Wentworth Miller - Page 1
Wentworth Miller - Page 2
Caught in the spotlight
The new Brad? Not yet, Wentworth Miller tells Stephen Armstrong
The Sunday Times
Waiting to interview Wentworth Miller at the Cannes television festival, I notice something strange. The seafront outside the hotel is jammed with women. It takes me a while to work out what they are doing there. After all, Cannes is a trade fair. Actors are there to promote their programmes to the industry. The general public is not invited, and rarely shows up. So to see a swarm of semi-hysterical beach babes forcing their way past the door staff is almost unprecedented. Wentworth Miller clearly has an unusual appeal.
Since the American drama Prison Break broke onto the world’s screens in August 2005, Miller’s portrayal of the brooding lead, Michael Schofield, has catapulted him from off-the-shelf beefcake (playing the love interest in a Mariah Carey video, for example) to verge-of-superstardom, bona fide heart-throb. In series one, Schofield broke into prison to rescue his death-row brother, getting tortured, beaten and abused by most of the inmates for his pains. Miller’s “hottie du jour” status was helped by a plot that saw him tattoo the plans of the prison all over his body, and thus stand around shirtless for a large part of every episode. Even so, says Prison Break’s producer, Paul Scheuring, sex-symbol status is almost never conferred on unknown actors over the age of 28 — and Miller is 34.
"In Hollywood, there are only a few actors who could possibly be a leading man, and if they are really the guy, if they really have the chops, they’re already making movies,” he explains. “So when we were casting for a 30-year-old, there were all these journeymen actors — good-looking, quite clever, but had never really caught on. We saw thousands. Suddenly, Wentworth came in, and the room lit up. It was like, ‘Where has this guy been?’”
Miller now stands just about where Brad Pitt stood after Thelma & Louise: his next decision could put him right up in the firmament or leave him rotting as the hottest face on cable reruns. The imminent second series of Prison Break sees the gang of convicts on the run, in the style of The Fugitive, hunted by a remorseless FBI man. Given the fatality rate — a cast member is gunned down every couple of weeks — it’s hard to see the story stretching out over another four series. At some point soon, then, our boy will have to make that big script choice, and he’s fully aware of its importance. Indeed, it seems to trouble him so much so that during the series’ three-month hiatus, he opted to turn down every movie offer thrust at him and effectively vanish, driving across America from the Chicago set to LA. It proved a sobering experience.
“I thought I knew how powerful TV was, but I had no idea,” he explains. “In Chicago, I was used to people tagging us on the street, recognising us — I thought, well, we’re filming here, so of course they’re aware of us. But when you’re pulling into some gas station in the backwoods of Idaho and you find there are fans of the show everywhere you go... well, it was weird. I’ve lost my anonymity. There’s no more wandering into the next town and putting on a French accent just for show, for amusement.”
I tell him that I’ve never had to push through a foyer full of eager women to get to an interview with a television actor before, and his face briefly flickers, as if he’s grateful someone else thinks it’s crazy. “This is a new experience for me, the women over here.” He leans forward, as if it’s a secret. “I’m not sure if it’s confidence — they’re much more comfort-able introducing themselves and making their needs known.”
It’s almost endearing how alarming he finds it. You’d expect an actor to crave such attention, but Miller’s private life is very private indeed. There are whole internet sites devoted to working out who he might be sleeping with. Isn’t he ever tempted to take advantage of his status with one of the sun-tanned lovelies queuing outside? He shrugs and spreads his hands out on his knees. “Right now, my work comes first,” he says, speaking slowly and thoughtfully. “I’m a workaholic, which is the sad truth of it. I did manage to go on a couple of dates over the past year, but I’m happiest when I’m on set, so I really need to get all of that out of my system before I can turn my attention to more personal matters. I try to lead a low-key life. And sometimes you just want to go to Chili’s and have a margarita and some chicken fajitas, and not have the experience wind up on a website somewhere. It’s a little bit strange, all that sex-symbol stuff. The fact is, I look the same as I’ve looked for the past 10 or 15 years. My eyes aren’t suddenly a more compelling shade of green. People go on about the ‘brooding look’ a lot, but usually I’m just squinting because my eyes are sensitive.”
