Interview with RJ Mitte of film “Triumph” by Suzanne 4/27/21
RJ has a great energy that not only comes through in his acting, but in this interview. He’s a nice young man with much intensity and positivity. I hope you enjoy this interview as much as I did. Make sure you catch his movie, which comes out tomorrow in theaters. It will be available on VOD June 15th! It’s a very entertaining and inspiring film. I’m sorry I said “Cool” so many times….
Normally I don’t interview actors solely about their movies, but most of the actors in this movie are those I’m familiar with via their TV series. RJ Mitte played Walter White, Jr. in “Breaking Bad.” Terrence Howard starred in “Empire” and “Wayward Pines.” Colton Haynes was a regular on both “Teen Wolf” and “Arrow.” Johnathon Schaech played Jonah Hex in “DC’s Legends of Tomorrow” among many other roles. Grace Victoria Cox has been in many series, such as “The Society.”
Here’s the video of our chat!
Suzanne: I watched your movie last night, and it was really good. I enjoyed it.
R.J. Thank you. Thank you so much.
Suzanne: It’s very inspiring, and I hope a lot of people get to see it.
R.J. I hope so too.
Suzanne: So, how much did you do to prepare for your role?
R.J. I did a lot of training in the midst of the role. We had a couple months before doing a lot of physical training and getting ready for the moves and a lot of choreographed wrestling, so we made sure that it was right, because this is first and foremost a wrestling movie, so it’s very physical. People, when they hear wrestling, they don’t think of of Greco-Roman style wrestling. They think of like WWE and all those types of [wrestling] and [unintelligible] and different types of that style, and they don’t realize how intense Roman style, Greco style wrestling is. It’s very physically draining and mentally draining, and it’s really, to me, one of the pinnacle strengths in sports when it comes to sheer willpower and you’re wrestling someone of equal strength to you that you’re [unintelligible]. It’s really a power struggle. It’s an immovable force meets an immovable object type of mentality. Yeah, it was a lot, but I like physical stuff, so it was a great opportunity for me.
Suzanne: Yeah, you you went from, at the beginning the movie, you were this kind of skinny guy, and at the end you’re this sort of big hulking mass. Did you have to change your diet? Bulk up? What did you have to do?
R.J. A little bit both. I mean, really, I just worked out. I’m fairly lazy right now, so my working out hasn’t been so much, but with that project, I just really kind of worked out. I was focused on what I was eating and then just kind of how I held myself, really, when it came to the project. It was really about distribution of weight and the way that I walked. The way that my character held himself and held his arm and the type of foot placement and gating made a very big difference. And this is loosely based on a real person, Michael Coffey, and he was a part of the set. He was a writer and then part of on the set. So, I really used his mannerisms and his body movement to try to utilize and match it on par with Mike the character.
Suzanne: Okay, that must have been helpful.
R.J. I mean, it came in handy. If he didn’t like something, it came in handy. You definitely knew.
Suzanne: That’s good. Yeah, that’s a rare opportunity probably for most biopics or things that are based on real people.
R.J. Yeah, well, usually those people are deceased, right? They’re not there, or they’re not really a part of the project. So, it was quite nice to have a biopic with the artist there that it’s about.
Suzanne: Yeah, I bet. And had you met any of the cast and crew before you were on set, before you started this thing?
R.J. Yes, I did. I met a lot of the producers; I knew some of the producers beforehand, because I worked on them with other projects, and I carried one of them with me to this project as well. Then, I met some of the others in passing, but really got to know everyone during the production.
Suzanne: Oh, cool And had you ever done any wrestling before?
R.J. I hadn’t; this was my first time. I had done martial arts, like karate, jujitsu, and some other stuff of that nature, but [this was] very different, very different techniques, very different forms. Even the rules and type of skills are night and day from other martial arts and other sports like that.
Suzanne: Oh, cool. So, I guess you answered my next question. It was whether you played any other sports, but you did martial arts.
R.J. Martial Arts and soccer and quite a few other things. I’m a big believer in the sports. I think everyone should have played a sport at least once in their life, a team sport, because it really, definitely builds camaraderie and mental mental stability and strength in numbers, and it’s a great opportunity. I’m a firm believer of that.
Suzanne: Cool. And where was the film shot?
R.J. So, we shot the majority of it and now outside Nashville, Tennessee, where it was kind of based. Then, we shot the teaser and some pickup scenes in Los Angeles.
Suzanne: Okay, and how long did it take to shoot?
R.J. So, the first more than half of it, we shot pretty much everything except for like a handful of scenes with Terrence [Howard]. We tried [to shoot] everything but Terrence’s stuff in three months, and then four years later, we shot the rest of it.
R.J. So, we had a massive hiatus.
Suzanne: Was that because he was busy, or…?
R.J. Well, actually, it was originally cast with a different character. Originally, we had a different entity, and Terrence wasn’t involved, and [we had] some other stuff with the production. We had to halt production and were able to utilize the project and come back to it. And this project almost didn’t get made, to be honest.
