TRIUMPH: RJ MITTE | INTERVIEW
You may know this American actor as Breaking Bad’s Walter White Jr – a role which, since its end, propelled him to a burgeoning career in cinema. In his latest, Triumph, Mitte stars as a high school senior with cerebral palsy but looking to join the wrestling team. Carl Marsh pressed him on the matter.
Triumph is a real story based on its screenwriter Michael D. Coffey’s early life – but was wrestling ever your thing at school?
I’m a big fan of sports. I love sports. I grew up with martial arts, football, and all kinds of different physical activities. Even fishing and all those outdoor types of activities. Sports to me are so important in the community, and in life. When it came to this project, I’ve always been looking for a project that’s going to make me have to work out – lose some weight, build some muscle [laughs].
I really fell in love with wrestling, and you know what’s funny is that when I talk about wrestling, many people think of stuff like WWE. But no one thinks of Greco-Roman style wrestling. It’s intense, man! It is not an easy feat, and it’s very technical. It’s very physically draining on you. And I like that type of activity.
I think sports in our society are our pinnacle piece and something that we need in our everyday life, no matter where we go in the future or not. So this movie was just one of those great opportunities to expand my athleticism and be a part of a great project.
You must have picked up some injuries while you were filming, or training for the film?
I did get my bell wrong a couple of times. I got slammed so hard. And the thing is, my character, it’s rehearsed for me to get slammed! There’s a part where the guy has me, and is lifting me in the air and kinda parading me around, and I’m trying to fight him. And he just drops me. With one of them, he slammed me so well, and I have to get up for the scene. I can’t not get up because we’re still filming this – I still have like five moves to go through. And I’m shellshocked – I’m just trying to get back into it, and it works. It looks great! But man, that was a wicked slam, I’ll tell you that. And he’s a state champion, the gentleman I’m talking about. He’s a state champion in California.
Triumph is very much a community-based film, involving disability charities, so it was paramount to get a disabled person playing the role of a disabled person. Ten years ago, I doubt that would have been the case. It must be a joy for you to witness such changes in the film industry?
You know, 10 years ago, they would have said, “this isn’t lucrative”. And sometimes it’s not lucrative, but that’s what you would say to too many different projects. You can look at certain stores and say that they are not lucrative stores, but they do millions of dollars of sales a month or a year, you know. So it’s one of those things where we fought to get this film made.
We all believed that it was necessary, something people could relate to, and something people need to see. It’s not just about the individual with disabilities in front of the camera: this is actually based on a real person, and this is someone’s life. I take every life very seriously, no matter how great or how small.
When you’re able to create someone’s story and journey, and highlight that, bring it to life and present it to the public, and people receive it well – and they’re like, “this is inspirational; I get it now, it makes sense to me” – that is not just life-changing. For that individual, we’re showing the story, but everyone can watch this film and take something away from it.
What I took away is that you don’t have to win at everything consistently; the film doesn’t go down as linear a path as, say, The Karate Kid or Rocky. You don’t have to lose to win. The competing is the victory.
Winning isn’t the end-all, be-all. But, sometimes, being a part of it is really what matters. Everyone loves to win – I love to win, and no one likes to be the loser. That’s a fact. But there will always be a winner, and there’s always a loser. And you are being able to be a part of the championship, being a part of the journey to even get to one match. And you may have lost all of your matches. But you got the chance to be in that ring.
On a completely different note, do you ever think you’ll go back into the Breaking Bad universe? Perhaps there is an opportunity to do a cameo in Better Call Saul?
I know they are filming it [Better Call Saul series six] right now, so they’d better call me real quick! [laughs] You never know what the future holds. When it comes to [Breaking Bad], it shows me the legacy it has created, with things like Better Call Saul and El Camino. I think the gift of that show, and Walter White, is not done – there are a lot of pieces left in there. So we’ll see. And the [pay]check was good, so I’d be happy about that…
Triumph is out now on DVD and via digital platforms. Info: here
words CARL MARSH
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