RJ Mitte landed the role of a lifetime portraying Walter “Flynn” White, Jr. on the AMC series Breaking Bad from 2008 to 2013. Vince Gilligan’s crime drama about a high school chemistry teacher diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer who enters the shadowy world of cooking and selling meth so he can provide for his family after he dies goes horribly wrong — all while his family is oblivious to White’s exploits — is regarded as one of the most groundbreaking shows in television history. Breaking Bad won various awards and put Mitte, whose character famously ate in naiveté at the breakfast table every morning, smack dab in the heart of pop culture. [Add cereal joke here.]
Since Breaking Bad wrapped up two years ago, RJ Mitte continues to act and work as a social advocate, speaking out for those who, like himself, have cerebral palsy. Back in February he set the Internet on fire when he announced Breaking Beats, an event on April 10 at B.B. Kings in New York City’s Times Square which will features him DJing.
Curious to know more about his decision to enter the world of DJing, we got on the phone and talked to Mitte. What we learned is that he loves music but isn’t looking to put anyone out of a job or become a full-time celebrity DJ.
“Preparing for the event,” he says, “feels a little like vacation time.”
Was there a moment for you when you decided to start DJing and make a serious go at it?
RJ Mitte: There were a few [moments]. I’m constantly working: I do a lot of non-profit work; I audition and I speak for a few different organizations and causes. I’m always traveling and it’s not always fun. After a while you’ve got to change it up. I got the opportunity to do [Breaking Beats]. I love music and have tons of friends in the music industry, and I love being part of music and music videos. I got this opportunity, can put together a set list fairly quickly, and I can match up beats fairly decently. Again, I’m not a professional DJ but it’s going to be a nice change. We’ll see how it turns out.
Indeed we will. Acting is such a tough profession. You’ve worked hard to get where you are so it seems like you can take the same work ethic you’ve brought to acting over to music and see what happens, right?
Totally. And I can do this and audition. It’s a good outlet for me to take time, because I don’t really take a lot of time for myself. Preparing for the event feels a little like vacation time. [Laughs] I need a whole day to practice on my set so no one bug me! Ahhh, this is nice!
What are the similarities between acting and DJing? You need to be precise and improvise when you have the opportunity. Both professions also take a lot of hard work and preparation if you’re going to do it right.
Well, timing is everything, making sure everything is on the same beat. It’s the same when you’re acting — you need to be on the same track because you are blending with the other actors and making sure you’re doing right by your character. I find DJing less complicated because you don’t have to figure out what others are doing. Music is very personal and what you pick to play in your set is part of your personality.
Which styles of music can people expect to hear during your set at Breaking Beats?
There are several genres — all the way from EDM to deep house. It jumps around. I like rock ‘n’ roll, ‘80s and ‘90s hip-hop and underground house. There’s actually a six-minute set I helped put together, and I was able to blend and mix it with the help of a friend where everything was down to the nanosecond. It’s cool, and I like what we were able to create. My thing is telling a story and talking through the music. I’ve talked so much I don’t want to hear my voice anymore!
You want to let the music do the talking at this point.
Are there any DJs who you look up to?
Well, I have some friends who are DJs. I watch them when they’re mixing, and I learn as much as I can. The trick is to put in the time and effort and to just get in and do it. I like DJs who play different styles. Again, what you play is a reflection of who you are. I just enjoy being part of the music and the chance to throw my hat into the ring. When I was younger I used to dabble a little and had a fairly significant collection of music and had some of my equipment stolen. Now I’m retraining and getting back into it.
Did you have to ask Vince Gilligan to use the name Breaking Beats? And how are you managing everything as you juggle acting and music?
Yes. I’m just not allowed to use any video that goes along with the show, and I don’t plan on focusing on Breaking Bad. I’m going to tell a story but mostly want to have fun. I just moved into a new place on the first of the year and have only been there seven days. I work, work, work and audition, audition, audition. I want to do more than acting and pick and choose what’s right for me. I have a grueling schedule but hopefully it’ll ease up a little.
Well, it sounds like you’re a man on a mission.
[Laughs] That depends upon the day.