Perhaps he’s so awkward with the trappings of fame because his background is about as far from Hollywood as it’s possible to get. Although he was brought up in Brooklyn, he was born in Chipping Norton, just outside Oxford. His father was a Rhodes scholar, studying psychology amid the dreaming spires, and young Wentworth grew up surrounded by academics. It was expected that he would go to a good university, and he studied English at Princeton. Despite performing in an a cappella group, the Princeton Tigertones, he quashed his childhood acting ambitions while there.
“Princeton is very conservative, and all my friends were looking forward to Wall Street or law school or med school. If you said you were going into the arts, well, that was something you did as an extracurricular activity,” he explains. “I moved out to LA to work in film development. Just watching all our video footage got the juices flowing, so I decided to quit and give acting a try. All my father knew was that I had a lot of free time on my hands, and that’s never a good thing.” He smiles. “Let’s just say my parents had their concerns.”
It took him a long time to make it. “People have referred to me as an overnight success,” he smiles wryly, “but I’m an overnight success that has been 10 years in the making. A lot of times, being an actor in Hollywood feels like you’re pissing down a well. I’ve had 500 auditions, and I have 13 credits on my resumé, so I’ve heard ‘no’ an awful lot.”
Now that he has that success, however, he actually seems worried. “It’s just in my nature not to be a part of the Hollywood scene,” he says. “It’s never held any kind of lasting satisfaction for me. I think it’s dangerous, because now there’s so much media attention — 24/7 on every cable channel, papers and online — there’s a real hunger for information, and people can get to feel as though they know you when they really don’t.”
His conversation is littered with this sense of danger, of being trapped by attention and celebrity. The project he feels most attracted to, for instance, is one he’s developing himself about Dracula. “There’s something identifiable in that character,” he says earnestly. “The Dracula story is really, in my interpretation, a story about someone schlepping through the ages trying to find love. Alone. Malformed. A social outcast. Dracula picks his bride to be, and there’s a part of us that wants them to get together. But then the blond, beefy hero comes in at the end and puts a stake through Dracula’s heart. I think it’s kind of tragic. Dracula is about wanting community, wanting to be understood, wanting some kind of connection, someone to accept you, fangs and all.”
Then our time is up, and I have to push my way through the foyer into the blinding light of a Cannes afternoon. Looking back, I see the smoked-glass door of the bar where Miller sits, waiting for the next journalist to step into his gloomy lair. The beach blondes stare at the same door, hoping he’ll come out and join them, but it’s as if the sunshine and the attention are fatal — that if he’s directly exposed to them, he’ll writhe and wither away until all we’re left with is his fangs.
Prison Break star not enjoying fame
When US television actor Wentworth Miller says he can't be your friend, he wants you to know he means it.
The star of Prison Break has had a hard time since shooting to international stardom on the back of the popular television thriller, which hit Australian screens in 2006.
But it's not personal, the 34-year-old insists - it's just that people requesting his friendship on the popular online networking site, myspace.com, are being duped.
"I have people calling my agent asking which myspace page is mine and there are about a dozen," Miller told AAP on a publicity trip to Australia in December.
"And the fact is I've never been on myspace. People posing as me is a little unsettling, a little frightening... it disturbs me on a profound level."
It's been a dizzying rise to the top for the young actor, who came into the series with just a few movie and television credits to his name.
Miller admits a small cameo role in two of Mariah Carey's music video clips "did more for my career than anything I'd done up until that point".
At that point, he had just completed the pilot for Prison Break, which was to catapult the star in the celebrity sphere - a place Miller is still coming to terms with.
"What happens to your identity, to the perception of who you are on this journey is a strange one," he said while on his first visit down under.
"There's this kind of star struck dynamic, I guess that's why they invented that word to describe that moment when a fan comes running up to you and they're so excited to see you.
