Wentworth Miller doesn’t want overnight success — The ”Prison Break” star says he’s ”the nicest guy in Hollywood”
by Dan Snierson
”This article had better not begin, ‘My phone rings, it’s Wentworth Miller calling me from the back of an air-conditioned limo,”’ warns Wentworth Miller, calling from the back of an air-conditioned limo. ”’I’m the nicest guy in Hollywood, I swear!’ he says, his voice resonant with sincerity. ‘Anyone who says otherwise is a f—ing liar.”’
Actually, it’s hard to know exactly how to start a story about the intensely handsome star of Fox’s hit drama Prison Break. As Michael Scofield — a brilliant structural engineer-turned-inmate who busts his wrongly convicted brother out of death row — he’s a study in inscrutability. As Wentworth Miller…he can still be pretty hard to read. Even those who love working with him describe him as ”very private” or ”a cipher.” So let’s just begin with Breakout Boy explaining why he’d rather not walk down the red carpet that the media have rolled out for him.
”I wouldn’t describe myself as a people person,” says the 34-year-old actor. ”I’m a private person, but that implies that I’m sitting on a mountain of secrets. The fact is, I’m a fairly quiet person. I have to laugh internally when I’m asked in interviews what nightspots I like to hit. I just don’t have answers for those questions. So sometimes I make them up.”
Some unfabricated facts about Miller: 1. He speaks in a hypnotic, classical-DJ voice, his speech teeming with words like asunder. (”He’s an amazing, intelligent guy,” testifies Amaury Nolasco, who plays cellmate Sucre. ”At the beginning when I talked to him, I felt like I was taking the SATs all over again.”) 2. He’s been to only one concert: a David Gray show. (”I’m going to come across as some sort of bubble boy, I know it,” Miller mock-moans.) 3. Raised in Brooklyn with firm discipline by a lawyer/educator dad and special-ed-teacher mom, he attended Princeton University, where he sang baritone in an a cappella group. ”I was so busy doing what was expected of me that I never stopped to consider what I expected of myself,” Miller notes. ”So, especially in my 20s, I was dismantling the budding bureaucrat that I was on my way to becoming.”
That process included moving to L.A. after graduation in 1995 and toiling as a PA and a temp between auditions. Eventually he scored a guest role as a swimmer on Buffy the Vampire Slayer (”largely because I had a shaved head, I think”), as well as gigs on ER and Popular. His big moment was to arrive with 2003’s The Human Stain — in which he played a younger version of Anthony Hopkins’ character in flashbacks. Instead, the movie fizzled and he didn’t work for nearly two years. ”It was like I stepped off the pavement and into the desert,” he recalls. ”As rocky as that road was, I learned a lot about endurance and patience and discipline.”
And ultimately redemption. After a captivating last-minute audition for Prison Break, Miller was sentenced to the former maximum-security penitentiary in Joliet, Ill., where season 1 was filmed. ”It’s like playing cops and robbers when you were a kid, and now you’re getting paid for it,” says Miller. ”I wish I had a nickel for every scrape and scratch and bruise and bandage — oh wait, I do!”
He has, however, passed up some extra nickels in the form of easy-paycheck movie offers. ”I don’t put pressure on myself to strike while the iron is hot,” he explains. ”I can crank out three really crap movies on my hiatus and cash in and be done when the show is over, or I can hold out for those amazing projects — you know, be number 12 on the call sheet and have my one scene with Glenn Close.” So instead of shooting The Hills Have Fast and Furious Eyes on his hiatus, he spent some time road-tripping from Chicago to L.A., and later to Dallas, where season 2 is being lensed. ”There’s an anonymity on the road,” he says. ”You could play that old game of changing your accent every time you pull into a new Waffle House…. If you decide to take that left instead of the right, maybe no one will hear from you again. It’s kind of scary. But exciting.” His partners in TV crime know that he prefers the path less traveled. ”He’s very wise — not your standard It Boy,” offers Dominic Purcell, who plays Michael’s death-row bro, Lincoln. ”It wouldn’t surprise me if Wentworth gave the business up tomorrow and became a writer.”
That probably won’t happen (though Miller has penned a treatment for ”a love story with a Hitchcock twist…a cross between The Stepfather with Terry O’Quinn, Shadow of a Doubt, and the Count Dracula mythology”). Besides, the self-described ”ruthless perfectionist” has much work to do. ”If I had to grade my skill set on a scale of 1 to 10, I’d probably give myself a 4,” he volunteers. ”I don’t think I’m being particularly harsh, because I started out at a negative 4. So really, I’ve come a long way.” Nothing inscrutable about that.
Wentworth Miller’s Must List
From retro rock to rocking-chair love stories, the actor reveals his eclectic tastes.
”My latest crush. I saw Swimming Pool not too long ago, and her performance was frank and fierce.”
Journey’s Greatest Hits 1988
”I was actually turned on to Journey by Amaury [Nolasco], my cellmate on the show. Better late than never.”
Eleanor & Abel 2003
”A love story [by Annette Sanford] starring septuagenarians. It’s so good you wonder why they haven’t made it into a movie.”
The Cello Suites, Yo-Yo Ma 1998
”There’s something about a cello and the violin that’s melancholy and suggestive. It’s helpful when tackling a scene that requires those elements.”
Strangers With Candy 1999-2000
”I will never look at snack cakes the same way again. Amy Sedaris is a genius.”
Talking to him is like taking the SATs all over again, LMAO. That Amaury. Are we going to have some Vampire action in this project? Only if Went will star, and writhe around on the floor in agony shirtless and bleeding after the fateful bite. Oh please please Went…do it for me! Thanks for the link anon 9:57!