Wow, a super long article, but there is some GREAT Wentworth info here!! Learn about his personal life, his celebrity crush, and his writing!
You’ve said you’re more of a loner than a social butterfly. Has that changed since you’ve become so well known?
Yeah. It’s a luxury I can’t afford. I would never describe myself as a people person but I spend my days on a set putting together a show that involves hundreds of other people or off promoting that show and meeting hundreds of other people. I saw an old interview with Jack Nicholson where he said that the average celebrity meets more people in one year than the average person meets in their entire life and that feels true to me. I don’t know if it’s true scientifically or it would be possible to prove percentage wise but it just feels like the truth and consequently, when I have a weekend off or a night to myself, it’s a choice between hanging out on my couch watching a video or going down to the local bar and inevitably being cornered by someone and grilled about the tattoo for two hours, I’ll choose the former. I think it’s important to have a little bit of balance. I think people, myself included, or myself especially, need time to gather your thoughts to process what is happening to you, especially since my life has changed in many ways so dramatically over the last year and a half. It’s a lot to process.
What are the other negatives and positives of being in a hit show?
I’d say the most significant positive is not only is it a great show, I have a place to go to every morning, a steady paycheck, which as an actor is a rarity and a luxury, but it’s opened so many doors for me. The feature film world in the US its all about, “Do they know you overseas?” because it does matter how well a movie does domestically but the foreign markets count for a great deal and the fact that Prison Break is this international hit, and my name now means something in Korea, and South Africa, and Australia, only helps me as far as getting in the door on certain feature film projects that I couldn’t, or didn’t, have access to before, which is great. Of course, the down side is that you’re working on a TV show that’s 22 episodes a year, it takes eight days to film an entire episode, all of those days are between 14 and 17 hours long, so when I have my two months off in which I can go do a movie, I’m too tired. And that’s fine because Prison Break is kind of my priority, it’s my baby, and that’s where my attention goes first and foremost. As far as the negatives, there’s a certain strange identity theft that seems to be more and more prevalent. It’s only natural in the business of fantasy, so people have fantasies about you, and some of them are based on some kind of truth, some of them are not, but it doesn’t matter whether they have any kind of accuracy, they’re online, or in magazines, people can print anything about you, say anything about you that they want, and there’s really nothing you can do it about except, I suppose, go to court if you have enough time and money. And mostly it amuses me. There’s a billboard in Korea, apparently, where they’re using my image to advertise tests for prostate cancer for a Korean hospital, and they’ve just picked a random photo from some shoot for GQ I did a couple of years ago and without my permission are using me to push their particular cause, which is kind of funny actually but then my agent gets phone calls from people wanting to know which myspace page is mine, and the truth is I’ve never been on myspace but there are maybe a dozen Wentworth Miller myspace pages, and people answering fan mail as me, blogging as me, and it’s a little disturbing. I don’t care that they’re doing it. I do care that someone who might actually like the show and want to communicate with me in some way, shape or form turns to one of these other outlets and starts communicating with someone who’s not me. I’m very protective of the fans and their experience of the show and people on the show and I certainly wouldn’t want some innocent 10-year-old to fall into the wrong hands communicating with someone they think is Wentworth Miller and they’re not.
What’s the most hurtful thing that’s been written about you?
On a website someone wrote, “I just found out that Wentworth Miller’s a Brit. I guess that explains his crap American accent.” I was a baby when I moved [to the US]! This is my accent. This is how I talk. But they found out that I was a dual citizen, because I was born there so I’m a dual citizen with the UK, and I guess assumed that the way I talk on the show is some kind of put-on American accent but it’s not obviously.
Did that make you paranoid about how you talk?
No. You have to laugh at these things. It’s tempting, and I think natural, to give credit or to assign value, weight to these random opinions you read online. I’ve made the mistake of reading someone’s review of the show and assumed that they knew something about acting, that they knew something about TV, but the fact is they might not, they could just be a disgruntled 16-year-old in Kansas who’s just sounding off about Prison Break but you’ve assigned them the same kind of weight and value as a reporter in Entertainment Weekly and that, of course, is a mistake because you’re opening yourself up to harsh words from ignorant sources.
