‘He’s stronger because of it’: Actor RJ Mitte speaks on the impact ‘Triumph’ has on the special needs community

Local News

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HARLINGEN, Texas (KVEO) — Actor Roy Frank “RJ” Mitte III speaks on his role in his new film “Triumph” as an inspirational film for all.  

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Courtesy Photo
Actor Roy Frank “RJ” Mitte III and screenplay writer Michael D. Coffey pose for photos at a premiere of their movie “Triumph” at Cinemark Sunrise Mall.

Triumph tells the true story of Michael “Mike” D. Coffey, a teenager with cerebral palsy in the 1980s who aspires to join his high school wrestling team, inspiring his teammates, coach, and father. 

Mike is initially discouraged and underestimated giving “triumph” a new definition when defying the odds.  

KVEO spoke to Mitte on his role and what attracted him to play the character.

Originally started acting to meet people in a new community, he launched the start of his career when landing his first big role in Breaking Bad at the age of 13.  

Mitte told KVEO that he chooses his films based on the morals of a character. One of the reasons he choose to play Mike is his direct connection with the values of the character that gave positive overall effects on the community.   

“The perseverance that the real character had [and] how much he believed in what he wanted” was a main component that drew Mitte to the character. “There are a lot of naysayers and that’s just how life is… when working in a community that doesn’t understand, you are going to get a lot of no’s, but you just have to keep persevering.” 

The character Mike and Mitte both participate in physical therapy throughout their lives, as painful as it is Mitte spoke on the importance of therapy. Not only physical but mental as well. 

“Therapy is a key point to life, physical occupational even mental therapy is so important to be able to harness them, they allow us to become stronger,” Mitte said. “We are able to work on what we come short and overcome them…. Therapy is painful and frustrating… you don’t want to do it but if you want to be stronger you have to do it… disabled or not.” 

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In the film Triumph, Mike is bullied for a brief moment but is swiftly rescued, Mitte spoke to KVEO on his standings on bullying and his personal experiences.  

“I had my hand broken in school, I had bullies who choked me out, and fought. Bullies will always be around, you can’t always stop it but you can stand up in what you believe in,” said Mitte. “Stand up for yourself talk to your peers, teachers, and parents. Bullying is a cry for help… sometimes people just want to hurt people… they are just hurting themselves. So, outreach is key” 

Jeff who plays one of Mike’s close friends in the film tells Mike “I don’t want to be disabled like you.” Mitte voices his opinion on breaking the stigma of “disabled” or individuals with conditions not being able to participate in activities such as wrestling or anything outside the norm for someone with such conditions.  

“You don’t have to live in that mentality in that disbelief and hate, you can better yourself, you can’t do everything you used to do. You can learn how to do it uniquely to you. Join your community and adapt, It’s the mentality that makes you disabled,” said Mitte. “Yes, it might be hard but if you want to see the better outcome, fight for it.  It won’t always work out. It’s okay to fail, it’s not okay to give up forever.”  

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If any disabled or individual with a condition is scared to participate in something outside their norm, Mitte encourages individuals to work towards that goal.  

“Be open minded and put yourself out there,” said Mitte. 

RJ Mitte spoke on the impact it would have on the Rio Grande Valley, Mitte has spoken to children from Capable kids and the Moody Clinic here in the Valley. Mitte has had showings within the community, the children have been able to see Mitte on-screen as Mike and in-person as RJ.  

“I’ve been able inspire [the children feel they are] being represented”  

Lastly, Mitte spoke to KVEO on the surprising ending Triumph had. Mike fights throughout the movie to ‘go to mat’ but unfortunately never wins. Mitte and a team of producers fought for the ending on Mike not actually winning his final match.  

“It’s not a traditional Horary, it is a realistic ending,” said Mitte.  You can’t always win, and you shouldn’t always win. If you are able to touch the top for a section of the fraction, that is a win.”  

KVEO spoke to a local educator in the Valley on her perception of the film and the impact it will have on children with disabilities or conditions here in the Valley. 

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Actor Roy Frank “RJ” Mitte III and members of ROCA scholars pose for photos at the premiere of the movie “Triumph” at Cinemark Sunrise Mall.

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Perla Guerrero, a local former special education teacher, shared her thoughts.  

“The movie is an inspiration to others with or without disabilities. It is definitely encouraging to all students as a self-reflection that one is the only one responsible and in control of keeping the barriers up or working hard to overcome them,” said Guerrero. “When seeing someone with a disability defy odds it encourages, inspires, and motivates others…to have the strength to keep working hard to reach their goals.” 

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