"(But) inevitably there's this moment, where the shoe drops and they realise they have no idea who you are.
"I guess it's that strangeness, the identification with an actor, with a character, (and) the reality that you don't really know them at all which is kind of hard to wrap your head around."
And with the fan's adoration, so too comes the media speculation, particularly around Miller's sexuality, but the softly spoken actor was firm when setting the record straight.
"No, I'm not gay," he said.
"I know these rumours are out there ... I'm cool with the fact that they exist, I mean this is about fantasy.
"Certain people are going to have certain fantasies, if someone wants to imagine me with a woman, or a man or one of each that's cool with me as long as you keep watching the show."
That seems assured, with Australian audiences pining for the return of Prison Break, which ended season one with a dramatic cliffhanger on the Seven Network.
Foxtel is current playing series one over the summer.
Miller said there was still much to expect in season two, despite the inmates escaping and fulfilling the series' title.
"The prison was central to the show, perhaps the most important character and if we leave that behind ... the question is will (the fans) keep tuning in?" he said.
"But we also have storylines and relationship that I think people were willing to invest in, so people did care enough about us to follow us once we jumped over the wall."
Miller said he was fond of his character, who he described as existing in the shades of grey.
"My character is a good man on a hero's journey, but that requires him to get his hands dirty from time to time," he said.
"The question becomes how far can he go before you lose sympathy in his cause entirely."
But Miller doesn't see himself playing a convict on the run forever and has plans to produce and direct his own movie - a love story with a Hitchcock twist.
"I'm now at the stage of my career where it's not just about the parts that are out there, but it's about generating your own parts," he said.
"I want to write the words that come out of my mouth and I want to be in the editing room, and choosing how my story is going to get told."
Coming from a family of academics, Miller said a career in the arts was never on the cards despite his early passion for acting.
After high school, Miller studied at Princeton, where he continued acting, but only as a hobby.
"At Princeton you take it seriously but then it stops as soon as you graduate," he said.
"I graduated and abandoned any expectations I might have had about pursuing acting because it seemed scary and an unrealistic pipedream."
But still in love with the world of acting, he moved to Los Angeles where he settled for behind-the-scenes jobs, with desks and steady paycheques to the relief of his family.
"The world of acting was so foreign to them, all they knew was that I wasn't getting up at a respectable hour, I didn't have a job, I didn't have a steady source of income," he said.
"Their fears sometimes fuelled my fears ... but now that I'm enjoying some kind of success they're free to breathe a sigh of relief and enjoy the ride along with me which is nice."
Prison Break series one marathon is on FOX8, January 26 from 7am (AEDT). Series two begins on Seven early in 2007.
Fox nabs Wentworth for holidays
By Peter Mitchell
ONE OF Hollywood's hot young actors is escaping to Australia so he can throw a couple of shrimp on the barbie for Christmas lunch.
Wentworth Miller, the star of the hit new American TV series, Prison Break, will be spending the holiday season in Australia.
"My youngest sister is living down in Australia," Miller told AAP from the Dallas set of Prison Break.
"I thought I'd kill three birds with one stone and get down to Australia.
"I can spend some time with loved ones over the holidays, visit a place I've always wanted to visit and do a little press for the show."
Miller's sister, Leigh, is living in Melbourne for a year.
"My sister just came back from Uluru with tales of kangaroos and the beauty of the area and she has a number of other day trips planned," Miller said.
"She and her friends have been very good about organising road trips and helping me explore what Australia has to offer.
"Half of my fascination with Australia is it seems to have the largest concentration of deadly creatures in and out of the water."
Miller, 34, who was born in England but has lived most of his life in the US, has had to deal with plenty of slippery characters in Prison Break, which has become an international hit.
Miller plays an engineering wizard who attempts to break out of a Chicago prison with his brother, played by Australian actor Dominic Purcell, and a band of other crooks.
The series is aired in Australia on the Seven Network and Foxtel's FOX8.
Some of the show's biggest fans are inmates who watch Prison Break in jail.
