Celeb Spotlight: Wentworth Miller
06/09/2006 at 06:00 AM EDT
Hometown: Brooklyn, N.Y.
Current gig: Nominated for a Golden Globe, he plays a structural engineer who robs a bank and goes to jail – all so he can help his brother escape death row – in FOX's Prison Break
He's not feeling pent-up
Miller, who moved to L.A. after graduating from Princeton in 1995, has set up house in Chicago for Prison Break – which is filmed in a decommissioned penitentiary in Joliet, Ill. But he's not letting the authenticity of his workplace get to him. "The strange thing is, you get used to it," he says. "There is a pervasive atmosphere of gloom and doom, but sometimes you’re outside in the prison yard and the grass is green and the sun is shining and you’re hanging out with the cast and crew, and you forget. You’re having a good time. And then you’ll suddenly remember that if you were an actual inmate, you’d only be outside for an hour a day."
His Hollywood experience hasn't always been glamorous
Before landing a starring role in the 2002 ABC miniseries Dinotopia, Miller worked in the entertainment industry for years – as an office temp. "When I walked into my studio test (for Prison Break), I’d temped for maybe a third of the room," he says. "It’s like 30 network executives sitting there, and some of them recognized me from the copy machine."
Viewers, on the other hand, might recognize Miller from Mariah Carey videos (he played her love interest in clips for "It's Like That" and "We Belong Together") and 2003's The Human Stain (he portrayed the younger version of Anthony Hopkins's character). But you won't remember his face from his most recent big-screen role: He was the voice of the evil robot plane EDI in this year's Stealth. His inspiration? The 1968 sci-fi classic 2001: A Space Odyssey. "I certainly wanted to tip my hat to what is perhaps some of the best voiceover work ever done, certainly when you're talking about computers gone mad," he says.
He's proud of his biracial heritage
Miller's mother, a special-ed teacher, is white; his father, a former Brooklyn assistant district attorney, is black (they are now divorced). And although his Prison Break character is white, he says he looks for roles that are appropriate to his background – for example, in Human Stain he played a black man passing as white.
Still, he realizes he's setting himself up for a challenge. "I’m one of those actors who’s going to have to create a space for themselves," he says. "It’s very easy to be the young Tom Cruise, because Hollywood knows what to do with you. But if you’re someone who’s bringing someone slightly left of center to the table, you’re not a sure thing."
He's a man of simple pleasures
The single actor, who says he hasn't had much time to explore his new hometown, Chicago, because "I'm literally behind bars five days out of seven," calls himself "a fairly boring person": "I go to the library, I do a lot of reading, I eat at Subway. When I need some boxers I go to the Gap."
Miller, a former English major, has also been writing short stories and "as the cliché would have it, a script." But he insists his Ivy League education helps his acting as well: "I certainly learned how to break down a text at Princeton," he says, "which helps me break down a script – or at least that's the line I feed my parents when they start wondering where all that good money went."
His parents do tend to worry. "When I've had my periods of unemployment," he says, "I'll get these e-mails from my father: 'I've read that the LAPD has a reservist program. Perhaps that's something you'd be interested in taking a look at.' " With Prison Break, his parents should be able to rest easy – and Miller won't have to deal with any real-life criminals.