‘Breaking Bad’ star, adviser to tout disability in...

‘Breaking Bad’ star, adviser to tout disability insights, science

MTSU will be “Breaking Bad” with a week of science, drug- and disability-awareness activities inspired by the popular television series.

Free food, prizes, giveaways and meetings with two people associated with the multi-award-winning TV drama are planned through Oct. 3 to commemorate National Disability Employment Awareness Month.

RJ Mitte

The AMC cable network drama has won 16 Emmy Awards since its debut in 2008. It centers on Walter White Sr., a chemistry teacher with cancer who becomes a drug kingpin to shore up the family finances.

The centerpiece of the week will be “An Evening with RJ Mitte,” the actor who portrayed Walter “Flynn” White Jr. on the program, at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 1, in Tucker Theatre.

Like his character, Mitte has cerebral palsy, but the disability was not the focal point of the character’s existence on the program. His work on the show earned him the 2013 Harold Russell Award from the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.

Dr. Lance Alexis, director of MTSU’s Disability and Access Center, said such roles all too often have gone to nondisabled actors.

“In many cases, they’re coveted roles because they have won numerous awards,” Alexis said.

“He (Mitte) is going to talk about navigating this career with this disability, because it’s not easy in the acting world for anybody, and it’s probably more difficult for somebody with a disability like cerebral palsy,” said Sara Read, the center’s testing coordinator.

The 23-year-old Mitte, whose other credits include “Switched at Birth” and “Hannah Montana,” is the youth spokesman for the National Disability Institute’s Real Economic Impact Tour. The campaign works with low-income people with disabilities to help them improve their financial situations.

Mitte also is a spokesman for “I AM PWD,” an advocacy campaign for actors with disabilities sponsored by the Screen Actors Guild, Actors’ Equity and AFTRA, and he also works on an awareness campaign for the National Center for Bullying Prevention.

The MTSU Disability and Access Center will provide American Sign Language interpretation for Mitte’s Tucker Theatre appearance. Other disability-related accommodations will be made available upon request by calling 615-898-2783 in advance.

Dr. Donna Nelson

MTSU’s Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, or WISTEM, Center will present a lecture by Dr. Donna Nelson, a science adviser on “Breaking Bad,” at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 2, in Tucker Theatre.

Nelson, a professor of chemistry at the University of Oklahoma, examined scripts, provided dialogue, drew chemical structures and wrote chemical equations to enhance character Walter White Sr.’s credibility.

An American Chemical Society Fellow and Fulbright Scholar known for her work on diversity in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, education, Nelson also will discuss the benefits of using the media to help the public better understand and appreciate the work of scientists.

Teams of four students each will compete in a “Breaking Bad Trivia Contest” from 1 to 3 p.m. Friday, Oct. 3, in the Tom Jackson Building.

 “Breaking Worse: Synthetic Drugs of Abuse,” a discussion about the lethal side effects of synthetic drugs and the struggle to regulate them, was held Sept. 28 in Room 221 of the Learning Resources Center.

Posters representing characters and events in “Breaking Bad” were on display Sept. 29 in the second-floor lobby of the Keathley University Center.

Teams of two students searched campus all day Sept. 30 to uncover clues about MTSU’s many assets in the “Breaking Bad Amazing Race,” starting from the Disability and Access Center in Room 120 of the KUC.

All events are free and open to the public. For more information, contact the Disability and Access Center at 615-898-2783 or

— Gina K. Logue (