‘Break’-Out Star: ‘Prison Break’s Wentworth Miller

It took a lot of planning, scheming and payoffs, but Hollywood.com managed to go over the wall for a cell block interview with the red-hot star of Prison Break, Wentworth Miller, who unlocked a few behind the scenes secrets of the hit series.

Hollywood.com: The last time we’ve chatted we were at some of the Hollywood awards shows you attended thanks to the phenomenal success of Prison Break. How was that experience?
Wentworth Miller: Oh, it was amazing. I got to see people who inspired me for years. Russell Crowe, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Denzel Washington, Geena Davis, Sandra Oh–all of these people doing great work in TV and film. Dominic [Purcell] said that Jamie Foxx came up to him and said he’s a big fan of the show, and that means so much…The Peoples’ Choice Awards, to get that kind of fan recognition, and the Golden Globe nominations. I’m in the same category as Matthew Fox and Hugh Laurie and Patrick Dempsey and Kiefer Sutherland, all of these guys have resumes as long as your arm, and I still think of myself as someone who’s at the beginning of their learning curve, so to be included in that category is just amazing.

HW: How many stars approached you and asked to be put on your show?
WM: [Laughs] There were a couple. But no, I didn’t have so many conversations as much as I was just people-watching, trying to soak it all in as much as possible.

HW: So you haven’t had much of a chance to just absorb all of this?
WM: No. And actually, that’s I think to our benefit, the fact that we’re kind of tucked away in Chicago rather than here in Los Angeles, very much under the microscope. I think it contributes to the tight-knit, cohesive unit that our cast and crew has become.

HW: Based on the female reactions to you that I saw, you’ve become this overnight sex symbol. Were you anticipating that?
WM: [Laughs] You know, I thought when I read the script that it’s a fairly sexy character, I think he’s got shades of gray to him, elements of darkness that are intriguing and appealing, but certainly didn’t anticipate what’s happened over the past few months, it’s been kind of crazy.

HW: Has it been cool or weird, or both?
WM: It’s a little bit of both, I mean, when a fan comes up to you on the street and says “I never miss an episode,” what they’re saying is, “I’m making time for you and your show in my schedule every week,” and that’s the highest compliment.

HW: Now you’ve hit the ground running as a hit, have you all put thought into maintaining the quality of the show in the long run?
WM: Absolutely, absolutely. It was funny, I was sitting there at the Golden Globes, thinking to myself, it’s incredible that we’ve been nominated, but I know that our best episodes haven’t aired yet. The five that we’ve just shot are incredible. We’re just getting better and better as we go along.

HW: What can you tease for the rest of the season, if anything?
WM: We’ve picked up right where we left off, and there are a lot of unexpected twists, the body count rises, and we may or may not get out, when you may or may not expect us to. Besides that I can’t tell you anything. [Laughs]

HW: Do you get to suggest things you’d like to see for your character?
WM: You know, the writers are incredibly thorough, incredibly clever. But I have had a couple of moments where something, a moment between the brothers, which reestablishes for the audience their relationship, that perhaps the writers didn’t think of. I’ll certainly suggest, and nine times out of ten I get heard. It’s a wonderful, collaborative kind of process.

HW: Do actual prisoners write to you at all?
WM: We have gotten fan mail from prisoners. And apparently a signed head shot from a Prison Break cast member will get you back smokes behind bars.

HW: Is anyone fearful that you’re giving those guys ideas?
WM: I’ve heard press reports, of a couple of prison break attempts somewhere around the country, where the prisoners cited our show as a possible influence, or the correctional officers involved assumed such, but to be honest, the show and what we’re up to is so outlandish, that I think it’d be impossible to effect anything like Michael Scofield is attempting.

HW: How long is the tattoo process?
The tattoo takes four hours to apply, with two people applying it. Another hour to scrub off, because there’s layers of blue and sealant. And it’s a painstaking process, but it’s well worth it, I think. It’s the most ambitious faux tattoo ever attempted.

HW: Do you have any of your own?
WM: I don’t, and this is cured me of any desire to get my own.

HW: What most surprised you about doing this kind of show?
You know, I had done guest star work before on a lot of TV shows, and I thought to myself, it must be such a grind to be a lead on a one hour drama, just the day in, day out of it. And what surprised me is that there’s always something new. The character’s always evolving, there’s always a new set of challenges, a new stunt that I hadn’t anticipated or tried before. So you know, every day feels like the first day.