You’ve admitted that you’ve made up answers in interviews.
Only once or twice. It was about things that didn’t particularly matter like, “Who’s my favourite designer” or “What cologne do I prefer” and it just makes me laugh that it’s assumed because I’m an actor on a TV show that I have opinions about these things and that my opinions are worth listening to.
What do you think about the cult of celebrity and the fact that we look up to celebrities for their opinions on important issues?
It concerns me. I think it’s a very dangerous game to play when you assume that just because someone’s an entertainer they’re automatically a role model. Entertainers are there to entertain. They aren’t there to teach your children the lessons that you haven’t bothered to teach them at home yourself. They’re just doing their own version of entertaining. They’re not by definition role models, and then we act all disappointed and scandalised when they do something disappointing or scandalising. There are people who are out there using their celebrity status for good works and that’s commendable but mostly the obsession with celebrity is dangerous because I think most magazines and entertainment news shows sell this idea that somewhere out there is a better, more interesting, more glamorous, more beautiful life than yours, which makes you dissatisfied with what you have and you believe that life exists and the truth is that it doesn’t or, if it does, the people involved aren’t really having the great time you think they’re having and that can be dangerous because I think life is about learning to be content with what you’ve got, making the most out of what you’ve been lucky enough to get rather than spending your days envying, and inevitably, I think, hating the people who you think have something they don’t.
Was that a lesson you had to learn, when your career went quiet after you made The Human Stain? Was it hard for you to come to terms with the fact that there wasn’t this ideal life out there for you?
Well that was never why I was in it to begin with. I didn’t come to Hollywood to get on magazine covers or start my Porsche collection or to enjoy that kind of lifestyle, to go to the right parties and meet the right people. I came to Hollywood eventually because I wanted to act, I wanted to entertain, to tell inspiring stories that touched people’s lives in some way so not working after The Human Stain was frustrating on a professional level but I never once thought, “Gee, I really wish I could afford to do A, B and C and be one of those glamorous people.” That never for a second appealed to me and I think that if it had I wouldn’t have stuck it out because those people who come to Hollywood and are only interested in the superficial things, who are interested in only the lifestyle, if they don’t get it, if they don’t achieve some kind of success really soon, they have to go home because there’s nothing there for them to grab onto. But as far as I was concerned, I love acting and that’s something I couldn’t walk away from. That’s why I was staying and that’s what got me through the lean years, the hard times, knowing that if nothing else I had to see this through.
You’ve said you’re a perfectionist. Do you think that’s a help or a hindrance?
It’s both. It’s a double-edged sword. It means that you’re hard on yourself—of course you expect the best—and when you don’t deliver the best in your opinion you can beat yourself up a little bit. I have very high expectations of myself. I’m a very competitive person but competitive with myself. I want to be the best that I can be and if that means that I’m eventually better than everyone else then so be it. But I don’t go around comparing and contrasting myself with other actors if I can help it. It’s also, I think, the key to my success. There were a number of lessons I learned as a student, about discipline, follow through, you know, something as simple as proofreading a paper that you wrote, making sure that you’ve got a period where a period should be instead of a coma or a semi-colon. That kind of attention to detail. Caring about the work, down to the smallest moment, is also what shows up as far as doing good work, telling a story, like we do in Prison Break. Finding those little moments, those little beats, that the writers didn’t anticipate, that you find, that tell your audience something new and unexpected about the character that you’re playing. There’s a lot of crossover, I think, between your approach to life in general and art, if you’re lucky enough to be involved in art.
If you say you’re really hard on yourself, how do you feel you’re doing?
