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Wentworth Earl Miller III

Wentworth Earl Miller III



Monday, November 7, 2011

Wentworth Miller - A breakthrough to break out.

While trying to secure work during 2003 to 2004 Went reflected about the disappointment of the Human Stain.  He had learnt valuable lessons which gave him a change in attitude. “I'd been told The Human Stain was going to put me on the map as an actor, and the movie did open a number of doors for me; but when I walked through those doors I suddenly found myself in competition with guys who'd been on the covers of magazines. It's very much a name game in Hollywood, and the current trend is to stock your movie with celebrities from the leads on down to Pizza Boy No. 5. It can be an incredibly frustrating experience. But at the end of the day you have to do it for yourself.”

Went continued on and did theatre work as a stand in for William Finns musical The 25th annual Putnam Spelling Bee (a play which spoofs the contests that pit children against children to determine who has the best command of their voluminous vocabulary.)  In this version competing adults not only battle each other for the title but also battle with their past memories of parental pressure ‘to be the best.’ His English degree and love of Scrabble came in handy.

Went also did more photo shoots with big name photographers and got himself on the cover of Interview magazine and on several pages in fashionable magazines such as L’uomo Vogue and Abercrombie and Fitch’s new revamped Xmas edition.

He changed his attitude with his approach to auditioning as well, “Only recently I've come to realize that one of the traps of auditioning is walking into that room feeling as though you're a guest in someone's house, and being really careful not to spill wine on the carpet. What you have to do is walk in there as though you're the host”.

"I realized the difference between most actors and Anthony Hopkins is that most actors won't make choices about a character. There's nothing better than reading a script and getting a vision of who this character might be, how fun it would be to play and how you'll dress and how you'll walk and how you'll eat and talk and all those things. Most actors make all those choices - or as many as possible - but they do it with a question mark when they walk into an audition and there's that subtext: 'Is this right?' 'Do you like me?' 'Is this working?' And that defeats them in the end. Whereas Anthony Hopkins, when he makes a choice, makes it with a period or even an exclamation mark. That shift in attitude was critical in really helping me make the most of my audition experience."

He also observed and analysed the Hollywood system and came to the conclusion that “it's very easy in this business to be a young Tom Cruise or a young Tom Hanks. People know what to do with you because they look at you and say, 'Ahhhh, a young Tom Hanks. This has already worked so well it'll work even better this time ...'
Realising that he is different, he came to terms with his place in the scheme of things. "It's another thing to be a little bit off the beaten path because what that means is you have to go out and create something that wasn't there before."

These changes in attitude would help in securing work. He started working again on a short film called The Hour which was set in a prison by British director Ash in 2004.

Finally Went gets a break and a few months later he was called in to audition for Prison Break. "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." 

It would appear that the copy machine made him famous amongst TV executives and would be his claim to fame whenever he met them at auditions.

Went recalls the auditioning process and final securing of the role was fast.

“I hadn't worked for a year when I had my Prison Break audition and it was the easiest audition I've ever had. I got the script on Friday, went to the audition on Monday and got the part on Tuesday. I was shooting the pilot a week later. I didn't have time to be nervous - it happened so quickly. “  In the last pool of actors that the network auditioned they were getting close to the end of pre-production.

Paul Scheuring, Prison Break’s Producer said this about Went “"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?’”

Scheuring says he had plotted 44 episodes, two seasons, but still had the two major vacancies less than a week before production began.

"For two months we were auditioning every young actor in Hollywood aged 25 to 35," he says. "They all came in, and they all had this affected kind of 'actor guy mysterious thing'.

"Needless to say it was frustrating. We are shooting on December 1. And we were thinking, 'It's November 26 and we don't have any actors. How can we make a show?' "Wentworth came in about five days before we shot. He was 150 per cent of the character, so it was this manna from heaven."

The character that Went auditioned for was Michael Scofield an inmate and a man who robs a bank in order to engineer an escape with his brother, who was wrongly convicted of murdering the U.S. vice president.

