With all the win-lose angst around cricket about right now, I find myself identifying with some of the stuff reportedly said about and by American actor Wentworth Miller. His mother was a special educationist and his lawyer-teacher father a Rhodes Scholar. Miller has two sisters and rejoices in dual US-UK nationality.
He is named after his father and grandfather who were named after ‘Captain Wentworth’ in Jane Austen’s novel ‘Persuasion’. He tried to kill himself in his teens because he was gay and finally came out in August 2013 when he found himself unable to attend the St Petersburg International Film Festival that year knowing how Russia treated its gays.
The Princeton graduate has an eclectic heritage: his father has African-American, Jamaican, German, English, Jewish and Cherokee blood while his mother is Russian, French, Dutch, Syrian, Polish and Swedish. A devotee of comic books, Miller said: “My family put a lot of emphasis on homework, so there weren’t too many comic books or video games for me, when I was growing up.”
Despite his advantages of birth and education, Miller had to struggle with his sexual identity which was a random hand-out from nature, eunuchs or hijras being the only man-made category of sexual identity while there are reportedly seven natural kinds: “Growing up, I was a target. Speaking the right way, standing the right way, holding your wrist the right way. Every day was a test, and there were a thousand ways to fail, a thousand ways to betray yourself, to not live up to someone else’s standards of what was accepted, of what was normal.”
And then, he found himself drawn to acting although, he said, “When I got to college, acting suddenly seemed like a very risky proposition and all my friends were going to law school or med school or Wall Street.” But given how much he had to hide, he seems to have courageously thrown his heart over it all: “An actor’s job is to embrace emotions and situations that in real life we spend all of our time running away from.”
His sensible view of hero-worshipping sports stars and actors is: “I think it’s a very dangerous game to play when you assume that just because someone’s an entertainer, they’re automatically a role model. Entertainers are there to entertain. They aren’t there to teach your children the lessons that you haven’t bothered to teach them at home yourself. They’re just doing their own version of entertaining.” A nice point there about not tying our self-worth to how our cricket team performs but being happy in being ourselves?
Miller doesn’t hold back from other truths either: “There’s nothing the Internet can tell me about myself that I don’t already know. The rest is foolishness and people killing time.” Nor does he sound like a smug know-all: “I surrender the idea of having some kind of control over the arc of my career a lot of the time because you never know what tomorrow’s going to bring.”
How’s that for being down-to-earth, nice and normal? At the end of the day, would you say good education and good culture are basically about plain good sense?