RJ Mitte – is there anything he isn’t doing right now? We sit down with the actor, Paralympic presenter and… fashion designer?
RJ Mitte is probably the most charismatic person you’ll ever meet. He’s confident but calm, funny but serious, and when it comes to talking disability? He’s refreshingly honest (in case you need a reminder, RJ has cerebral palsy like his Breaking Bad character).
We sat down with RJ ahead of the Paralympic games to talk all things Rio, what needs to change for disabled actors and his plans for a fashion line.
What are you most looking forward to watching at the Paralympics?
I’m a guy who likes the game of the sport. It’s not who wins or loses, but who fights the hardest. I’m excited for all of it, from the relays to archery and fencing. The athletes saw the Olympics and now they’re feeling that they have to top that.
What were your top moments from Rio?
I was mostly watching Canadian teams because I’m up in Canada; we won quite a few golds. One of my favourite moments was the Brazil vs US volleyball game, that was tight! Each country has their own treasure that they hold deep sports-wise.
Of course! We’re here supporting Team GB and you’re the opposition!
I’m with Channel 4 this Paralympics, so I’ll be supporting Team GB! I’m going to try and catch as many people as possible, not just one country.
Let’s discuss that Superhumans advert…
It’s amazing! I see where people are coming from when they said ‘we’re not all superhumans’, but it is impossible to not have people try and rain on your parade. You’ll say ‘the sky is blue’ and some people will say ‘no, it’s grey’! People think this ‘yes I can’ attitude is patronising because they know they can, but the message is for a whole new generation who don’t know. I can’t wait to see what they do in 2020.
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Is ‘yes I can’ an attitude you grew up with?
Definitely. Can’t is a mindset, a decision. You have to believe that you can do something, and you’ll achieve it. You’ll have moments when you’re defeated and lost, its inevitable, but you rebuild and come back stronger!
Is ‘disabled’ a word you even like?
I don’t really care. You give words power and meaning. You can say a word 50 times and it means completely different things. I don’t even think about it. Why are you trying to label yourself? We all have different challenges and disabilities, let’s get rid of the words. Why don’t you focus that energy on a positive way of changing the world. Keep throwing stones in ponds and eventually the ripples become waves.
Would you be annoyed if an able-bodied actor was given a role for a character with a disability?
As long as they’re being real, and not just collecting a pay cheque, it’s amazing. If an able-bodied actor is being praised just for playing a disabled role, I don’t think that’s a big deal. It’s your job as an actor. When you have people that don’t care and think it’s easy sitting in a wheelchair all day, that’s not real. I love to see people branching out, we’re not here to play ourselves. The thing I have an issue with is disabled actors who don’t have access to able-bodies roles, and disabled people who aren’t allowed to audition for disabled roles.
They say they’re ‘too disabled’. That happens. We need inclusion. A lot of people with disabilities don’t have the tools to work, they have the ability and the willpower, but they’re not given the opportunity. But how do you do that? There’s no one answer.
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Have you had knockbacks in your career?
I’ve had a lot of doors closed, but I don’t try and open them – I create my own doors. If someone shuts a door on me, their loss, I try another one and see what happens. If I see something that I want to do, I make it work. I don’t like asking for help, so if I dig myself into a hole, I dig myself right out of it.
What keeps you motivated through all of this?
My family. I don’t have a goal to make money, but I like to be on set, work with a crew, meet people and travel. There’s a lot of responsibility that comes with this job, but you either use it for positive, negative, or not at all. Too many people don’t use it at all. I don’t recommend this job for anyone really. I’m constantly working. Even when I get a break in December I’ll be snowboarding or something.
You’ve done some modeling, are you interested in fashion?
I love clothes and fabrics, I’m actually working on a clothing line. I’ve been trying to do that for the past four years. It’s not cheap. It all goes back to me not liking to ask people for help, it’s taking the time to go and buy the fabric, pay the tailor, pay the people I need to do a pop-up store… Maybe next year.
What are you most looking forward to seeing at the Rio Paralympic games? Let us know below!