When RJ Mitte first moved to Los Angeles at 13, he never imagined he'd be an actor. “Sometimes I think about where I'd be right now if I weren't doing this,” he says. “I'd be on a boat somewhere. Fishing!”
It was 2006 when Mitte's family moved here from Louisiana in order to support his younger sister's work as a print model. But a talent manager found Mitte photogenic, and Mitte agreed to work with him in the hopes that it would help him meet new friends.
Although Mitte didn't have Hollywood aspirations, he's always been a hustler. As a kid, he worked on roofs and helped his uncle fetch bait for shrimping. His earliest income dates back to age 8, when he discovered that he could make a few bucks each day by selling the sandwich his mother had packed him for lunch. To increase his earnings, he feigned a growth spurt and convinced his mother to increase her sandwich output to five a day. “When she found out, she got really mad,” he recalls, “but only because I wasn't sharing the profits.”
Mitte's first audition was for an anti-methamphetamine commercial; he didn't get the part. But a few months later, after a stint on Hannah Montana, he scored a supporting role alongside Bryan Cranston on the AMC series Breaking Bad as Walt Jr., the son of Cranston's high school chemistry teacher-turned-meth chef, and it's all been uppers from there. “I get to cuss on national television and get away with it,” he brags.
Language aside, Mitte's character is appropriately innocent, earnest and strong-willed, and the lack of acting experience and formal training doesn't seem to be a problem for the 19-year-old. “There's a lot in this industry that you can't learn in an acting class, like working with crew and working with other actors,” he says.
What would probably be the most challenging aspect of Walt Jr.'s character — a severe case of cerebral palsy — comes naturally to Mitte. Although his condition is mild, the actor has been in treatment since age 3 and has used his rather unexpected visibility as an opportunity for activism.
When he isn't on set in Albuquerque for Breaking Bad, he's likely on a high school or college campus speaking out about bullying or catching a board meeting for the Mitte Foundation, a charitable organization started by his grandparents. Or he might be working on Vanished: The Tara Calico Story, a documentary he's helping to produce about a woman who disappeared from Belen, N.M., in 1988. The Kickstarter page for the project shows $2,004 raised of the $50,000 goal and zero days left to pledge, but something tells us Mitte will figure out a way to make it happen.