Meet the Breaking Bad actor on a mission to change Hollywood

Katie Grant@kt_grant
Thursday 04 December 2014 10:10

What's this young man smiling about?

Hollywood actor RJ Mitte has opened up about his determination to tackle prejudice surrounding people with disabilities and how he hopes to use his sex-symbol status to challenge misconceptions about disability and sexuality.

Where do I recognise him from?

Mitte, 22, was catapulted to stardom in 2008 after being cast in the critically acclaimed US drama series Breaking Bad, in which he played Walt Jnr, the son of Bryan Cranston's chemistry-teacher-turned-crystal meth-lab operator Walter White. Like his on-screen character, Mitte has cerebral palsy, the general term for a number of neurological conditions that affect movement and co-ordination.

Isn't Hollywood notoriously discriminatory though?

Campaigners including Mitte are working hard to change that. To mark the UN-sanctioned International Day of Persons with Disabilities, which took place yesterday, the actor travelled to the UK to talk to children with disabilities about the opportunities available to them in the entertainment industry.

What advice did he have?

In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Mitte, who was born in Louisiana but moved to Los Angeles as a teenager with his family, appealed to people with disabilities to "not be manipulated by fear, and to not let people manipulate you using that fear." He added: "Even though you have a disability, that does not make you disabled [in other ways]. It gives you insight. It gives you knowledge. It gives you something that someone without that will never learn."

It sounds like he's fully embraced his disability...

"So many people try to hide their disability. They try to lock it away because they think disability is not sexy, disability is not flattering… but that's not the case," said Mitte, who regularly graces the pages of teen magazines and recently sent pulses racing by participating in a topless photoshoot.

What does he make of his newfound 'heartthrob' status?

"Hey, if I've got it I've got it, you know?" he said. "It's nice that people don't look at my disability as something that hinders that. It shows that people can look beyond what they see physically, a challenge or a disability, and see a person for who they are."

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