Spoilers for Breaking Bad lie ahead.
It may have come to an epic conclusion over a year ago now, but Breaking Bad seems more popular than ever. With a prequel series about to start, and the whole original series released in a fancy collectors edition, we sat down with star RJ Mitte, who played Walt Jr (aka Flynn) on the show. A incredibly humble guy, RJ discusses the legacy of Breaking Bad, breaking down barriers for actors with disabilities, and his love of Jason Statham.
We’re a year on and more from Breaking Bad now. What do you think its legacy is and will be?
The thing is, we didn’t really have a lot of followers in the beginning, and it’s only really now that everyone’s tuning into it. It’s growing and it’s continuing to grow. I think it will definitely live on; it’s already having an amazing afterlife. Many shows don’t get this opportunity, and we realise we’re in a very special and unique place and we’re very lucky to have so many amazing fans and people who keep tuning in.
What’s your favourite memory from making the show?
I loved the pilot. I was very happy to be asked to be a part of it, and amazed that it lasted as long as it did and so much was able to grow from it. Everyone (on the show) in their own way learned and grew and we were lucky we had an amazing story to tell.
Do you feel your character’s storyline was short-changed in any way at all? Would you have preferred a more involved arc, particularly in the last season?
Yes and no. I would have loved to have more of a bigger role. But I think my character was important and everything came to fruition with him. How it played out was perfect I think. But it wasn’t about my character, it wasn’t about the family. It was about how he (Walter White) lost sight of the family, and lost sight of what was truly important to him. I think that tells more of the story of Walt Jr than people realise.
Would you have changed anything?
No, I loved the story. I loved everything about it, how it played out. Personally, I wish my character could have done more, but everything that happened in it was perfect for my character. I think it played out beautiful and I can’t imagine it happening any other way to be honest. I love the ending, I love the story, and I think it’s real. How far are you willing to go to provide for your family? And when do you lose sight of that family?
So as a fan you were pretty satisfied with the ending?
I am. It couldn’t have worked out any better. We had a show that you’ll never be able to re-create. It was lightning in a bottle. This show was a once in a lifetime opportunity and we were able to learn and be part of this amazing journey and this amazing family, and I just hope everyone enjoyed watching it as much as we did filming it.
How have you found the fan reaction? Get anyone too intense?
We get fans of all sorts. We have a very loyal fan group, and we couldn’t ask for better fans actually. They care, and they really enjoy and respect the work. More and more people watch the show and truly enjoyed. Most shows don’t have the characters that we had, and I’m so excited that we had them, and that we grew with them, and we able to love and enjoy them.
For a show that was quite grim in places, there was a real vein of dark humour in it which people enjoyed. And on set, Bryan Cranston in particular seemed able to switch from darkness to joking around easily. Was this important to alleviate the doom and gloom?
I think it was very important to have that kind of humour and aspect in your work in order to go to these dark places, but come out into the light and have fun with it. You should be able to enjoy what you’re doing.
Is Vince Gilligan as nice in real life as he appears to be?
Oh dude, Vince is amazing. Vince is the nicest person you’ll probably ever meet. He was definitely a pleasure to work with, and to be part of his story, and to help bring it to life. We were lucky to have him, and he was lucky to have us, and I’m honoured to be able to help create this world.
He’s explained before that Walter White is essentially a version of him, so it seemed like a very personal show for Vince Gilligan, but at the same time he was incredibly complimentary of the cast, crew, and writers – was it as much their journey as his?
It certainly was. I think that everyone puts traits of who they are and what they’re doing into their work, and the writing tells us everything we need to know about him. It’s in all the characters, they all have traits of Vince in them.
Did you add anything to your character that wasn’t in the script?
I kept my character spot on. I tried as much as possible to keep on it and give them as much as they wanted from what had been written. I’m very open and willing to work with directors, ‘what do you want me to do? Where do you want this to go?’ I found that they weren’t afraid to tell me, and I wasn’t afraid to do it.
