RJ Mitte’s been keeping busy since the end of the critically acclaimed series Breaking Bad, working on TV projects as well as film roles. But despite being busy in front of the camera as well as behind the scenes as a producer, he’s making time to work with charitable organizations including being the spokesperson for the anti-bullying campaign #CutTheBull from Shriners Children’s Hospital. Mitte knows first-hand the effects of being bullied. As a kid he suffered both verbal abuse and physical abuse to the point where he even had his hand broken, and now he’s determined to help people understand the importance of standing up against bullies. Mitte’s fully aware there’s no way to completely wipe out bullying, but he believes it’s important to address what can be done to help those who are the targets of bullying.
Mitte is the spokesperson for SAG, AFTRA, and Actors’ Equity “I AM PWD” (person with disability) and is a Celebrity Youth Ambassador for United Cerebral Palsy. He’s passionate about speaking out against bullying and in our exclusive interview Mitte said he’s happy it’s now a topic of conversation in wider circles. “It’s great. I find that the amount of people speaking out is increasing and it will always increase, but you’ll always have bullies,” said Mitte. “I’m so happy more and more people are speaking out and more and more people are standing up. Speaking out is one thing but you need to stand up, you need to make a difference. You need to go out and show people that there are people with true kindness in the world, that there are people who want to make a difference in the lives of others. That’s the reason why I feel our message is a little bit different from other people’s message because it’s all on you. It’s all about looking at the world with a positive mindset. Bullying will not affect you. It will not change who you are and you can not let other people shape you. You have to stand up because no one wants to be that first person, but if you are that first person standing up you can set the example for so many lives.”
Growing up as a person with a disability, Mitte was an easy target. And while he abhors violence, his Marine grandfather’s advice on fighting back left a lasting impression. “I don’t like to fight. I never fought but as soon as I stood up for myself and someone wanted to fight me and I started saying, ‘Okay, let’s do this,’ as soon as I would say something like that, they would stop,” explained Mitte. “They do want to fight you, but they don’t want you to fight back. That’s not okay. That’s not okay.”
Mitte also explained that it’s important to consider the lasting effects of bullying and how those who are the targets of verbal or physical abuse need to stay true to themselves and not allow a bully to effect who they are as a person. “You cannot erase a memory, no matter how much you try and no matter how much you want to forgot about it and it not be there, it’s there. It will always be there and that’s what you have to keep in mind: how far do the effects go? As soon as someone infects you with fear, you start acting irrationally. You don’t act on who you are and what you are and then from there you start making decisions based on that person who picked on you. ‘This is what I’m going to do when I get older. This is what I’m going to be.’ And that’s the thing, you can’t let someone manipulate you into being what you’re not because that original action was not you – that was someone else.”
Mitte says he’ll always be a voice speaking out against bullying and encouraging those who witness bullying in any form to speak out against it. “My main goal is to show people that you can stand up for what you are and who you are and not be manipulated by fear or by other people instilling their fear on you,” said Mitte. “I think it’s very important to give back. I don’t really look at it as giving back because I enjoy what I do, but I try and give back as much as possible. I think everyone should give. That’s the thing…when people of giving back they think money, or taking a week out of your life, but that’s not it. People can give back in everyday life. That’s what people need to realize.”
In addition to being a spokesman against bullying and working with organizations assisting those with disabilities, Mitte’s been busy producing the documentary film Vanished: The Tara Calico Story. “I’ve been producing the documentary for almost five years now. We’re waiting on the justice system to catch up,” said Mitte. “We might be waiting another five years. I started producing and working with this director Melinda Esquibel, who is now my manager and has been for the last couple of years, I started working with her on this documentary because it was a mutual friend of ours. It was her sister who went missing in 1988 and a picture of her in Port St. Joe, Florida showed up in the early ’90s, she and a young boy were bound and gagged in the back of a van. We started working on this quite a few years ago and we have two interviews left and we’re about to get those done. We’re working on it. It’s a good story about her disappearance and the people who were involved, and the family and the town that covered it up. It takes place in New Mexico. We’re lucky enough to be a part of this documentary and to help shed truth and light on a very situation. It’s a never-ending thing. We’re always moving forward and in the right direction.”
And as a fan of Breaking Bad, I had to end our interview with one Breaking Bad question. The prequel Better Call Saul is currently in production, but if there were to be a Breaking Bad sequel, what does Mitte believe Junior would be doing 10 years after the show ended? “Oh, god! I don’t know,” answered Mitte, laughing. “It could go quite a few different directions. It all depends on what happens with the prequel. That will also set things in motion in the future. It will vary depending on the situation. But, I don’t know. I’m hoping he’s a badass by then. I think that’s all I can hope. I hope that he’s kicking ass, maybe on two feet, maybe on three (with a cane). I can see Junior with a pimp cane.”
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For more on the #CutTheBull campaign, visit CutTheBullNow.org.