AwareNow: Issue 16: The Mayday Edition

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Page 19



A FILM (AND CAREER) TO FUEL CHANGE At the age of three, Louisiana native RJ Mitte was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy, though that has never deterred his drive to succeed in television, film & fashion. After moving to Los Angeles, Mitte landed roles in various shows such as Showtime's "Weeds," NBC's "Vegas," and CW's "Everybody Hates Chris" until being cast in his life-changing role on "Breaking Bad." Now, as an Executive Producer of “Triumph”, he stars in a film based on a true story that raises awareness for Cerebral Palsy.

Throughout the years, Mitte has been an inspiration to his peers around the world by championing over his Cerebral Palsy in hopes of removing the stigma associated with disabilities. In order to bring awareness to his own issues with bullying and prejudice, Mitte has engaged in public speaking and serves as the official Ambassador for United Cerebral Palsy and Shriners Hospitals for Children. He's also involved with SAG-AFTRA as a member of the union's Performers with Disabilities Committee.

Matthew: What are your thoughts on representation of talent in the acting/entertainment/modeling industry for people with disabilities? What would you like the industry to know about talent with disabilities and what they can bring to a role and a project?

“I think everyone is disabled,

whether they want to believe it or not

in one way or another.”

RJ: One of the hats I wear is working on getting more inclusivity and representation of groups and not just disability, but all groups — but disability being my group, very focused on that. Over the last 20 years, I've been working in the industry. I started Breaking Bad when I was 13-years-old. I didn't really see a lot of representation of people that represent me. I think the closest one I had was Forest Gump. And that was played by an able-bodied person, which I did not understand. I grew up in a weird way where everyone in my life had some disability or another. So really, I viewed everyone as having something.

I think everyone is disabled, whether they want to believe it or not in one way or another. It can be physical. It can be emotional. It can be family or could be friends. It can be situational. But I think the representation has grown significantly in the last five years through social media, just because we have a voice. People can just go out and say, “This is what I want to see… You're not representing me.” We used to not have access to that. We had blogs and stuff, but no one really saw them. But I've seen a positive change for the industries just because it's inevitable, you know. There is 15% of the world's population that is estimated to have a disability that’s an actual categorized, diagnosed disability. 15% of the world's population. And if you think about it, there's more than that. 19 AWARENOW / THE MAYDAY EDITION