I hate to use the word — but to show pity to bullies,” Mitte said. “At the end of the day, whatever they’re going through in life … I feel bad for them because they’ll never grow. People like that never learn.” RJ Mitte kept light of the situation of having casts on his legs by “tripping” into bathtubs or pools and putting frozen coins inside to cool the pain/itching. He didn’t realize or think that far ahead as to how he was going to get them back out or that it would make a “Ca-Ching” noise with every step. He explained how after the doctor cut off his cast, all these coins spewed out. He was always able to make the best of any situation with his positive attitude.
I try to bring awareness, not just to CP but to all disabilities in the sense that it’s knowledge. My disability gave me so much knowledge that I was able to take into ‘Breaking Bad’ and to grow and to learn. You always have to bring in awareness because this is real. This isn’t something that people are like, ‘Oh yeah, that CP thing…’ People live with this and people should see it because it is real. This is our world.
Besides bullies and his life experiences with CP, RJ Mitte touched on every subject that any student on campus or worldwide have experienced at some point in their life. He talked about the importance of social media and how it could be used as a sword or a shield. It has many benefits but it could also be taken in the wrong light by your future employeers which could prevent you from achieving your dream job. He also touched on leadership and the ability to step up and make the difference. He explained how he didn’t understand why people are afraid to be the first ones, the ones to step out of their comfort zone. He brought up a story about a crowded tiny hallway that was covered in water from the recent downpour. This older woman fell down and he thought someone has to help her out. As he was making his way over there, he noticed how everyone was just stepping around her, ignoring her, even turning away acting as if it didn’t even happen. He was the only one to step up and help this poor woman. It is up to us as the future generations to be the leader and not let others manipulate ourselves.
One of the major subjects that hit home for me was when he talked about going to all of his multiple therapies and surgeries. No kid wants to go to therapy because of how painful and uncomfortable it is to make your body do something it is not used too or wants to do. As I am going into Therapeutic Recreation, I kept thinking of what I will be working with in the future. How it is up to me to make the person’s therapy session something they enjoyed going to. That I chose TR because I want to help people with disabilities overcome what people see as a “weakness”. This also had me thinking about a close family to mine, the Curtis’. How their son who also has CP used a bike to gain his motor skills back and how I will someday get the chance to do the same for another family.
After the show, I was given the opportunity to meet and greet RJ due to a close friend from LeaderShape winning tickets. We both were shaking trying to come up with what we should ask him. One of my questions was “since you were not planning on being an actor, what were your original plans after school?” He told me that he wanted to be in the marines serving for our country. I was shocked seeing how he wasn’t going to let his disability keep him back. After asking him a couple questions and signing one of our donor cards (since we were unprepared for this amazing opportunity), he asked if one of us have O+ blood. As I quickly explained that I am, he quickly responded with “Can I have your lungs?” As I gave him a puzzled face, he explained how his friend was suppose to die 2 years ago to Cystic Fibrosis. His friend has until the end of October unless someone is able to donate a pair of lungs. To know that Mitte has already been through so much and continues to give back was just amazing to see. He is able to joke around and try to keep situations light but truly cares about everyone. I have never met an actor besides one that is so caring and loving even through the acting industry.