"From what I've heard there are certain prisons where they are not allowed to watch the show because the prison is worried inmates may get the wrong idea," Miller said.
"But, in other prisons I hear inmates rearrange their work details so they can be in their cells to watch our show every week.
"I've also received a lot of requests for headshots from inmates which I understand will get them a pack of smokes or two on the black market."
The first season of the show was shot in and around Chicago, but the second season has moved to Dallas where the cast and crew have been battling nature.
Miller, while shooting in swamps and bushland, has become a victim of chiggers, a parasitic mite.
If Australians see Miller relaxing on a beach over Christmas, they should not be concerned if his legs look in bad shape.
Blame the chiggers.
"Chiggers are a bug that bites you and then burrows underneath your skin and stays there," Miller explained.
"There's no way of getting them out.
"You have to buy nail polish and cover the inflamed spot with a dab of the nail polish.
"That seals the pores of your skin, which denies the chiggers oxygen.
"They suffocate, die, eventually dissolve and disperse into your bloodstream.
"I have had about 20 of them up and down my legs.
"We were shooting out in the woods and I neglected to coat my ankles in sulphur which was the only thing that keeps them at bay.
"I went home looking like a pizza from the legs down."
Miller will likely have his legs covered when he attends a cocktail Sydney Harbour cruise on December 27 to celebrate Foxtel's new long term deal with the Hollywood studio that makes Prison Break, Rupert Murdoch's 20th Century Fox.
Australians will also get a solid dose of Miller and Prison Break in coming weeks.
FOX8 will be airing a Prison Break marathon on Australia Day from 7am, running 21 episodes back to back in the lead-up to the series one finale on February 3.
The following article appeared in the December 2006/January 2007 issue of Prison Break Magazine
The following article appeared in the September 4, 2006 issue of People Magazine
The following article appeared in the August 21, 2006 issue of Star Magazine
More Than A Lucky Break
Sewickley Heights' Wentworth Miller plays it tough in the hit TV series ‘Prison Break.'
by Christine O'Toole
Sewickley Heights, has come a long way from his 1990 starring role as Quaker Valley High School's Li'l Abner in the musical of the same name. He's ditched that leading man's overalls for a jailbird jumpsuit in "Prison Break," which begins its second hit season on Fox TV this fall. This season, his character, Michael Scofield, goes on the lam with the brother he's committed to free from death row.
Does that mean audiences will finally see Scofield crack a smile?
"That's really funny," Miller acknowledged in an e-mail interview. "You'd think he'd have a reason to smile now that he's out of prison, but I think things are just going to get darker and more complicated. He's got a government conspiracy, crooked FBI agents and a bounty hunter standing between him and getting his brother safely to Mexico. So all in all, he really doesn't have a whole lot to smile about these days."
By contrast, Miller's career is looking mighty bright. Following graduation from QVHS in 1990 and Princeton University in 1995, Miller landed his first Hollywood role in "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." He landed roles in ABC-TV's "Dinotopia" in 2002 and the big screen's The Human Stain, with Anthony Hopkins and Nicole Kidman, the following year. In the latter role, in which Miller played a black man who looked white, he drew on an ethnic heritage that includes Arab, European and African-American. This year, he was nominated for a Golden Globe for his Scofield role in "Prison Break."
"I think people are drawn to prison stories because they're really horror stories," says Miller. "I think we're fascinated by the dark side of human nature, and prison is a place where people do terrible things."
When the Millers moved to Sewickley Heights at the beginning of Wentworth's senior year, he and his father created a book of cartoons gently lampooning their new hometown. "He'd do the writing; I would do the drawing. A few of our cartoons wound up published in the Sewickley Herald. For me, the experience was mostly about getting the chance to spend a little quality time with my father."
A college English major, Miller reads mainly scripts these days, as his daily pace for "Prison Break" is intense. "Our shooting schedule is 12 to 15 hours a day, five days a week," he explains. "We shoot an entire episode, which is about 45 minutes long, in eight days. On a movie set, 45 minutes of screen time would take about a month and a half to shoot. And on days when we have to put the whole tattoo on" - that would be Scofield's well-muscled, full-body schematic of the prison floor plan - "I'll come in to work three hours earlier than everyone else. Those are long days."
