There were many memorable deaths on Breaking Bad: R.I.P., Jane, Hank, Gus, Krazy-8, etc. Among the lives mercifully spared from the mass collateral damage of Walter White’s meth empire was that of his son, Walt Jr.
But at one point early in the Emmy-winning drama’s run, RJ Mitte, who played Walt Jr., was thirsty for bloodshed.
“Initially, I wanted Walt Jr. to have a good death scene,” Mitte tells EW. “I thought they were going to kill me off for a second. And I thought, ‘Walt Jr. should be brutally murdered. Pretty much bludgeoned and beaten to death. That’d be a good scene for him.’ And then I realized financially it wouldn’t be good for me.”
Did he have anybody in mind who might whack Walt Jr.? “The Cousins,” he says. “I thought, ‘There was a home invasion, someone stole the baby, beat Walt Jr. to death, and Skyler [Anna Gunn] wasn’t there.’ Something really bad. I was just like, ‘That’s what we needed,’ but I realized that’s not what would have been best for the show.”
Mitte had reason to ruminate on Walt Jr.’s death. When the subject came up during the Breaking Bad cast reunion on Wednesday’s edition of Conan, creator Vince Gilligan said he did indeed consider flaying Flynn for a hot second. “Early on, I pitched to my writers, I had this idea where Walter Jr. gets killed by this nasty guy that Walt is somehow business with,” he recalled. “And all my writers looked at me like I had completely lost my mind and was the most horrible person who ever lived.… You know the old saying, ‘Enough people tell you you’re drunk, you need to sit down.’ My writers essentially told me I was drunk.”
Prior to the gathering on Conan, Mitte and his Breaking Bad costars reconvened for an EW cover story, during which high times were relived, and each actor broke down motivations for their character, along with memorable moments. So, how did Mitte approach the role of a sweet-hearted teen who has cerebral palsy? “It wasn’t about creating a disabled character; it was about creating an able-bodied character,” he says. “As we evolve, our normality changes, and that’s what I was trying to create with Walt Jr. — a normality of life, of this individual.
“Initially, a network will take a disabled character and make him truly disabled, and say, ‘All right, that’s what we have to do,’” he continues. “We did the opposite. We created this experience and ended up having real characters, and that’s why I think the audience had so much gravity toward Breaking Bad. These weren’t contrived characters, there weren’t artificial characters, these weren’t just thrown together. They were thought-out and methodical, and that’s what makes them so real.”
Mitte’s favorite moment from the show’s five-season run (2008-2013) hails from the first episode, when Walt Jr. is mocked by his classmates while he’s out shopping for jeans with his parents — and then Walt takes revenge. “I think it was definitely a growing moment when the parallel universe of my life and Walt Jr.’s life kind of melded, and then just solidified everything for me,” says Mitte, who can be seen in the films Standing Up for Sunny, River Runs Red, and All the Little Things We Kill, and has a recurring role on the Starz comedy Now Apocalypse. “That whole little second half of that scene was all improv. It was two sentences, but there’s very few moments on the show where we had that, and that was one of the moments.”
Mitte acknowledged that it was “really cool” that fans became obsessed with the meme-able breakfast scenes involving Walt Jr., though he doesn’t share his character’s affinity for the morning meal. “I don’t really eat breakfast that often,” he says. “I’m a bacon guy. I like breakfast food, but I don’t really eat food until after noon, so by that time, that’s not really breakfast.” (For the record, he did attempt to leverage all the interest into a deal with breakfast food companies, but it did not pan out. “I tried working with other people in a cereal milk company and all kinds of stuff, but it kept getting shut down, because of the content on the show.”)
The Breaking Bad world lives on to some extent in prequel Better Call Saul, which stars his former castmates Bob Odenkirk, Jonathan Banks, and Giancarlo Esposito. It would be hard for Mitte, 25, to reprise a young teenager, but possibilities loom in the flashforward Gene-verse, or even the Breaking Bad era, which co-creator Gilligan says will be briefly seen in a subplot this coming season. Is Mitte interested in more Flynn? “We have not talked about it,” he says. “I’m open to it. At the end of the day, we had a hit. Why ever stop the hit? And I would always be open to developing more of that, and just continuing the world. Yeah, why not? But I’m not cheap anymore. So it’s going to cost them.”
Tread not-so-lightly over here to check out the gallery from EW’s big Bad photo shoot.