“I want a Furbie,” said the little red headed girl as she swung her legs back and forth under the chair. I looked up from my notepad.
“They’re back,” she said with a smile.
I looked around the room. I wondered how long I would have to wait here. RJ was having his hair done. The photographers were checking the light. RJ’s publicist was on the phone. And I was in the corner of a room, talking about Furbies with a little girl. I felt strange.
“I hated them,” I said. “I drowned my wee brother’s one.”
She smiled. I liked her.
We were there to shoot a shoot. RJ Mitte of AMC’s award-winning show Breaking Bad was being photographed by Evan Lane, photographer and creator of Langly camera bags. In the converted office space at the edge of Sunset Blvd. we spread out across the top floor and prepared for the shoot. I sat, surrounded by the entire line of 40s style military backpacks, opposite RJ.
As soon as he sat down I apologized.
“I’m sorry man, but I’m going to nerd out about Breaking Bad for a little bit if you don’t mind.”
RJ didn’t mind. In fact RJ seemed to rather like nerding out about his job. He is after all one of the stars of what some are calling the greatest television show of all time. He plays Walter White Jr., son of Walter White Sr. (played by Bryan Cranston) the Chemistry teacher turned gourmet Crystal Meth chef and drug kingpin.
“What’s it like being so young and being involved in the most talked about show on television?”
“Dude, I love it!” he said, beaming to life, “I’m working with the most talented writers and actors in television. I’m learning so much and having an amazing time on set watching these people work.”
He pointed to Cranston in particular as a huge influence, citing his transformation from “Mr. Magoo to Tony Montana” as being one of the finest television performances of all time. But he noted that despite all of the character development going on around him, his is the only character that seemed to strengthen his morals and grow as a person. But I wondered if he himself will eventually start breaking bad.
“I hope so! I want to see Walter Jr. get into Meth.
“For the challenge as an actor or for the good of the plot?” I ask.
“Both. And for his dad. I think that at this point it’s the only thing that can stop Walter and make him think about what he’s doing.”
I limply tried badgering him for spoilers in the hope that I’d bag myself a few thousand more Twitter followers, but he confessed that he didn’t know. They black out large chunks of the scripts to keep their ship as water tight as possible.
Aside from his work, there is one other part of RJ Mitte’s life that never seems to go ignored in interviews. Like his character Walter White Jr., RJ also suffers from Cerebral Palsy, albeit with much milder symptoms than his character. I wasn’t sure how to address it. In planning for the interview I pledged that I wouldn’t mention it. But after reading that he’s the youth ambassador for United Cerebral Palsy I realized that any toes tipping around the subject were my own. I asked him about how much he had to adjust to the role in the show.
“Well, my CP is pretty much only obvious in my speech and my left hand” he said, flexing his fingers and stretching his knuckles. “But I’ve been where Walter White Jr. is. I’ve been in crutches. For the first thirteen years of my life I slept in casts. I’m much better now.”
He bubbled just as much when talked about his disability as he did when he talked about his work. Prior to the interview I hadn’t really considered it to be particularly relevant. RJ’s a terrific actor and an extremely humble person, and there has certainly never been any need to footnote his ability or his achievements. But you can really feel that he wants to help people understand Cerebral Palsy, and do anything he can to improve the lives of those that have it.
“Is there anything else you want to ask me?” he said, after finishing a brief yet concise lecture about irregular blood flow to brain tissue.
I looked back to my notes. The page was full of obsessive scribbled words. Every question had been scored off the list I’d brought. I looked around.
“What do you think of these camera bags?”
“They’re nice right?” said Evan, opening the zips and unclipping the buttons, digging into every nook and cranny of his hugely successful Kickstarter project.
The bags are nice. Really nice. Born out of a love for photography and fashion, Evan Lane saw a gaping hole in the market for a functioning, waterproof camera bag that didn’t look like a camera bag. And couple its functionality and good looks with an affordable price point ($199) and you have a terrific product.
“Make sure you tell people that this is a bag made by photographers for photographers,” he said, with a smile that had a light scent of apology that normally follows clichés everywhere they go. I’d read that line on his website before the shoot, and said I certainly would. But in my head I shook my head.
“I think it’s also the perfect camera bag for traveling” he added. “There’s space for a couple of changes of clothes, and it doesn’t look like the sort of bag that houses thousands of dollars worth of equipment. That’s so important for a photographer.”
He told me about the Kickstarter project and how he’d never envisioned raking in three times the figure he needed to start the business. But that overwhelming response has fast tracked him towards having the first batch of bags ready by Christmas. And I would imagine that if he keeps feverishly posting like he does on Instagram (@evanlane) and spreading the word about this great product, he’ll make many a photographer extremely happy on Christmas day.
I looked back to Lacianne, RJ’s younger sister, as she sat, still swinging her legs.
“So Furbies are back, what about Tamagotchi?” I asked, unsure if they were before or after the Furbies.
“Yeah, I had one of those” she said, looking at her feet swaying under her.
“My brother had one too.”
“Did you drown that as well?” she asked with a smile.
I remembered dropping it in water and watching it die, distorted by the shape of the glass and the passing of a decade or so. I looked to her. To think that she hadn’t killed a Tamagotchi or a Furbie yet made me feel older than I ever thought I would.
Published in LA Canvas.