• Interviews

RJ Mitte, Actor & Sportscaster: Changing Perception on Talent with Disabilities

From playing 'Flynn’, the son of Walter White on the Golden Globe-winning AMC series Breaking Bad, to his current job as sportscaster at Rio's Paralympics, RJ Mitte, 24, has been able to spin his affliction with Cerebral Palsy into a positive.

“I wouldn’t be here today if I didn’t have my disability. I would have never got Breaking Bad and I wouldn’t be doing what I am doing today as a presenter at the Paralympics because no one would really care. It’s as simple as that. I have no work experience, no background experience to be doing this job, but here I am in Rio,” he says. “So, it's a blessing.”

Movie star handsome, this actor and model enjoys being out of his element zone as sports presenter for British TV station Channel 4. “This is way out of my comfort zone, especially this type of presenting. I have presented before and I have hosted before, but I have never done it to this extent, as a broadcaster. And for the most part we are going to be live,” he says.

Presenting on live TV, where myriad situations can go awry, is intimidating to even the most seasoned professional. “I don’t think it’s actually that scary but I think it’s good to be able to test and to push yourself and to try to change your environment up as much as possible. It is a nerve-wracking thing when you have a lot of responsibility.”

Mitte is a sports enthusiast and athletics was a constant presence in his life. “I had played tons of sports, I still do. I do more winter sports now, like skiing, snowmobiling, snowboarding, occasionally getting into snowball fights,” he laughs. “Anything I can do sporting wise, I am all for it. I rock climb, I do the whole nine yards. And I am hoping to film some stuff playing with the athletes in Rio and getting in the middle of the action.”

He's sharing airtime with British award-winning broadcaster, Claire Balding, not too shabby for his first sports gig. “Yes, I know. It's amazing. She gave me some good advice, which was just to be myself and to pretend that the camera lens is like a friend you're talking to in a bar.”

When Mitte returns from Rio he has some movie roles on the boil. “I just shot a movie in Acapulco called Time Share and another movie called The Recall. Then I have some projects on Netflix coming up. I'm extremely lucky.

Even though Mitte has worked regularly since Breaking Bad roles, which call for disabilities, don't come along very often. “I hope that when they cast Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything that they tried a disabled person first. I think it’s sad that if you are an able bodied actor and you play a disabled character it’s pretty much like an automatic win for you at award season. But if you are a disabled actor playing a really good character that just happens to be disabled, what’s special about that? If my character in Breaking Bad was played by someone without a disability, my character probably would have won an Emmy. But because I have a disability, what’s special about it? Nothing. That irritates me because I see a lot of amazing disabled actors and they pretty much get chewed up and they're like gone. I think we need to change that mindset and change that perspective.”

Mitte is an example of someone who not only functions well with his disability but also has excelled. In doing so, he has lessened the stigma for others with cerebral palsy.

“You can only hope. The thing about changing a perception in people’s minds, and I have been trying to do this since my career started, is changing the perception of people with disabilities in film and television. I have been trying to do that over the years and yes it evolves, but the problem that we get into is people are so closed-minded. When someone thinks they know something, no matter what, it's very hard can’t change that,” he says. “All I know is that I'll never stop trying.”