Based in L.A. for the past decade, Miller says he returns to Pittsburgh about once a year - but only to visit family. Chances of his shooting on location at the now-deserted Western Penitentiary, just upriver from his old Sewickley Heights home, are slim. "It's unlikely. But you never know," he says elliptically. "We might wind up back in the slammer down the road. These stories have a way of coming full-circle."
Catch Wentworth Miller in "Prison Break," Monday evenings at 8 p.m. on Fox.
The following news item appeared in the June 26, 2006 issue of People Magazine
Miller worries about breaking out too fast
Marilyn Beck and Stacy Jenel Smith
Los Angeles Daily News
Wentworth Miller, in Dallas shooting his hit "Prison Break," has been taking advantage of hiatus times to meet with Hollywood honchos about a film project he's written.
Says the actor, who soared into prominence last season as TV's Michael Scofield, who broke into jail to help his brother break out, "I've seen so many freshly minted TV stars make foolish choices. I'm well aware how quickly fame can go away, and I've turned down offers for movies I didn't think were right for me.
"I've discovered at this stage of my career it's not a matter of simply auditioning for projects but coming up with my own projects. And that's what I've done. I've written a love story with a Hitchcock-style twist, and now it's a matter of getting the project off the ground."
For the moment, Miller is content simply continuing to make "Prison Break" as good as he can. He's glad that the second-season story line has his character and his brother and their cohorts out of jail and on the lam but notes that at first, "I wondered what would happen if we tried to leave prison behind. People like prison stories, they like being scared, and it was a question of if the audience would care enough to follow the characters over the wall."
'Prison Break' star displays lead foot
By Terry Morrow
Scripps Howard News Service
"Prison Break" star Wentworth Miller had his own brush with the law over the summer.
He was pulled over twice for speeding, in two states. The incidents had two different outcomes.
The first time was when Miller, who plays the tattoo-laden Michael on the hit Fox drama, was nailed in Iowa for doing 85 in an 80-mph zone.
"It didn't even occur to me to play The Card," he says, referring to using his celebrity to get out of a ticket.
But the policeman was willing to fold once he took Miller's license and registration information.
"Where did you come from?" Miller remembers the policeman asking.
"Chicago," Miller said.
"And what do you do there?" the officer asked.
"I'm on a show called 'Prison Break,' " Miller recalls telling him.
Turns out that the officer's wife was a big fan of the show.
"Guess who got off with a warning?" Miller says with a laugh. "I felt a little guilty driving away."
A similar thing happened in Utah, but with a different ending.
"I was pulled over doing 80 in a 75 [mph zone] in Utah," Miller says. "The cop was ready to bust me for it."
And he did.
Yes, it was a "bummer," says Miller, but "you got to play by the rules."
The roadside action was part of his summer vacation.
Instead of working on other projects during his break, he got in his Toyota Corolla and drove solo from Chicago to Los Angeles.
Miller says he was seeking a stress-free adventure away from scripts and network executives.
He'd stop into diners and at gas stations, where he'd meet up with fans.
In the second season (beginning at 8 tonight on Fox), Michael and his brother, Lincoln, finally bust free and are on the lam.
Outside the prison, Michael will be a different person, Miller says. He says he will explore other sides of his character.
In one episode, the stone-faced Michael will even laugh.
"I told the writers when Michael is in prison he is a man with a mission. He is guarded," Miller says.
"But when he is off with his brother, away from [prison], he is allowed to show a side of himself that he is not allowed to show [when] others [are present]."
The following article appears in the August 25, 2006 issue of Entertainment Weekly Magazine
The following photos appeared in the August 2006 issue of Details Magazine
Wentworth Miller Interview@MediaBlvd Magazine
Wentworth Miller Celebrity Q&A
The Prison Break star dishes about his whirlwind year and life on the lam (It can get very sweaty!)