Well, I turn that kind of attention, that need to do whatever I’m doing the best that I can do it, I turn that attention to today. I don’t worry about tomorrow. I don’t worry about a week from now. I surrender the idea of having some kind of control over the arc of my career a lot of the time because you never know what tomorrow’s going to bring. Prison Break might be the first of many successes. It might be the pinnacle of my career and everything afterward will just be anti-climactic. You’ll never know and there’s no sense worrying about things that you can’t predict or control. The only thing you can do is focus your attention on what you have, what’s in your lap right now, and try to make the best of it.
You have an English literature degree from Princeton University. Do you have any aspirations to be a writer?
I do, actually, I do. I think no actor can not feel as though they would like a little bit more control within the creative process because no matter how good you are, you perform a scene the way you want to perform it and then someone else edits it, puts it together, slices it up and puts it together the way they see fit, so at the end of the day your performance is not really your own because so many people have kind of tinkered with it on it’s way to airing on TV. So the idea of writing the words that come out of my mouth or being the one in the editing room putting together my performance, definitely appeals to me.
Have you written anything or have any plans?
I have. I’ve written a treatment, which is an outline, for a movie. It’s kind of love story with a Hitchcock twist. A bit of a thriller, and when I go back to Los Angeles, on my weekends off from the show, I meet with writers and producers and try to get people excited about it, try to get a team of people together who are going to help me get this movie made. Of course there’s a great role for me! I’m at that stage of my career right now where it’s not just about auditioning for the projects that are out there. It’s about generating your own projects and that’s really something that excites me.
Does it have a title?
Yes. It’s called Stoker, which is a nod to Bram Stoker who wrote Dracula. It’s got a lot of elements of the Dracula mythology in its story.
Will you play the Dracula character?
It’s not a vampire story. It’s not about vampires at least with the teeth and the desire to suck your blood but it is a thriller and it is about an individual who preys on the innocent.
And it’s romantic?
It’s a love story. Because I think my interpretation of the Dracula story is that it’s a romance. I think it’s very sad. I think one way to look at it is it’s about a monster who’s kind of shuffling through the centuries looking for someone to love him—fangs and all—like everyone’s looking for someone to love them fangs and all, and when he finds his bride to be, when he chooses his Mrs Dracula, I think there’s a part of us as the audience that wants them to get together but inevitably the big blonde beefy hero steps in and puts a stake through his heart and denies him the love he wants and I think that’s kind of sad.
What’s your idea of a perfect date?
You know, it’s funny I once said something about going ice skating because one of the best dates I had in high school was when I took this girl who I’d been in love with for two years, who I didn’t think even knew my name actually, ice skating so that, for me, has become a signifier of something particularly romantic. And I ran into a couple of people who read that quote, friends of mine, and they teased me, because they assumed I meant some starry night and a frozen pond in the countryside and you and your honey doing figure eights, scarves fluttering behind you and that’s not what I meant at all. I meant schlepping down to the local rink and putting on those cheap skates that give your feet blisters and kind of shuffling once around the rink and falling on your ass and then calling it a day and retiring to the cafeteria for two cups of really crappy hot chocolate. That’s kind of my idea of a romantic night out! I guess that’s kind of twisted but hey, different strokes for different folks.
Are you seeing someone at the moment?
No. Nothing serious.
If you could request a song while you were skating around the rink what would it be?
Well, it would have to be, since the whole thing is a flashback to my high school days, something kind of appropriate to that decade. What were we listening to back then? I think there was a lot of Beastie boys in there so yeah maybe Beastie Boys.
Have you ever had celebrity crushes?
I have. I have. Law & Order had a tremendous impact on me, because Sam Waterston is a role model, I think, someone who’s just serving up award worthy work, episode after episode for years, year after year, and it kind of reminded me that there is great work being done in TV as well as film. At the same time, of course, he had Angie Harmon playing his Assistant D.A. [District Attorney] and she’s one of my ideals as far as women go: beautiful but more than that, smart. She’s like this beautiful, aggressive, barracuda, relentlessly going after her prey. It was pretty hot.
Does she know that?
I’ve never met her and even if I did I wouldn’t know what to say. I certainly wouldn’t say she was a beautiful barracuda, I don’t think that really sounds like a compliment even though I meant it as one.
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