140 year of Shriners

140 year of Shriners

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

RJ Mitte Acts From Experience

Fifteen-year-old RJ Mitte has worked hard to overcome the effects of cerebral palsy.
He’s done so well that, at first glance, his disability isn’t noticeable.
But, in his role on the AMC television series “Breaking Bad,” his symptoms are much more pronounced – a tribute to RJ’s acting skills.
A chance encounter with a Shriner who noticed RJ walking on his toes – and falling – when he was 3 years old led RJ and his family to Shriners Hospitals for Children — Shreveport.
There, physicians recommended a casting procedure instead of the surgery suggested by RJ’s physician.
Since that time, RJ and his family have made routine visits to the Shreveport Shriners Hospital, where RJ continues to undergo therapy to increase dexterity and range of motion in his hands and legs. Working extensively with Assistant Chief of Staff Philip Gates, M.D., and the hospital’s physical, occupational and speech therapists, RJ has improved tremendously, negating any need for surgery.

“He’s doing phenomenal with the exercises the therapists have given us,” RJ’s mother, Dyna, said. “We do stretching, exercising and, from time to time, we go back into a cast here and there. It’s a continual process, but never any surgery… we were very
fortunate to work with Dr. Gates.”
At age 13, another chance encounter changed RJ’s young life. A talent agent happened to spot RJ’s younger sister, Lacianne, and expressed interest in representing her.
When other agents began to notice the striking 4-year-old, the family selected a manager for her. “We went in with Lacianne, and the manager asked why she didn’t have
RJ, as well,” Dyna recalled. “I explained his situation and she said she wanted him – that he had the perfect look and was a great kid.”
Almost immediately, RJ was cast in television roles and background appearances in two films. Eventually, he landed the role of the smart-alecky son of terminally ill school professor Walter White in AMC’s edgy new series “Breaking Bad.” Making RJ uniquely suited to the part is the fact that the character has cerebral palsy, RJ Mitte, Star of “Breaking Bad” Photo courtesy of Witt Entertainment Management and Russell Bear
although with more pronounced symptoms than RJ’s. “It’s hard and easy at the same time,” RJ said. “I never used crutches, so I had to learn how to use them, and I had to learn to slur my speech more.”
The role proved a perfect fit. This past spring, RJ was in contention for an Emmy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor in a Drama. In addition to receiving critical acclaim, RJ now finds himself inspiring countless fans who face similar obstacles.
“I get fan letters all the time that say ‘my son or daughter has CP and they
are inspired by you and thank you for what you’re doing’,” RJ said. “It’s really
nice knowing that.” Despite his rigorous schedule, RJ still makes regular visits to the
Shreveport Shriners Hospital, and plans to use his newfound connections to help raise funds and awareness for the health care system.
“If I hadn’t gone to Shriners Hospital, I wouldn’t be able to walk or talk as good as I do,” he said. “I really want to give back.” www.shrinershospitals.org

RJ Mitte has to amplify his own symptoms of cerebral palsy for his role in the television series “Breaking Bad.” Here, series director Vince Gilligan (left) and RJ work on aspects of stepping from a vehicle when using crutches. Photo courtesy of Witt Entertainment Management and “Breaking Bad.”
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