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As a high school, Miller was bit by the acting bug, performing in school plays. Later, as a student majoring in English Lit at the venerable Princeton University, he sang and traveled the world performing with the school’s famed a cappella group, the Princeton Tigertones “It’s funny,” he says now, “Princeton was an amazing place, but it is also where I got off track as far as the acting. I acted all the way up until Princeton. It was just one of my favorite extracurricular activities. Then I got to Princeton and had a really conservative vibe. All my friends were planning on law school, med school, or Wall Street, and suddenly acting seem like a really risky proposition.”

Thus, when Miller finally made the move to Los Angeles, he “came out here not to act but to be in development. I spent a year and a half working at a small company that made movies for television. But on the job in Los Angeles, Miller realized he had that “what if” question in the back of his mind and was unable to shake thoughts of a career as an actor. “I thought that if I didn’t answer it, I’d probably be haunted by it,” he said, “So, I decided I was going to quit.”

Soon after, Miller got into acting classes and did temp work to make ends meet. But then, two years later, he was cast in the TV movie “Dinotopia.” In his starring role as the sensitive and introverted “David” in the 2002 miniseries, Wentworth Miller had his first taste of stardom. A combination of character-driven action and state-of-the-art special effects, the highly successful project from producer Robert Halmi is about a world where humans and dinosaurs live together in a magical civilization.

The subsequent success of “Dinotopia” may account for the actor’s big break in the minds of some industry folk, but for Miller all the jobs he booked were a big deal. “They all seem like the big breaks,” he says.

Then, in 2003, Miller segued to the critically acclaimed feature film “The Human Stain” starring Sir Anthony Hopkins and Nicole Kidman. Hopkins and Miller shared the role of the film’s central character, “Coleman Silk,” with Miller playing him as a young man and Hopkins, the elder Silk, in the story of the tempestuous life of an Ivy League professor hiding his true racial identity. Ironically, Miller’s own experiences as a person of mixed race illuminated his part, “Well, the backstory to anyone of mixed race is a lifetime spent being incorrectly perceived and choosing either to allow that misperception to continue or to correct it, so I am aware of identity and race as being much more fluid, I think, than someone who is “purely” one thing or the other. And acting does challenge me to address those particular issues.”

www.Dishmag.com / Issue 49 - September 2018
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