AMC: You and your "Breaking Bad" character both have cerebral palsy, though Walter Jr.'s symptoms are more pronounced than your own. Did you regress from your therapy to portray him?
RJ Mitte: Yeah. It was very hard to regress. I had to stay up real late so I could learn to blur my speech more. I had to learn how to use crutches so it didn't look like I'm faking walking. I didn't want to look like just another faker because I really have it. If you're going to do it, you have to do it the full way. No matter if you're regressing or if you're trying to make it look bad, you need to still try to do it right. It was hard at first, but after a while everybody would help me out. For example, I used to walk on my toes a lot when I was a kid because I could barely move my feet, so when I was learning to portray Walter Jr., my mom would remind me about that. It was a big help.
Do you think it was important that series creator Vince Gilligan cast someone with CP for the role?
I think it was very important. I think now I look like a role model to some CP actors, which is an honor. Everybody -- if they have CP on their resume --, it looks like, oh this kid is wheelchair-bound or he's slow or something like that, which is not true. It is important for someone who is playing this role to really do the role.
Walter Jr. has been described as a bit cocky and a smart-ass. Do you see any of those characteristics in yourself?
Sometimes I'm a smart-ass. My mom says that all the time. We pretty much are one and the same. We have the same personality. We both just want to be treated like everybody else. He tries drinking and stuff, which I don't do. I have never ever tried that. That's like, my mom would... man, I would never hear the end of it.
How was your experience on set? Were you treated like the kid?
No, not really. Everybody pretty much treats me the same. I'm really mature for my age—at 15, I look much older than I am, so I never get that awkwardness. My mom had to leave New Mexico at one point, and I stayed with Aaron Paul (who plays Jesse Pinkman) for a week. He's like the greatest guy ever. We hung out, we went out, we went to a concert, we played Wii, we worked. We just really had fun.
Did you like shooting in Albuquerque, N.M.?
It was really fun - but a little bit boring since I wasn't in school. I didn't really know a bunch of people there. So I started taking ballroom dance lessons to meet people. Girls like guys that can dance—and it's going very well.
What was your favorite scene to film?
When I cussed my dad [played by Bryan Cranston] out—because my grandma was there. My mom was there a lot, but that day she was babysitting my little sister and my grandma wanted to see the set, so I invited her. So she was sitting in her chair and watching me film, and her face when I called my dad a p----...When anyone says a bad word in my family, my little sister says, 'Pop your mouth!' It's like to hit your mouth. And so we filmed that scene so many times, and my grandma was cringing. Every time I got off the set she said, 'Pop your mouth!' But having my family there was really great. They're a great support. I don't see how anyone in the acting business could do it by themselves without their family. It's really hard. You need the support: you need people to come home to. You just need it.
You originally got started in this business because your sister was recruited by a talent scout. How does it feel now that you're the family celebrity?
My sister is a mess. I love her to death, but she is a mess. She has fiery red hair—if you ever see her you can understand why we came out here for her. She's 4, she talks non-stop, she has the vocabulary of an 8 year old, she throws big words at me all the time. She is the smartest 4-year-old girl you will ever meet. And with that fiery red hair, she has no shame. That little girl will tell you anything. And I had never had that fire to be an actor. I always wanted to go into the military or something like that—My whole family, all my friends are either Air Force, Navy, or Marines. My PopPop was in the Marines, so I always had that desire, but with my CP I could never do it. So I decided, why not try to be an actor? But now I get it every day from my sister. People will say, "Oh you're like a movie star." She'll tell them off and say, "He's not the movie star, I'm the movie star. He has a TV show, but I'm the movie star."
The season finale of "Breaking Bad" airs Sunday at 10 p.m. ET on AMC. "Breaking Bad" on AMC
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