Once again, searching for something else, I find an article I’ve never seen. This time from March. Enjoy!
Wentworth Miller: Don’t ask about the tattoo
Don’t get him wrong — Wentworth Miller is pleased that “Prison Break” has gotten so much attention, not just from the American media, but from press outlets all over the world.
And Miller, who plays tattooed inmate Michael Scofield, understands why certain questions re-occur: “They’re the things that people want to know, and they’re at the heart of the show.”
Still, the actor said there are a few questions that he’ll be happy if he never hears again:
- “How long does it take to apply the tattoo?”
- “Did you think the show was going to catch on like it did?”
- “Do you think they can keep the show going after you break out of prison?”
- “Are you going to break out of prison?”
- “What’s it like working in a real prison?”
He says the weirdest question he’s gotten was “How has having a shaved head affected my social life?”
“I had my honest answer,” Miller says, “which I’m sure they found disappointing, which is that I’ve had a shaved head for a long time, so I’ve noticed no change whatsoever.”
Besides, he hardly had time for an active social life while the show was shooting. “I spend my weekends sleeping and watching DVDs, and eating at restaurants within a 2-block radius of my apartment,” he says.
More of my talk with Miller is below:
Have you gotten out in the city much?
“I did hope to have had more time and energy to take advantage of what Chicago has to offer, but fortunately, I’m lucky enough to have a couple of friends who live locally, and they’ve dragged me out of the house from time to time.”
You guys have gotten a lot of press, which must be hard, because you get asked the same questions a lot, yet you can’t give much away about what happens. You must be on autopilot with interviews by now.
“It depends. The answers don’t change, but the people asking the questions do, and that can make a difference, if they’re hearing it for the first time and if they’re honestly interested in the answers. Those conversations can be a pleasure.”
You’ve done so many interviews, and you appear so polite, every time, even when you’re asked the same question the millionth time. I mean, [jokingly] you’ve never threatened to throttle someone.
[laughs] “Wait ’til next season.”
So, over-asked question number 6, do you think it’s made a difference to shoot here? You don’t have to answer…
“We’re very lucky to be here, at the prison, in Chicago. I’m aware of the fact that they’ve made every effort to not only shoot here, but ground the show here. It’s not as though we’re up in Canada shooting on a soundstage and pretending it’s New York City. It’s supposed to be Chicago.”
What question have you never been asked — what question are you surprised people don’t ask?
“I suspect there’s a wealth of questions people will have after they see [the episode that is a flashback to the pre-prison life of the characters]. I’m sure people have talked to you about that, it’s everyone’s favorite. It’s an opportunity to put some meat on the bones of these characters. I found it especially appealing because I was not shooting in prison. We were out on the streets, in restaurants, I was wearing normal clothes. And my scenes were not about the plan. They weren’t about pipes and ducts and wrenches and toilets. They were relationship scenes. That was a pleasure, and that’s what I look forward to in the second season, once we’ve left a lot of these elements behind, once the brothers are out on the road, I hope to spend a good deal of time exploring these dynamics. And I guess that’s one question I don’t get but expect to is, what else is going on in the relationship between Michael and Lincoln – is it just brotherly love, is there tension, is there competition? What is the dynamic going to be like out on the road, since in the past year, however long the action of the first season has been taking place, Michael has been the older brother, not the little brother, for the first time. And once they’re on the outside and Lincoln refuses to ride shotgun, as I’m sure he will, how is that going to affect their dynamic?
Is it hard to stay focused on the job, while you’re doing all this press as well?
“I think what you learn, working on a film or TV set, is how to tune certain things out. You’ve got 60-100 people swirling around you, each of them with a very important job to do. And yet you have to let them do their jobs, be a part of that community, but when they yell action, it’s all on you, and you have to forget about where you are and what’s just happened five minutes before, and the makeup artist and the gal from wardrobe who’s tugging at you, and the stunt coordinator who’s worried about what you’re up to in that scene, and the director who wants A B and C, and the director of photography, who wants you to look only to the right and in the corner so your eyes catch the light.
“A thousand and one things that make a completely different beast than being on stage, where you’re the only one who’s responsible for your performance.
