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‘Breaking Bad’ star to discuss how cerebral palsy helped shape his career

Closeup of RJ Mitte
RJ Mitte

Actor RJ Mitte, best known for playing Walter “Flynn” White Jr. on the series “Breaking Bad,” will discuss living with cerebral palsy and the impact it has had on his career during a talk at noon on Wednesday, March 23, in the Compton Union Building Junior Ballroom. The event is free and open to everyone on the Pullman campus. The presentation will not be livestreamed. 

His talk, sponsored by WSU’s Access Center, will be followed by a meet-and-greet where students, faculty, and staff can talk with the TV star.

“I am super excited for this event,” said Matthew Jeffries, director of campus climate and community building in the Division of Student Affairs. “This is one of those once-in-a-lifetime events that students will remember when they look back on their college experience.”

Educating about disabilities

Mitte was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at age 3; after his diagnosis, doctors put his legs in casts for 6 months to straighten his feet. He used leg braces and crutches for most of his childhood until his body became strong enough to walk without them.

After moving to Hollywood in 2006, Mitte looked for acting opportunities that would educate people about his disability. He landed the role with “Breaking Bad” in 2008 and starred in the series until it ended in 2013. That year the Screen Actors Guild recognized him for outstanding performance by an ensemble in a drama series and he received a Media Access Award.

Mitte has served as the Screen Actors Guild’s spokesperson for actors with disabilities and advocates for people with disabilities in the media and arts.

In addition to his role in “Breaking Bad,” Mitte played a lead role in the 2011 horror film “Stump” and appeared in “House of Last Things” the same year. He also worked as the executive producer for the documentary “Vanished: The Tara Calico Story.”

‘Chip away’ at our biases

Mitte’s appearance is taking place in lieu of the Access Center’s annual Disability Awareness Symposium, which was placed on hold this year due to staffing challenges and competing priorities, Jeffries said. 

He hopes students, faculty, and staff will come away from Mitte’s presentation with a realization that we all have unconscious biases that influence the decisions we make in life.

“It takes these kinds of learning opportunities to become cognizant of them and to be able to chip away at them,” he said. “The more we learn, the more we can recognize our own ableist practices – we can deconstruct them and build something better.”

Mackinsey Mascali, a WSU Pullman senior and an intern in the Access Center, said she is excited for the opportunity to learn more about how disabilities are portrayed in the media.

“I believe attendees will gain a better understanding of how disabilities are portrayed on screen, whether properly or improperly, and the effect that has on people with disabilities,” she said. “I love that we have an opportunity to learn from someone that is so prominent in the industry.”

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