Thrill of acting

in conversation
Last Updated 24 September 2016, 18:38 IST

The darkly gripping TV series Breaking Bad, with its moments of high drama and non-stop thrills, is holding its fans captive once again and actor R J Mitte, who plays an important role in the show, is thrilled about the viewership it has received.

The crime drama that has won two Golden Globe Awards, several Primetime Emmy Awards and many other accolades is also famous for being one of the most critically acclaimed shows of all time. Breaking Bad is about Walter White, a high school chemistry teacher, who is diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. In order to enhance and establish his family’s financial future before he dies, Walter decides to enter the world of crime by producing and selling crystallised methamphetamine.

In an exclusive interview with Mitte, who plays the role of Walter Flynn White Jr., the young actor, producer and model speaks fondly of the days on the sets of the crime series. Like his character on the show, Mitte suffers from mild cerebral palsy, and over the years he has tirelessly championed the cause of those with the disability in the hope of removing the stigma associated with it. “I play the role of Walter’s son in the series and my mother is Skyler White, played by Anna Gunn,” he says. “The series is about a family that gets into a bad place in life. It is also about the journey of a man who will do anything to provide for his family. It is a struggle that people can relate to.”

The big break

Mitte loved his role in Breaking Bad. He started acting in the TV series at the age of 13 and concluded the job when he was 20 going on 21. “It was a big part of my life and the show made me what I am,” he says. “It was like an eye opener for me and it has taught me a lot too.”

Life as a child actor is not easy but he says that it was his love for the profession that kept him going. “I started acting at 13, and it is a different kind of life. You don’t go to school and you don’t play any games. I auditioned five times for Breaking Bad. As soon as I got a role in the series, it suddenly gave me a career that just took off. I haven’t stopped working since then.”

After the series ended, Mitte re-emerged on the big screen in the crime-drama film Dixieland, which premiered at the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival. He has also had a stint as a model when he became the celebrity face and model of GAP International’s Lived in Spring campaign.

It is extremely hard to break in as an actor in Hollywood, says Mitte. “But you just have to keep working at it and keep wanting to create. As long as you are creating the stuff that you love and getting your message across, it is all that matters,” he explains.

As for the genres of movies that he loves, Mitte is quick to say that he enjoys doing drama and action roles the most. “I like things that are complicated and things that stand out. I like film projects that challenge me. I am lucky to have worked on such projects,” he says.

Dealing with affliction

Taking on the leading role in a film with a physical challenge like cerebral palsy is not easy, but Mitte has never let his problems hinder his progress. “It’s difficult but it’s a part of what I do. The more difficult it is, the better the result,” he says.

Mitte’s work takes him across the world. In order to create awareness to his own issues with bullying and prejudice, he serves as the official Ambassador for United Cerebral Palsy and Shriners Hospitals for Children. He was a featured panelist at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival discussing diversity and he is also a part of British Channel 4’s coverage of the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games.

As an actor, Mitte finds it hard to decide which medium he loves most, television or the movies. “I like both the small and the big screen for different reasons. I like movies because you can do them quickly and they are fun. But I also like the filming schedule of television series. They are always shooting and you are with your crew for a long time,” he explains.

As for the most rewarding role in his career, Mitte says it would be his role in Breaking Bad. “If it had not been for this role, I wouldn’t have been in the position that I am in today.”

Mitte is a self-confessed workaholic and his plans for the future run along the same vein. He wants to keep on working and keep on doing what he is doing right now. “I have a couple of new movies that I will be shooting soon. I want to start creating my own projects too. Travelling and seeing the world are also a part of my plan.”

Being an actor means the world for Mitte, and he feels privileged to be a part of a profession that is so exciting. “I get to express myself and live my life with each character that I play on the screen. I can’t imagine my life in any other way. This is who I want to be and this is where I want to be,” he says.
Breaking Bad airs on weekdays at 11 pm, on AXN.

(Published 24 September 2016, 15:22 IST)

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