“And the press is a part of that beast. It’s the way the business works, you’re not just an actor, you’re a diplomat and a publicist and a politician, and there are certain expectations. And it’s in your interest to play the game, because you want to get the word out. You have a product that you’re proud of and you want to share it with people, and how else can you do that but through the media?
“Have you seen a documentary called `Searching for Debra Winger’? It’s really interesting. It’s a series of interviews with actresses of a certain age. There’s one in particular with Jane Fonda, where she talks about that moment where you leave your trailer and walk to the set, knowing the scene you’re about to do is The Scene, where you’ll be called upon to burst into tears or scream or do something that involves unzipping and letting your insides out, and there are 200 people waiting.”
And many of them are thinking about what’s for lunch.
“And [they’re thinking] `Can you do it? Are you worth it? We’ve busted our butts all morning putting this scene together, and are you ready to do all of our hard work justice?’”
“I don’t find a lot of pressure in that situation. I find in that moment, it’s a lesson in gratitude. I had an acting coach once who said a very valuable piece of advice, putting together a film or TV show is very much like Thanksgiving dinner. A lot of people have worked very hard to put that food on the table. And if you waltz out of your trailer without so much as a thank you, you’re really no better than a stranger who comes in off the street and sits down to eat. You don’t deserve to be at that table. So it’s your job to respect everyone else’s contributions, and be prepared to take [what you do] to the next level.”
It must be hard to, as you say, unzip your guts in front of everyone.
“It’s a strange, strange thing. An actor’s job is to embrace emotions and situations that in real life we spend all of our time running away from.”
I read in some of the pieces that came out around the time of “The Human Stain” that you struggled to make it for many years as an actor — that you could have gone a different route as a producer, that you had opportunities in those kinds of arenas — but you chose to stick it out as an actor. That must have been hard at times.
“It was a struggle, absolutely. The interesting thing is, I will play out that struggle in my various roles, the arc between someone who’s fairly buttoned-down and traditional, and trying to lead a `normal’ life, to someone who’s coming apart at the seams. Someone who finds themselves in extraordinary circumstances being asked to do insane things beyond what they thought they were capable of.”
So your life prepared you for your work.
“Absolutely. I’m so grateful that it’s taken as long as it has, because all that we have to bring to the table as actor is what happened to us before we `made it.’ And I see younger actors, many of whom have been in front of the cameras since they were nine or 10, and there’s a certain … I don’t want to say that suffering equals depth …
Oh, it does.
[laughs] “But you can tell who hasn’t heard `no’ in a while, and it shows up in their work.”
People who are in it not to do good work but to become celebrities — and actually get what they wanted and are in all the tabloids — in a way, I think that’s kind of sad.
“Invest wisely. That’s my advice to those cats. Because there’s a freshness stamp on their foreheads, and there’s a new crop coming up just behind you. They’re younger and better looking.”
Did you ever have those moments when you thought, “It’s not going to happen for me.”
“Sure. Sure. I think every actor wakes up at 2 a.m. and realizes that at that very moment, they’re the only ones who believe in themselves, deep down. But if something that you know you can’t walk away from, if you know you’re not going to be content behind a desk for the rest of your days, you just have trust that somewhere out there, there’s a script with your name on it.”
How’s that working out for you?
“Well. [laughs] I’m really fortunate that it’s come to this point to being offered film projects.”
Anything you can talk about?
“Well, there’s nothing to talk about. I’ve decided not to do anything over my hiatus. I’ve given my all to this season. We only have a couple months off, which might seem like a long time to someone who has a 9-to-5 job, but I want to make sure that I’m ready to give my all to the second season. I can’t just jump from one set to another, I think that would be a mistake.
“`Prison Break’ is my priority. I hope it’s a means to an end, I hope it opens up doors for me, but it’s also an end in and of itself. I’m not particularly interested in doing `House of Wax 7’ anyway. Those are the sort of roles that get offered when you’re on a TV show in [its] first year. And that’s wonderful, and I hope to do a horror movie someday, I’d love to do a `Shining.’ Those are the ones I enjoy, [the more psychological horror movies]. I didn’t go to see `Saw,’ because I can’t stand to watch people being tortured.”
I’m with you. But movies like “The Others,” those are great.
“Yeah, something plays with your mind.”
You would be great for that, you have that mysterious charisma thing going on.
“I’m just thinking about lunch.”
But you hide it well.