Suzanne: Okay, what happened?
R.J. Many different things. Producer, error, and [we] no longer have those producers [as] part of this project. And just timing. We couldn’t find the right coach. We couldn’t really – just logistics, a lot of logistics, a lot of bureaucracies and different aspects of industry life initially halted the project. Then, when you halt a project, it takes takes time and money to start back up. Then, we had to go and get investors and new funding and restructure the film. You know, it’s one of those things where it’s like, “Is it gonna come back?” You do a project, and you’re like, “All right, well, we still have, like, more than a quarter of the film to shoot.” You’re like, “Okay, well, yes, yes, yes, we’re going to film it; we’re going to film it; we’re going to film it,” but then you hear that for like 20 years. And luckily, we were able to come back and finish the film, and now we have this great project.
Cool. So, how is it working with the Terrence?
R.J. Great, you know… Terrence was great. Johnathon Schaech and Grace Victoria Cox and Colton [Haynes], you know, we had such an interesting lineup of actors. And everyone who was a part of it was just so behind this film and believed in this film so much to make it happen. It really was a unique and humbling experience to be able to create this film and have the support that we did behind this film.
Suzanne: Great, and what do you hope the film achieves?
R.J. I hope the film achieves entertainment. I really think that’s the overall goal. I hope people are entertained when they watch this film, that they can take something away from this film, be it great or small, but really, first and foremost, enjoy it.
Suzanne: Yeah, good. It’s enjoyable. And was it mostly filmed before the pandemic?
R.J. Oh, yeah, we shot two years ago.
Suzanne: That’s when you finished it?
R.J. Two a half years ago. That’s when we finished it. And then five years before that.
Suzanne: That’s a long time. You’re like an old man now.
R.J. Yeah, I was 21, 22 when I started it; I’m 28 now. I’ll be I’ll be 30 soon. So, I very happy that we have this film out before I turned 30.
Suzanne: Yeah. So, you said you’ve been traveling during the pandemic. So, there was never a time when you were just like stuck at home bored or wondering what was going on? That’s great.
R.J. No, I mean, most of my work, when it comes to philanthropic and community outreach and development, when a pandemic or something like this happens is usually when I get the busiest. This is a time where people need moral support; they need they need industry meters; they need helping hands. My job right now, through the foundation, is an everyday job where it’s online, yes, but then it’s also a lot of in person information and kind of guiding through it, because it’s a community development project. So, it’s construction and all kinds of other things.
Suzanne: Oh, tell us about the foundation.
R.J. So, it’s called the Roy Frank and Joann Cole Mitte foundation. We focus on elder care, education, disability services, youth development and aging in higher ed as well. We have a scholarship and grant program. Right now, we only have around 12 applicants on scholarship at the moment that we’re reviewing, but at any time we have 12 to 30 students, but right now, we restructured the grant program to focus on this community development build in Brownsville, Texas. So, that’s been the focus of the grants for the past four years. So, we’ve given money in donations to many charitable organizations, primarily focusing in Central and rural Texas. So, being in philanthropy and philanthropic endeavors are something that are a very big part of my life, and I was very happy to be able to link this movie to a charity, which is actually called United Cerebral Palsy nationally based out of Central Florida, and we actually gave points of this film to that organization. So, they’ll get money in perpetuity.
Suzanne: That’s great. So, do you have any other acting projects coming out that you can tell us about?
R.J. I do. I have another one called The Oak Room. It’s on VOD right now in the US; we just got released in the UK. It’s a Canadian film, but we haven’t released in Canada yet. So, we’ll be releasing Canada soon. And that’s a story, in a story, in a story, in a story narrated by a story, and it’s a very unique film, and I’m very excited to be a part of that. [I’m] really focusing on getting Triumph out there. I’m just supporting that wholeheartedly. I have another film that I’m in the middle of production on – we got halted by the pandemic – called Issac. We’re gonna be coming back to that, possibly next month, but, really, we’ll see how that goes. You just never know. And then I’m just looking for new projects, looking for other things. I work with the Film Commission in South Texas and am doing some stuff there. So, I’m doing a lot of community outreach and leadership.
Suzanne: You sound busy.
R.J. I work every day.
Suzanne: That’s great. And who would be your role models in life?
R.J. My grandparents were very big role models to me. One was a marine oil worker guy and the other one was a coach, businessman type mogul and was in a wheel chair, was fully paralyzed on this left side from a stroke in the early 90s and could only say, “Shit, damn, and 123,” but very big role models, both of them to me, and my grandmothers as well. They taught me a lot, and I definitely still look up to them today.
Suzanne: What about your acting role models?
R.J. I didn’t really have any acting role models. It wasn’t really something that I was pursuing when I started [in] this industry. There’re a lot of actors I respect very much, but I’m kind of one of those people that most of my role models are deceased, so they can’t let me down.
