Wentworth Miller doesn?t want overnight success -- The ''Prison Break'' star says he's ''the nicest guy in Hollywood''

By Dan Snierson
Updated August 18, 2006 at 04:00 AM EDT

”This article had better not begin, ‘My phone rings, it’s Wentworth Miller calling me from the back of an air-conditioned limo,”’ warns Wentworth Miller, calling from the back of an air-conditioned limo. ”’I’m the nicest guy in Hollywood, I swear!’ he says, his voice resonant with sincerity. ‘Anyone who says otherwise is a f—ing liar.”’

Actually, it’s hard to know exactly how to start a story about the intensely handsome star of Fox’s hit drama Prison Break. As Michael Scofield — a brilliant structural engineer-turned-inmate who busts his wrongly convicted brother out of death row — he’s a study in inscrutability. As Wentworth Miller…he can still be pretty hard to read. Even those who love working with him describe him as ”very private” or ”a cipher.” So let’s just begin with Breakout Boy explaining why he’d rather not walk down the red carpet that the media have rolled out for him.

”I wouldn’t describe myself as a people person,” says the 34-year-old actor. ”I’m a private person, but that implies that I’m sitting on a mountain of secrets. The fact is, I’m a fairly quiet person. I have to laugh internally when I’m asked in interviews what nightspots I like to hit. I just don’t have answers for those questions. So sometimes I make them up.”

Some unfabricated facts about Miller: 1. He speaks in a hypnotic, classical-DJ voice, his speech teeming with words like asunder. (”He’s an amazing, intelligent guy,” testifies Amaury Nolasco, who plays cellmate Sucre. ”At the beginning when I talked to him, I felt like I was taking the SATs all over again.”) 2. He’s been to only one concert: a David Gray show. (”I’m going to come across as some sort of bubble boy, I know it,” Miller mock-moans.) 3. Raised in Brooklyn with firm discipline by a lawyer/educator dad and special-ed-teacher mom, he attended Princeton University, where he sang baritone in an a cappella group. ”I was so busy doing what was expected of me that I never stopped to consider what I expected of myself,” Miller notes. ”So, especially in my 20s, I was dismantling the budding bureaucrat that I was on my way to becoming.”

That process included moving to L.A. after graduation in 1995 and toiling as a PA and a temp between auditions. Eventually he scored a guest role as a swimmer on Buffy the Vampire Slayer (”largely because I had a shaved head, I think”), as well as gigs on ER and Popular. His big moment was to arrive with 2003’s The Human Stain — in which he played a younger version of Anthony Hopkins’ character in flashbacks. Instead, the movie fizzled and he didn’t work for nearly two years. ”It was like I stepped off the pavement and into the desert,” he recalls. ”As rocky as that road was, I learned a lot about endurance and patience and discipline.”

And ultimately redemption. After a captivating last-minute audition for Prison Break, Miller was sentenced to the former maximum-security penitentiary in Joliet, Ill., where season 1 was filmed. ”It’s like playing cops and robbers when you were a kid, and now you’re getting paid for it,” says Miller. ”I wish I had a nickel for every scrape and scratch and bruise and bandage — oh wait, I do!”