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Faces To Watch 2008

December 30, 2007|Matea Gold



After his last experience working on an American television series -- CBS' "Smith," yanked off the air early in its freshman season last year -- British actor Jonny Lee Miller was wary about committing to another one.

"I was like, no way do I want to do serialized television again right now," said Miller, best known for his roles in films such as "Trainspotting" and "The Flying Scotsman."

But he couldn't resist when he was offered the lead role in "Eli Stone," an ABC drama from the producers of "Brothers & Sisters" that premieres Jan. 31. In it, he plays Stone, a cutthroat lawyer who begins having hallucinations. He's diagnosed with an inoperable brain aneurysm but starts thinking that his visions have a larger meaning -- and perhaps are even prophetic.

"I just thought this part was too good, and it would have been a ridiculous opportunity not to try to follow up on," Miller said. "He's quite selfish, and it's about him trying to be a better person. I like that aspect of it -- I like the fact that he's not such a great guy, in my opinion. And the strange things that start happening to him give the story a lot of scope."

Miller is part of a crop of British actors populating American television, including "House's" Hugh Laurie, "Law & Order's" Linus Roache and "The Wire's" Dominic West.

The 35-year-old said he's not sure what's driving the transatlantic migration, although in his case, he said, quality work "has been thin on the ground back in Britain for me."

Miller got his start acting in theater as a child and is a household name in his native country. There, the press dubbed him "the British Brad Pitt" and has avidly documented his romantic life (including his 1996 marriage to Angelina Jolie) and his outings with such friends as Jude Law.

For now, Miller and fiancee Michele Hicks are enjoying residing in Los Angeles -- "I've planted the garden" -- and he said he's not too worried that he'll have to contend with the fishbowl effect of fame in Hollywood.

"I'm kind of lucky; I tend to look completely different in person than how I look on films or television," he said. "I just tend to look rough most of the time."

Just before the holidays, "Eli Stone" wrapped production on all of its 13 episodes (which, if the show is a hit, could be added to once the writers strike is settled).

Miller planned to spend the rest of the month in Britain visiting family. Then he's off to Norway, where he's going to do arctic training for a race to the South Pole he hopes to squeeze in next year.

As for future acting projects, he's playing it by ear.

"The whole thing about the way I approach work is to be surprised by an opportunity when it comes up," Miller said. "So I have no idea what I will be doing next, and I kind of like that."

-- Matea Gold

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