Virtuoso Award Night Interview: Who’s Driving Doug?

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by Hana Ulep, Isabella Macioce, and Hailey Zheng

Muscular Dystrophy is a disease that is inherited genetically and progressively makes the body weaker as muscle mass is lost. Actors RJ Mitte and Hunter Payton star in the movie Who’s Driving Doug? as the younger and older versions of a man with this fatal disease. This beautiful and touching movie was honored on the red carpet for part of its world premiere at the Santa Barbara Film Festival this year. This movie was written by a man with muscular dystrophy and was inspired by his life events and loosely based on the journey he has taken.

We were very lucky to get to interview the talented RJ Mitte and Hunter Payton on the red carpet, and ask them about what it was like to play the role of Doug also about their careers in general. Hunter Payton played the younger version of Doug and is currently only 11 years old, yet one of the wisest people we have ever spoken to. The two of them, despite being past and present versions of the same character, had only met that day. Payton shared his advice for aspiring actors, “Just be yourself, because no one can tell you what to do. When you are acting, it’s not about getting money… you have to love this profession, because if you don’t love it, everything will just crumble. You’ll never get anything if you don’t have true love for what you are doing. Also, just stick to your morals if you find something you want to do.” He emphasized the fact that without true passion for what one’s doing, the outcome will never be pure or what was intended.

RJ Mitte played the main role in this movie as the older (and present) version of Doug. Talking to Mitte was incredibly inspiring as he shared some deep, meaningful thoughts with us. We asked him about the roles he has played and if they affect or change him in any way. He replied, “Always. If you do not learn something about yourself after playing a character, you are not doing it right. Everything that I feel is important in being an actor is making it real, bringing it to life and creating a life in that character. At the end of the day, if you don’t feel it in yourself, and if what you’re doing isn’t affecting who you are, you need to find something else. Our job as an actor is to evoke an emotional response, it’s to change perception, to change ideas. The more we have that in our lives the better because we are not meant to be stagnant. We are not meant to be still, we are meant to evolve and grow… to learn more and more. About ourselves… and how we fit into this environment.” Payton then said to us, “He should really write poetry!” Payton continued to go into this motivational topic. “We live to learn, and to teach other people. Not just to stay in one place and not learn anything.” RJ Mitte and Hunter Payton had so much wisdom to share and they are definitely some of the most intelligent people we have been lucky enough to speak with.

Hearing the brilliantly spoken words of these two young actors was an incredibly eye-opening experience, and their words apply to not only acting, but to life itself. Knowing even an ounce of how much strength is needed to portray such intense roles was incredibly fascinating and certainly puts things in perspective. Overall, meeting RJ Mitte and Hunter Payton was incredible and we never believed something so touching and almost overwhelming would come to be in our lives.

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