Interview – RJ Mitte

RJ Mitte, an actor, is well-known to us all for his role in the hit TV series Breaking Bad as Flynn. The true story behind his new movie, ‘Triumph”, is about a high-school student who has cerebral palsy and wants to join the wrestling team.

Other than ‘Triumph,’ it’s hard to find scripts that feature characters with cerebral palsy…

Because of Breaking Bad fame and my disability, I do receive a lot more scripts in which the main characters of the story are disabled. I was drawn to the story and not just the fact that this main character has a disability similar to mine. Michael Coffey is the author and creator of this character. It’s him. Our goal is to be seen on television and in movies that accurately portray us while still being fun.

This film is one of my favorite films. We took someone’s dreams and made them a reality. This is my favorite form of filmmaking.

Film is set in 1980s, and shows the attitudes and views of that time. Is it a film that made you reconsider how disability issues evolved since 1980?

Yes, it’s a different time. In reality, Michael was treated a bit more harshly back in those days than what is shown in this story. We need to keep in mind that there is a positive and a negative evolution of the past, present, and future. Every action can have an opposite reaction. This is something I believe in. Focusing on the positive aspect of each reaction is what I do.

This film examines whether Michael should have the ability to wrestle, or be prevented from doing so by being banned…

Everybody should be able to choose what they wish to do, regardless of whether someone believes that they can do it. You won’t be able to tell what someone can do unless they give it a shot.

Everyone has been hurt. If you tell someone young that you cannot achieve your goal or that you won’t be able to achieve it, this is emotionally harmful. Instead, it should be: OK. We’ll do our best not to make you suffer, but we won’t let you die.

Many people view disability as weakness or illness. They think it makes them weaker, that they are fragile, that is something we must overcome, and that there’s no cure. But to me, the truth is quite the opposite. Disability is something I consider a strength. It is the ability to understand, power, and gain knowledge. Understanding others is not enough. It also requires understanding oneself and the ability to grow within.

Do you find it annoying that there are so many scripts about disability-related stories? Or, do you see it as an opportunity to be the disabled poster boy and look at all those scripts?

I am in the middle of…

Yes, it is true. I think about it, and I wonder if I ever wanted to represent a character with disabilities.

You wouldn’t be able to see them if I didn’t do them. While I strive to find common ground, I am not only trying to be this character. I do also have an obligation. These types of people are not often seen in media. Although I am aware of people with disabilities, it’s not something that I often see. I believe most people are unaware how common it can be to have one. It is the role I want to portray. It is not the right character, but it should be. Yes.

The wrestling scenes in the movie looked great…

Before Triumph, I had never done Greco-Roman style grappling. Two amazing coaches taught me fundamentals, and I worked very hard to make the sport look real and hardcore.

When it came down to who this character was, the physicality of wrestling was to play a pivotal role in the film. He wanted this character to do it, so he started working out, he trained, and finally pinned him. But nobody expected it to end up where it was.

Did you get hurt at all?

Although I was not hurt, I can’t say I emerged unscathed.

I’m sure you are a Paralympics enthusiast…

Yes, it is. For the Rio Paralympics, I was a volunteer with Channel 4 in the UK. You see so much that is pivotal for our society and shows what we can achieve. Paralympians are a great example of what we can do. You see wheelchair users, amputees and people with disabilities all around you.

People with knives are stoking the fire! The Olympics are my favorite example of where human evolution is at its peak. But the Paralympics will be the next step. Paralympics have much less funding but they are all about commitment and heart. They are my future. It is time to stop seeing people with disabilities as being sick, disabled or an liability, and instead look at them as human evolution and adaptability to their environment.

Can you see the parallels between Paralympics events and everyday problems?

Keep going, keep your eyes on the prize and do what you love. It was a great opportunity for me to be able to find this job. You just need to not lose your mind, push forward, and allow the opportunities come at you. That’s what I do each day. It’s all about trying to get work done, keeping my hands busy, and making sure my insurance is paid. That’s it.

Publiated at Wed 15 Sep 2021, 08:50:36 +0000

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