Wentworth Miller is a well-known actor following his appearance on Prison Break from 2005 to 2009. Few people know who this man truly is though. In this piece, his cultural background, artistic experience as a youth, and the strange path of his career are explored.
When society watches actors on television or the big screen a certain bond is formed by the viewers. People like to believe they know the measure of a person by the characters they portray in TV series, feature films, and on stage. In reality, the individual that viewers see on the screen is little more than the character that an actor hopes to bring to life. The true identity of actors often goes unnoticed, or altogether ignored, by the public.
Wentworth Miller rose to stardom in 2005 following his breakout performance on the FOX television series Prison Break. Viewers of the show believed that Miller was the tough, athletic, and masculine individual they saw on their televisions and little more. To be fair, Miller is all those things. However, he is also much more than another pretty face in Hollywood.
Miller was born on June 2, 1972 in Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire, England. His full, legal name is Wentworth Earl Miller III. His cultural background is about as easy to decipher as CIA security codes. Although Miller was born in England, he considers himself a full-blooded Yankee because his parents are American and he was raised in the United States from the age of one. His mother, Joy Marie (Palm) is a special education teacher and his father, Wentworth Earl Miller II, is a lawyer and educator.
Miller’s parents have a very complex, yet traceable, cultural background. Joy Marie is of Dutch, French, Swedish, Lebanese, Syrian, Austrian, and Russian ancestry. Her father, Frederick William Palm, was the son of Hendrik Frederik Palm who was born in Willemstad on the island of Curacao. He had Dutch, French, and Swedish ancestry. Hendrik’s wife was Melekia Sabah, the daughter of Lebanese and Syrian immigrants.
Miller’s father has Afro-Jamaican, African-American, English, and German ancestry. His grandfather, Wentworth Earl Miller, was born in New York to Claude Cephas Miller and Rhena Jane Newman. Both Claude and Rhena were first-generation immigrants of Afro-Jamaican descent.
Destined for the Arts
As a child growing up in New York, and then later in Pennsylvania, Wentworth was heavily involved in the arts. When he was a student at Midwood High School in Brooklyn, he performed in the annual musical production SING!. After graduating from Quaker Valley High School in Leetsdale, Pennsylvania, he went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in English literature from Princeton University.
While attending Princeton, Wentworth was a member of the Quadrangle Club, Colonial Club, and performer in the a cappella group Princeton Tigertones. Following graduation, he moved to Los Angeles in 1995 to pursue his dream of becoming an actor. His first major role on television came in the series Buffy the Vampire Slayer. He played the role of a student who had transformed into a sea monster. He once commented in an interview that his role as Gage, the sea monster, opened his eyes early on to the ridiculousness of Hollywood. He said the following about his first major role:
“They glued this prosthetic piece covered with scales to my chest. Then there was a piece over it that looked like human skin. I had to peel through the top layer to reveal the beast within. Deep into the third hour of this, the makeup artist says to me, “We only have one of these pieces to tear through, so you need to get this right.” Hollywood can be a deeply strange place.“
Following his debut on “Buffy” in 1999, he would earn his first starring role in 2002 in the ABC mini-series Dinotopia. From there, he appeared in several minor roles on television and appeared in feature films such as The Human Stain (2003) and Underworld (2003). His breakthrough success came in 2005 when he was cast as Michael Scofield on the FOX series Prison Break.
Miller had appeared in music videos for Mariah Carey songs. Those videos happened to be directed by Brett Ratner, who directed the pilot episode of Prison Break. His time on the FOX series, which ran for five seasons, boosted his image in Hollywood, but also led him to question his future in the industry.
He has famously lamented the toll that Prison Break took on him. Though he was grateful for the chance to star in a television series, and recognizes that it helped him land larger roles in feature films and other television series, he admits it wore him out. The makeup alone, which included full-body tattoos for his character, took four hours to apply and prep for filming.
An Inner Struggle
Today, Miller has made headlines for his personal life. As his star rose on the cast of Prison Break, questions began to arise about his sexual orientation. Miller was rumored to be gay, but denied it on several occasions during interviews. He told InStyle Magazine’s German edition in a 2007 interview that the rumors of about his sexuality “can’t be killed.” He went on to elaborate that he would “like to have a girlfriend and a family. But I haven’t met the right one yet. Until then, I’m focusing on my job.”
After Prison Break went off the air, Miller felt his personal life was in misalignment with his public life. In addressing his sexuality publicly, Miller made a splash by turning down an invitation from a Russian film festival in 2013. In his open letter, which was released to the public, he stated that “it would make me happy to say yes. However, as a gay man, I must decline. I am deeply troubled by the current attitude toward and treatment of gay men and women by the Russian government.”
A Burden Lifted, a New Path Appears
In the weeks and months following his acknowledgement of his sexuality, Miller has expanded his palette as an artist. Though he always enjoyed his time as an actor in front of the camera, he wanted to explore his full artistic interest. He has since moved behind the camera as a screenwriter and co-producer on the 2013 feature film Stoker. He wrote the script for the film as under a pseudonym because he wanted his script to stand on its own two feet, separate of his name and profile.
In the coming months, fans of Wentworth Miller will be able to see this talented actor continue his career in front of the camera. With a renewed interest in his career, Miller will appear in the feature films The Loft and Resident Evil: The Final Chapter.