RJ Mitte, best known for his role on Breaking Bad, gave a humorous, yet affirming presentation on overcoming adversity, followed by a 30-minute Q&A at Tucker Theatre on Wednesday night. There may be plenty of things you can do to help yourself physically, such as adding a stairlift to your home, but when it comes to the psychological impact of disability, role models and experienced advice are important.
Mitte, like his character Walter White Jr., has a mild case of cerebral palsy, a disorder that affects muscle tone, movement and motor skills. Along with speaking about his disability, Mitte encouraged students to set a good example to others and treat everyone with respect, explaining that they never know who’s watching.
“You have so many ways to change peoples lives for the better,” Mitte said during the speech. “You have so many opportunities to step out of that normal comfort and step into a world where you can benefit others.”
Throughout the speech, Mitte stressed to students that they can change peoples lives simply by overcoming obstacles and adversity, just as he has done as an actor with a disability.
“One thing I’ve learned from my disability,” Mitte told Sidelines before the show, “when there is an obstacle, when there is a hurdle, where there’s something that is trying to prevent you from what you’re doing…you adapt and you grow and you can’t let that obstacle break you down and discourage you.”
The audience laughed at the light-hearted ways he has overcome his own obstacles, such as “falling” into his aunt’s pool to dissolve a water-soluble cast and dropping frozen coins into his casts to weigh them down.
After his speech, Mitte opened the floor up to questions, many relating to his character on the show, favorite moments on set and advice for students with a disability.
“My biggest thing: don’t let your disability control you,” he said. “Never give up on yourself and never give up with the ability you have.”
Mitte, who said he was a target for bullies while growing up, also works on an awareness campaign for the National Center for Bullying Prevention. He said one of his greatest obstacles is proving to others that his disability will not overcome him.
“Try to always continue to move forward and not let people bend you to their will,” Mitte said as a word of advice to students.
Brock Howard and John Connor Coulston contributed to this report.
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