By Brenda Rodriguez
After being cooped up behind bars last season in the FOX drama Prison Break, Wentworth Miller, 34, is finding life on the outside can get very hot. Not that he minds sweating it out as engineer-turned-inmate Michael Scofield, a breakout role for the Princeton grad who once toiled as a temp and PA in between auditions. The show picks up its second season in Dallas, where Miller's character is on the run after making a great prison escape. PEOPLE recently caught up with the catch-him-if-you-can actor to talk about life in the Lone Star State, cowboy boots and tattoo maintenance.
Is Michael going to defer to his older brother now that they're on the outside?
There may be some(thing) interesting between the brothers as far as who is going to be alpha dog. But the truth is, Michael has the book smarts, Lincoln has the street smarts.
What do you guys do on set during breaks?
I'd like to say none of us dives for our BlackBerries and iPods when they yell, "Cut!" but we do (laughs). We have become very much like a fraternity. There are some practical jokes but more with the quick one-liners. We all pretty much know each other by now and we know what buttons to push.
What are you finding to do in Dallas when you're not working?
I've seen a lot fewer cowboy boots than I thought. Strikes me that Dallas is well on its way to becoming L.A., Texas-style. It's got great restaurants, great culture, a lot of places to hang out. Not that I necessarily go, but I know that the W Hotel does exist and it's there for me should I decide to indulge.
How do you stay cool in this heat?
I don't mind the sweating. They (Michael and brother Lincoln) are on the run. They're looking over their shoulders. It's very in keeping with the vibe of the second season.
Does the Prison Break tattoo melt off?
Eventually it starts to and you can't photograph it on the second day. And it is a challenge in that I'm wearing long sleeve shirts. It can get a little bit sticky.
Would you consider a tattoo yourself?
No, no, no. That's never been quite my speed.
What did you do during your summer hiatus?
I drove across country from Chicago to Los Angeles after we wrapped. It was a way to distance myself from a whirlwind year. It was just what the doctor ordered.
The following article appeared in the August 21, 2006 issue of Jet Magazine
The following article appeared in the June 19, 2006 issue of TV Guide Magazine
The following news item appeared in the April 2006 issue of The Works Magazine
The following article appeared in the April 17, 2006 issue of In Touch Magazine
Wentworth Miller, 'Prison Break'
Lead actor, the un-usual suspects
By KATHY LYFORD
Ivy League grads don't normally aspire to a life in prison. But for Princeton alum Wentworth Miller, incarceration has been life-changing.
Miller plays inmate Michael Scofield, the emotional center in the Fox hit "Prison Break," an engrossing drama with an absurd premise: A man robs a bank in order to engineer an escape with his brother, who's been wrongly convicted of murdering the U.S. vice president.
That preposterous plot is actually what intrigued Miller about the role.
"Michael Scofield is not a cookie-cutter TV hero," he says. " 'Prison Break' is so far-fetched, I had to make viewers believe that Michael is capable of making the impossible possible."
Naturally, as the season progressed, the escape plan evolved, as did Miller's interpretation of Scofield.
"Prison is changing Michael. Nobody could spend time in prison without experiencing a shift. I purposely made him cold, and I spent the first season dismantling his facade. He has so many shades of gray."
One of the more challenging aspects of a large ensemble show such as "Prison Break" is the interaction with so many characters. Miller's Scofield is surrounded by a colorful group of accomplices including Amaury Nolasco as cellmate Sucre; Peter Stormare as mob boss Abruzzi; and, most notably, the incomparable Robert Knepper as the deliciously creepy T-Bag.
And there are plenty of scene-stealers on the other side of the law, too, like Wade Williams as corrupt guard Bellick and Paul Adelstein as Agent Kellerman, who's at the heart of a government conspiracy.
"With all the characters on the show who chew the scenery, Michael is the calm at the center of the storm," says Miller, who came to the public's notice three years ago on the bigscreen in the Anthony Hopkins/Nicole Kidman pic "The Human Stain."
