Walter White is the one who knocks. He is the danger. He is also, in effect, the cancer, his dark shadow poisoning everyone it passes over. Thus far, only one person in Walt's life has been spared: his son, Walter Jr. (played by RJ Mitte). The teenager has remained painfully innocent of his father's depravity. He senses that something is terribly wrong, but believes unconditionally that Walt is a hero, or at the very least, a good father trying his best. That's why it was so shocking to hear Walter Jr.'s plea on Sunday's episode: "Dad, please, can you just tell the truth?" It seems that Junior is catching on to Walt's game, though its true nature still eludes him. What role will Walt's son play in Heisenberg's inevitable downfall? Actor RJ Mitte isn't telling, but he promises that the final four episodes will take our breath away. We spoke to Mitte—a whip-smart 21-year-old in real life, with a milder case of cerebral palsy than his character—about the end of the Breaking Bad era.
These last four episodes have been so tense; I began to notice that I'm exhaling every time a commercial begins, because I'm literally holding my breath for entire scenes. Did it feel like that at all when you were shooting it?
We've been doing it for a while now, that we know pretty much what we have to do in each scene. But as you're reading it, though, you're like [gasp]! Halfway through, you'll drop the script and you'll send out an e-mail saying, "Omigod omigod did you just see what happened?" Every time you're done with a script, you can count on e-mails going around.
I know some of the actors had a policy of not reading ahead at all. Were you reading the scripts as soon as they came in? Would you read the whole scripts? How badly did you want to know what would happen?
Oh, I read the whole scripts. I really wanted to know. You just can't put them down. They're just too good.
So it seems like Junior is finally catching onto the fact that his dad is a big liar.
I definitely see it starting to dawn on him. He doesn't know the full extent of the lies, but he's catching on. How would anyone know your dad is this meth kingpin, going from a high school chemistry teacher to Scarface? But I think he has an idea of what's happening, and he thinks it all goes back to gambling.
You've had two scenes so far that have been really pretty emotional, between Walt Jr. and his dad. How do you prep for those really intense scenes?
I turn off the lights in the dark and cut myself. No, no, no, I'm joking! I just go off of what I've been through in the past with my own family and in my own life, and I just try to take that as much as I can into the character. I think it's fine to do that, because that is a real-live feeling. You may not have been there to the extent that these characters have, but you have the gist of the emotion.
The father-son relationship between you and Bryan Cranston feels very authentic. The audience really gets that connection, and how desperately Junior wants it. At the same time, you're not really sure what Walt is thinking.
No, you don't know what Walt is thinking, and you don't know how Walt is going to react to Junior. And Junior just wants that love from his father so much, and approval from his father so much, and Walt is giving it to him, but he's not giving it to him the same way he's giving it to Jesse. And Walt Junior feels like something's up, and something is going on, but he's not involved in that part of his dad's life.
Do you think with Walt's relationship with Jesse has something that his relationship with his own son doesn't have?
Definitely. I think because of Junior's CP [cerebral palsy], there's a lot of things that Walt couldn't do with his son that he can do with Jesse. We don't talk a lot about that [on the show], but I see that. Also, because Walt Jr. is Walt's real son, I don't think he wants to use that as his leverage against him, while at the same time, Jesse is his surrogate son, and he is using Jesse for his will. And I think out of that comes more love, in a sick and twisted kind of way.
How do you think the relationship is right now, at this point in the show, between Walt Jr. and Skyler? Things were so tense there for a while, but it seems like they're going to have to be allies now.
[Long pause] You know, I feel that Walt Jr and Skyler's relationship has been tense for the last little bit because Skyler was hiding a lot of things from Junior, and he knew something was up, and I think seeing that something was up was hurting him more than not telling him. And I feel there was just a lot of animosity towards his mother because his mother knew. His mom knew what was going on, his dad knew what was going on: basically, everyone but him. And I feel that it was just eating and eating at Junior. At the end of it, you'll see what's going to happen, but I think—well, there's so much in these last four that I would love to share with you! And I just have a feeling that you'll see the relationship with Junior and Skyler, you'll see what...these final four episodes can go a lot of ways. There can be so many different scenarios, and it can get really rough. And it's starting to...well...it can definitely be one of those...gaaaah!
It's ok, I know there's a lot you can't talk about! You have a tough job right now.
It's harder as we get closer to the end. So much has happened that some things are inevitable. So without saying anything, when you're in Walt's type of business and you're in that kind of world, you're not dealing with normal people. You're not dealing with normal society. You're dealing with killers, you're dealing with murderers. You're dealing with people that are addicts of their own devices, of what they've been doing, and they're feeding off of the power. And I think when you get to the top of that mountain, and you're on the top, there's so many people fighting for that, and backstabbing, and lying and cheating and stealing, and at the end of the day, you don't know who you are supposed to turn to. And I think everyone on this show has had that turning point of, "Oh, I need to fight and fight and fight to protect my family now."
So how did it feel wrapping up the show after all this time? You were a kid when it started.
Yeah, I was 14, and I'm 21 now. It was interesting. You know, I loved it, I wouldn't change it for the world. Really, I wouldn't be the same person I am today without it. I wouldn't be capable of the same things. And I wouldn't have my extra family, you know, my "BB family." It's really crazy to think that we're done. Every once in a while, I'll feel it, and I'll be like, "Ah, well, we'll come back next year, I'll see them soon!" And then I'm like, "Oh. I won't!"
It's got to be like leaving school. I mean, Breaking Bad kind of was your school.
RJ Mitte: Yeah, it really was. It's a lot like graduating high school. But it's—[Laughs] I'm actually looking at Betsy [Brandt], there's an ad for her NBC show with Michael J. Fox. Literally, I just saw Betsy as I'm saying all this! And it's weird to see everybody going their separate ways. But you know, at the end of the day, what we all have been through, and the friends we made along the way, we will have them forever. We really will.
OH MY GOD TONIGHT'S EPISODE Y'ALL