Wednesday, students, faculty and staff at Murray State were seeing stars. Not only did CMT invade campus, but “Breaking Bad” actor RJ Mitte visited with students and community members to speak about his disability, his acting career and how to overcome challenges.
Dressed in a navy pinstripe suit, Mitte approached the stage and the crowd cheered. Mitte put his hands together, thanked the crowd for having him and began his lecture.
“If you have no idea who I am, then I have no idea why you’re here,” Mitte said.
Mitte introduced himself, including his role in “Breaking Bad” and the many charities he works with now due to his struggles with cerebral palsy.
Cerebral palsy is a neurological disorder caused by injury to the brain, such as lack of oxygen, in development. The disability affects body movement and muscle coordination, and varies in severity from case to case.
Mitte shared his struggle from a young age, before he was diagnosed.
“My family knew something was wrong,” Mitte said. “They didn’t know what it was. I wasn’t diagnosed until I was three.”
Eventually Mitte was able to get a diagnosis at a Shriner’s hospital and he began treatments. For more than 5 years, he wore casts on his legs. Mitte said he was always trying to find ways to take the casts off. He said on several occasions, he would pretend to fall into the pool so by the time he was able to swim out, the casts were ruined.
Mitte’s struggle was discomfort. Mitte handled the heat by freezing coins and dropping them into the cast to cool down his legs.
“I would get so many stuck in the cast it would get uncomfortable to walk,” Mitte said. “I would finally go to the doctor and have them cut my cast open and money would fly out.”
The physical discomfort was just that, however. There were other problems Mitte faced as a child as well. He was bullied throughout his school years and said he had to stand up for himself often.
Now years later, Mitte is a successful actor, with experience in background roles and as a series regular in “Breaking Bad.” He also works closely with charities relating to cerebral palsy research.
Mitte segued into speaking about his experience in the real world of people trying to tear him down for his disability.
He talked about how the acting business is unfortunately negative.
“You will get told no to more times then you will ever get said yes to,” Mitte said. “You can say ‘Oh, I want to do this,’ they will say no.”
Toward the end of the evening he wrapped up his lecture by advising people to be who they are and set an example for others.
“Protect who you are,” he said. “If you let (people) manipulate you, you won’t realize who you have become. You have the opportunity to make an impact in so many lives and so many aspects of this world.”
Mitte finished his lecture and the crowd engaged him with questions. Many asked about his experiences on ‘Breaking Bad,’ while others asked him about his other upcoming roles.
Many students thanked Mitte for coming after the lecture and expressed excitement to take pictures after the event. Clint Combs, senior from Murray, was able to ask Mitte a question in the session. After the show he said he enjoyed hearing Mitte speak.
“I thought RJ did an excellent job,” Combs said. “He was a fun speaker to listen to. Also as a fan of the show, I thought it was weird to see that character live.”
Attendees walked away with more knowledge of the person behind the character and the struggles he has faced with cerebral palsy. Mitte reminded each person there to stand for what they believe in and believe in who they are.
Story by Hunter Harrell, Staff writer