Of course Scofield didn't spend the entire season calm, cool and coldly calculating. There was a memorable scene in episode 17 in solitary that really allowed Miller to plumb the depths of Scofield's psyche.
"When the new pipe thwarts their escape and Plan A is in the crapper, the first rock has been thrown in the still pond of Michael Scofield, which led to his breakdown. That was a lot of fun for me to arc as an actor."
The season one cliffhanger left the inmates outside the prison walls. So what direction does Miller see his character going in season two and beyond?
"It all depends on what stories they come up with. My conception of the character is today and tomorrow. I haven't thought about what will happen (now that) he's out," says Miller, adding, "The writers are incredibly clever and I have a great deal of faith in them."
Favorite moment of past season?
"It was 9 in the morning and I was standing on a frozen cornfield. It was zero degrees and I wasn't wearing a coat or a hat or gloves, and I was doubled over, gasping for breath because we'd literally been running all night, take after take after take. And suddenly the director yelled "Cut!" and just like that, from one moment to the next, we were on hiatus."
"I don't get a chance to watch much. On DVD 'Oz,' 'Reno 911' and 'Family Guy' are definitely in the top 10. I did manage to squeeze in an entire 'Surreal Life' marathon on VH-1 one weekend. I just couldn't turn it off. I felt dirty, but in a good way."
"'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' was a terrific show and Sarah Michelle Gellar was terrific in it. It's really difficult straddling that line between drama and comedy, action and romance, sci-fi and reality and Sarah did it beautifully."
'Prison Break' Star Wentworth Miller Locks Down Breakout Role
It's almost too good to be true: a good-looking Princeton grad, who just happens to be the star of a hit TV show.
But that description only begins to define Wentworth Miller of 'Prison Break,' who stars as Michael Scofield -- a structural engineer who gets himself thrown into prison and devises an elaborate plan to free his brother from death row.
In an interview with AOL Television, Miller weighed in on the show's future, his indirect route to stardom and how R&B diva Mariah Carey changed his life.
How does it feel to be the hottest breakout star of the biggest breakout show this season?
You know the best part about the whole thing? We just got spoofed in 'MAD' magazine. You don’t know what that means to me. I swore by that thing when I was a kid. As far as I’m concerned, it doesn’t get any better than that. Period.
How did you prepare for your role on 'Prison Break'? Did you spend time in prisons with real inmates?
I had very little time to prep because we started filming a week after I was cast. But as luck would have it, we shot the first season in a real prison -- Joliet State Pen outside Chicago -- which served as a very real, very concrete reminder of where you are, who you are, what the stakes are and so on. They shut down Joliet in 2002, but its history is alive and well. We had former inmates working as extras on the set. They had some incredible stories to tell about their time behind bars.
What's it like acting behind bars?
The prison has an oppressive, heavy feel to it. It’s a strange place to go to work. Like having a picnic in a graveyard. But I know I can go home at the end of the day, which makes all the difference.
Do you prefer the Midwest to L.A.?
L.A. has been my home for the last ten years. I’ve come to like it a lot. But it’s very much about the entertainment industry, and it can be a little incestuous. That’s what I liked most about working in Chicago -- not everyone I met was somehow connected with the business. Not everyone had a stack of headshots in the backseat of their car. Not everyone was working on a script.
Executive producer Paul Scheuring has said, "Season 2 [of 'Prison Break'] will be the manhunt." What do you think that will mean for the show once the gang breaks out?
It means we've got our work cut out for us. It means that we leave behind a lot of what attracted people to our show in the first place -- the prison, specifically. And then the question becomes, do you care about these characters enough to tune in to see what happens to them once they’re on the outside? But I'm excited by the idea of the show completely reinventing itself. It's bold, it's ambitious and I don’t think it's been done before.
Is there a future for real romance between Michael Scofield and Dr. Sara Tancredi?
That remains to be seen. Michael and Sara have a real connection, forged in extreme circumstances, but there are so many obstacles between them. And the way this season ends… It’s pretty devastating, especially for one of us. I’m not sure their relationship, which is so new and not exactly built on the strongest of foundations, will be able to recover.