What did you learn most from working with the cast?
You know I learnt different skills and different ways to be able to perform and reach different emotional levels.
Do you look back at your performances in earlier episodes?
(laughs) I try not to look back at anything I do. I avoid it like the plague. I watched the first episode in every season, and the last episode.
So you couldn’t name me your favourite Breaking Bad scene then?
Well it’s not so much a scene, but I loved the Pilot. It’s my favourite episode, it has my favourite scenes, and it’s my favourite place. It was really amazing what we were able to create in that first episode, and what we were able to bring to life. We very lucky to be able to create such an amazing piece of literature.
Obviously the legacy will continue soon with the prequel Better Call Saul, have you been involved in that at all, or seen anything to do with it?
I am not. I’m excited to see how it plays out, and I’m excited to see what happens. It’s its own entity, and has nothing to do with our show. I’m excited to see how it comes into play, and how people receive it, because that’s the thing – you can’t expect it to be like Breaking Bad, and you can never compare it. But what you can do is let it hold it’s own and tell its own story in its own way. And I think Bob Odenkirk will do that because Bob is an amazing character and has so much knowledge. He has so many different ways of bringing things to life.
So apart from Walt Jr, you also played a disabled character on Switched At Birth, is that right?
Yep, that’s right.
So what I wanted to know was is it harder to play characters with greater disabilities than your own? Some people might just think, ‘oh he’s disabled so playing someone else disable must be easy’, but I guess it’s not? Was it difficult to learn to play this convincingly?
You know it is. It’s difficult to learn to play these different disabled characters – Campbell in Switched At Birth was paralysed from the waist down – but it’s nice to be able to step into their world, and live in these characters shoes and to be able to play them because it gives you a different look at life. It also gives you a different way of looking at people and seeing how they look at you being in the chair. And it’s interesting because people a lot of times didn’t realise I wasn’t paralysed, so I was like, ‘good, I’m doing my job’.
Do you think you’ve broken down any barriers facing actors with disabilities?
I can only hope that at the end of the day I have. I work with amazing organisations, I work with I’m A Performer With Disability, and I work with a clinic which tries to get opportunities for people with disabilities to work in the film and TV industry, and we’re making strides and they’re making strides. There’s now 11 actors with actual disabilities in film, and it’s continuing to grow and flourish, and you can only hope to have an impact, and give an honest portrayal of those characters, disable and non-disabled.
What’s up next for you?
I’m in London taking meetings, pressing the flesh you know? I shot a movie not too long ago called Who’s Driving Doug where I play a character with muscular dystrophy and I’m the lead in it. I think it’s turned out pretty well. I shot a movie three weeks ago called Dixieland where I’m a non-disabled character, I play a manager of a strip club in a way, it’s with Chris Zylka from The Leftovers. It was fun and we had a blast on two very different type of stories.
It sounds like you’re doing a fair amount of drama, would you ever want to go into more genre stuff?
I would love to! I just want to keep working – that’s my main goal. I like good roles and I want to keep pushing forward. If I see a good role and character I will fight my hardest to get it, and if I get it I get, and if I don’t I don’t. I’m always looking for roles to challenge me and ones which I’ll enjoy playing.
Very commendable. Finally, we’re big Jason Statham fans at Den Of Geek, and it’s a tradition here to ask what’s your favourite Jason Statham movie?
(gets very excited) This is the thing, I’m a Transporter fan. I like Transporter 1,2, and 3.
Wow, the whole trilogy…
I’m a Crank fan as well. Both Crank 1 and 2
Yeah, they’re my favourite.
Dude, I’m a big Jason Statham fan. I enjoyed… is it Dragonfly? The one where he plays the guy with PTSD. No, not Dragonfly… Hummingbird! I thought that was a good one. I love Jason Statham!
Then you are welcome to come and hang out with us at any time then.
RJ Mitte, thank you very much!
Breaking Bad: The Complete Series Collector’s Edition Tin is out now on Blu-ray & DVD.
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