Ringing the “Bells”: An Interview with RJ Mitte

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RJ Mitte is perhaps best known for his role as Walter White Jr., the son of Bryan Cranston’s central character on the hit TV series Breaking Bad. Like the character, Mitte has cerebral palsy and has long been a celebrity Ambassador for United Cerebral Palsy. His latest film, Carol of the Bells, is amazingly groundbreaking as the film features a cast and crew who are developmentally disabled. The film is released on DVD and Digital today from High Octane Pictures.

WorldFilmGeek had the chance to speak with Mitte about the film.

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RJ, it is a pleasure to talk to you about Carol of the Bells, and I have to tell you. I was so excited to see this film and I am not going to lie, I bawled a few times. I thought it was an amazing film.
Oh thank you so much! I think this is an amazing film and we all felt passionate about making it so I am excited to hear you enjoyed it.

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Scott (RJ Mitte) in somewhat happier times with Karen (Yuly Mireles) in Carol of the Bells (Inclusion Films)

What inspired you to take the role of Scott?
I’ve known [director] Joey Travolta for quite some time now and we have wanted to work together. Then, one day, he shows me this script and I knew right away that I had to be a part of it. This was a very passionate film and the story is quite unique. That’s the one thing I love doing, it’s anything that is very unique. I thought the script was one of a kind and we all knew we had something special.

Speaking of Joey Travolta, what was it like working with him?
He’s great. He knew what he wanted to do. He had this vision with the story and I think he really brought it together the way he intended.

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Andrea Friedman as the titular Carol of the Bells (Inclusion Films)

While the title itself indicates it being a holiday film, it’s much more than that. It’s about acceptance and inclusion, especially when you have disabled actors in the film who really gave it their all. In my opinion, the film is said to be “groundbreaking”. Would you agree that the film does prove that anyone can make it as an actor?
Absolutely, I agree. This was the other reason why I wanted to do the film. 70% of our cast and crew were disabled and the intention here was to defy the stigma of being disabled. These are people who still live everyday lives and they have such great hearts. That’s what this film is about. It’s about us needing that type of great heart and we see it not only in the film but even off the set. We shot for about 14 to 20 days and had limited resources. But the end result is amazing!

I totally agree and as I said before, I cried quite a few times watching this in both a sympathetic and happy way. Aside from the finale, one of the scenes that really got me was when Scott finally broke down and confessed to Karen [played by Yuly Mireles] about how he felt life was easier by blaming all his problems on his biological mother. Was that a difficult scene to shoot?
I have to say it wasn’t difficult. In fact, I loved shooting that scene. When characters are finally breaking down and being distraught, it brings a sense of realism to the roles. In life, people have these mental challenges and the issue is that they get angry but tend to pretend like nothing happened. We tend to hide from how we feel more often. However, with that scene, I felt it really brought to mind a realistic human psyche and even with Carol’s issues, it really showed she is human, and Joey really brought it all together.

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Sister Gloria (Geri Jewell) and Scott (RJ Mitte) have a great chat in church in Carol of the Bells (Inclusion Films)

You had the chance to work with veterans Lee Purcell and Donna Mills. Did they bring anything special to the table in terms of perhaps giving advice on the set?
Everyone is well versed. There is this heritage of history in what they did in their careers. But you definitely have to hold your own. People can give you advice and you can only listen to the same routine so many times. We all can walk down the same road, but everyone learns differently.

Finally, are there any new projects that you can talk about?
Yes! I’m working on one right now in Brownsville, Texas, near Austin. I’m also looking at a few potential projects that are smaller films. But I’m going to keep working smarter and harder. Before, I worked harder but not smarter (Laughs). I’m just going to keep going until I do get on a big project!

That’s great! I’ll be looking forward to seeing your next project!
Definitely! You can always follow me on social media so keep an eye out!

Carol of the Bells comes out today and I think this is a very emotional and groundbreaking film that everyone should see. And again, thank you RJ for taking the time to talk about the film.
Thank you so much for having me and I hope everyone gets to see the film!

A Special Thank You goes to October Coast PR and RJ Mitte for making this interview possible. To follow up on RJ’s projects, follow him on both Twitter and Instagram.

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