The preposterous plot is actually what intrigued Went and he said this about the character of Michael Scofield “because He's clever and ruthless and obsessed. I'm sure there'll be moments of doubt, moments of  ‘What have I gotten myself into?’ He was in a situation where his brains and his degree were no guarantee that he wouldn’t end up with a shiv between his ribs." and ... "But he's a good man with a noble cause, and that requires him to get his hands dirty. ”   "Michael Scofield is not a cookie-cutter TV hero," he said. " 'Prison Break' is so far-fetched, I had to make viewers believe that Michael is capable of making the impossible possible."


"I think people are drawn to prison stories because they're really horror stories, I think we're fascinated by the dark side of human nature, and prison is a place where people do terrible things."  “This is not just an action thriller, it's really a story about family: How far would one go to save a loved one? In Michael's case, it's all the way to the wall. And it's a great show in that we get a lot of exploration into family, into what it means to be committed to something... into what it means to be a man.”

 The theme of family, community and being imprisoned reoccur again in his choice of project but this time the imprisonment is literal where as with the Human Stain it was psychological and social. In Prison Break he also plays a white man caught in between the two communities of white and black prisoners in which a race riot breaks out and he is asked to take sides. He chooses not to and as a result he is hated by both sides. Does this sound familiar?

Considering his policy on his choice of roles and whether race matters in the story, Prison Break presented a personal dilemma for Went. Here he was playing a white man caught up in a race riot in which he had to choose a side. Either through good fortune or through design, Went’s character stays neutral and therefore is not involved in any racial prejudice or violence.

From late November they started filming the pilot episode of Prison Break to show to the network executives.

The fate of the show depended on the strength of the pilot. After filming the pilot the director Brett Ratner was asked by Mariah Carey to film two of her music videos ‘Its like that’ and ‘We belong together’ he agreed and decided to cast Went as the love interest in order to raise his profile. It worked and buzz once again circulated around his name.

 Many people online wondered who that ‘good looking guy was. ‘The pretty’ and started to look him up to find out more information on him. They were not sure who he was and often confused him with Hayden Christiansen and or Channing Tatum. Once again the issue of race was discussed in which online surfers noticed the connection between Mariah Carey and Went’s mixed race backgrounds and wondered whether this was the reason why he had been chosen to feature in her two videos.

In an interview Went was asked “You were in Mariah Carey's We Belong Together video. How was that?”

“It was a blast and advantageous for me. I got more attention from that video than anything else I'd done. Brett Ratner, who directed the pilot episode of Prison Break, also directed that video so I went from one project to the next.

“Is Mariah as mad as everyone says?”

“Mariah's lovely. She took care of me on set and made sure that I felt at home and was enjoying myself.”

Luck struck once again when Went was chosen to appear on the last two episodes of Joan of arcadia as Ryan Hunter the satanic type character who also speaks to God – like the main character Joan. Once again as fate would have it he was brought in to the series at the very end when the survival of the show hung in the balance. He had been in a similar situations before with Popular in which he appeared at the end of the final season before the show was finally cancelled.

Seeing him in the music videos and on Joan of Arcadia helped to raise his profile considerably so by the time the networks finally gave the green light to Prison Break many people were looking him up and looking out for his new work. While the production company were rushing around securing locations and going into pre-production Went did voice over work for a feature film called Stealth. He plays EDI an artificial intelligence programme embedded in a pilot less stealth bomber which goes bad when the plane is struck by lightening. In preparing for the role Went was inspired by Space Odyssey 2001 (HAL) "I certainly wanted to tip my hat to what is perhaps some of the best voice over work ever done, certainly when you're talking about computers gone mad."

Went also shot the pilot for Ghost Whisperer Pilot - 'A gift from eternity'.  Went acted as a spirit of a soldier,  Sgt. Paul Adams, who died in Vietnam in 1972.  This character enlists the help of a medium in order to contact his family. 

With all this exposure surrounding him, Went  left L.A and rented a home in Millennium park, Chicago near his new work place where he continued filming episodes of Prison Break.

Cheerio!  We're off to Chicago in my next blog!

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