Who would win in a steel cage death match: Abruzzi or T-Bag?
Tough call. Abruzzi's got the size and the strength, but T-bag is small and quick. Then again, T-Bag probably has a razor blade or two tucked away in some unimaginable place, so I might have to go with him.
Has the show influenced your views on the American criminal justice system?
What’s changed is my perception of the men and women behind bars. I think we'd all like to believe that we’ve got nothing in common with the average inmate, but the fact is they've got dreams and fears and hopes just like anyone else. And they all started out someone’s child, someone’s friend, someone’s loved one. The line between "us" and "them" is a little less clear than you might think.
Would you ever go to similar lengths to save a loved one in need?
No. I mean, if it came down to it, there are people that I'd give my life for, but there’s no way I'd be clever enough to pull off what my character's up to. The truth is, math and science have always baffled me. Even if I were willing to endure months of pain to get those blueprints tattooed on my body, I wouldn't know how to read them.
Who's a better co-star: Anthony Hopkins ('The Human Stain') or Mariah Carey ('It's Like That' and 'We Belong Together')?
That may be a split-decision. Obviously, as an actor, it doesn’t get any better than working with someone like Anthony Hopkins. But Mariah’s an international icon, and the two days I spent working on her videos did more for my career, gave me more exposure, than anything I’d done before 'Prison Break.' I’m grateful for both opportunities.
When you were studying at Princeton, did you ever expect you'd be a TV star?
If someone had told me one day I’d be earning my living playing an inmate on TV, I’m sure I would have laughed in their face. College was a difficult time in terms of figuring out what I wanted to do with my life. I’d given up my acting ambitions by then because they seemed too unrealistic, but I had no idea what I might want to do instead. Most of my friends had their whole lives planned out, and I remember feeling envious of how certain they were, how focused. I eventually chose to work behind the scenes for a small production company that made TV movies. That seemed like a decent compromise -- I’d still be connected with the world of acting but I’d also have a steady paycheck. When I did eventually decide to quit my day job and become an actor, it felt like jumping out of a plane with a parachute that may or may not open. Risky, but thrilling.
Does it just break your mother's heart to see you behind bars (fictionally)?
My mom just likes the fact I’m working, that I’m able to support myself and she can stop paying for my car insurance. But watching the show can be difficult for her. She doesn’t like watching someone cutting off the toes that she used to play “this little piggy” with.
Your father's a lawyer. Would he have been able (or willing) to prove Lincoln innocent?
Yes, but he could just as easily have been the prosecutor. My father helps law students prep for their exams, and he always advises them to remember that law is a game and you have to be willing to play either side, regardless of how you might feel about the facts of the case. And that’s a piece of advice I was able to apply to acting too, because sometimes you’re hired to play a character that you don’t necessarily like, but if you want to do that character justice, you have to leave your judgments at the door.
You traveled the world performing with The Princeton Tigertones. Do you still sing?
My singing days are behind me, sadly. After a decade of neglect I can barely carry a tune. But I wouldn’t mind doing a movie musical or something, just as long as there’s enough money in the budget to fix my songs in editing.
If you weren't starring on 'Prison Break,' which other shows would you like to be on?
I’d love to be on 'Law & Order’ or maybe do voice work for 'The Simpsons.' I’d be happy anywhere, just as long as I was surrounded by really talented people and working on material that inspired me.
Do you watch 'American Idol'?
Actually, I've never seen 'A.I.' but I am grateful to them. That show is one of Fox’s biggest moneymakers, and some of that money goes to pay for shows like ‘Prison Break.’ Simon Cowell’s been signing my paychecks and for that I say thanks.
What's your favorite show of all time?
I have too many to pick just one. Different shows have meant different things to me at various times in my life. For pure nostalgic value, I’d have to go with 'The Muppet Show.' When I was a kid you could bet that come Monday night at 7:30, I’d be sitting an inch away from the TV screen, ready for Kermit and company to lay it on me.