Suzanne: That’s true. That’s true. So, two of your co stars have played superheroes on The CW and your character mentioned superpowers in the movie. What is your favorite superhero?
R.J. Oh, I’m a Batman guy. I’m a Batman-Joker guy. Yeah, I always thought he was a great character. Yeah, so, Batman, Green Lantern, the whole Justice League vibe, I enjoy that. Spawn. I don’t know if you know Spawn.
Suzanne: Yeah, I’ve heard of it.
Suzanne: Yeah, I grew up with comics, but I don’t remember if Spawn might have been after my time, but I stopped reading in the early 80s.
R.J. Late 90s. Yeah.
Suzanne: I heard of [it]. I think there was a movie, wasn’t there?
R.J. Yes, there was a movie. It’s like, he’s kind of like a devil, but he’s like a good devil. But, yeah, I like super [heroes]. I’m a big fan of the the superhero franchises. So, yeah, I like comics. I used to read a bunch of comics.
Suzanne: Cool. And do you watch the ones on The CW? Were you familiar with your costars’ work on those shows?
R.J. I am. I am familiar with Arrow and some of the other CW stuff. I actually auditioned for a couple of superhero shows. Didn’t get the parts, but definitely was an honor to be able to audition for them. And yeah, I enjoy them.
Suzanne: And Johnathon played…Jonah Hex.
R.J. Jonah Hex. Yeah, I really liked him as Jonah Hex.
Suzanne: And that comic I definitely read. I remember that. He’s great in it.
R.J. I’m a big western guy. I’m a big western guy. So, I loved Jonah Hex, and then, I thought he was great on The CW. Yeah, he’s such a character. Johnathon is such a wealth of knowledge and talent, and out of all the actors I worked with on Triumph, he was the one that I’m the closest to.
Suzanne: Cool. Well, he played your dad; that makes sense.
R.J. Yeah, he was definitely a great father figure in them and was a tremendous individual to have on set. He definitely raised the vibration high.
Suzanne: Cool. Is there anything else that you’d like tell us about the movie or your role in it?
R.J. Yeah, [I’m] just very excited that it’s out; this was a labor of love. It’s based on real events. And, you know, people, the whole team, really cares about this project and believes in this project and in really pushing forward for it. So, we’re very excited to be able to share it with everyone, and I hope everyone enjoys [it].
Interview Transcribed by Jamie of http://www.scifivision.com
RJ Mitte Biography
Best known for his portrayal of Walter “Flynn” White Jr. for five riveting seasons of AMC’s Emmy and Golden Globe Award-winning dramatic thriller “Breaking Bad,” RJ Mitte is an actor, advocate and philanthropist who has carved out his niche in Hollywood by breaking down stereotypes and changing people’s mindsets with his easy going demeanor and positive outlook. As Walt Jr., referred to by fans as “The Breakfast King,” Mitte acted as the cerebral palsy afflicted son of Walter (Bryan Cranston) and Skyler White (Anna Gunn). As Walter continues his descent into drug manufacturing and trade, Walt Jr. finds himself torn between his father’s deceit, his mother’s protectiveness, and his own developing sense of independence as a disabled teenager. Walter Jr.’s cerebral palsy on the show was embellished, as he had to learn how to walk on crutches and slur his speech to create a more dramatic version of his own disability.
At the age of three, Louisiana native Mitte was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, but that has never deterred his drive to succeed in television and film. A chance encounter with a casting director led to his move to Los Angeles and Mitte quickly landed roles on various shows such as “Weeds,” NBC’s “Vegas,” “Everybody Hates Chris” and co-starred on ABC Family’s primetime hit show “Switched at Birth,” until being cast in his life-changing role on “Breaking Bad.” Mitte has since made his way to the big screen, starring in multiple indie films in the past few years, including DIXIELAND, starring in his first non-handicapped leading role and TIME SHARE, winner of Sundance Film Festival’s World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award for Screenwriting in 2018.
Never one to shy away from an opportunity to take his talents to new avenues, RJ was thrust into the global spotlight as the celebrity face and model of GAP International’s “Lived in Spring” campaign; with his image appearing on mediums such as billboards, buses, and life-sized posters in cities across the world from Tokyo to the US,. He has since cemented himself as a face to know in the fashion world after walking in Men’s Fashion Week in Milan, Berlin and New York City for Vivienne Westwood, soPopular and Ovadia & Sons. He’s also a member of Kenneth Cole’s “Courageous Class;” for talent recognized for using their platform for advocacy and creating social change.
Throughout the years, Mitte has been an inspiration to his peers around the world by championing 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 partners with Shriners Hospitals for Children to spearhead their #CutTheBull campaign to advocate on anti-bullying measures. He’s also involved with SAG-AFTRA as a committee member of the union’s IAPWD (I Am a Performer With Disabilities).
Proofread and Edited by Brenda