WEST ORANGE, NJ — Students in teacher William Farley’s choir classes got a special visit from actor Warner Miller on Jan. 12. Miller co-starred in “American Gangster” with Denzel Washington and most recently appeared as “Tone” in the Netflix series, “Luke Cage.”
Students listened intently as Miller recounted his journey into acting and a career shaped by a combination of luck and talent.
West Orange High School choir director William Farley first met Miller when Miller was Farley’s student in the Irvington School District. Miller described his younger self as “quiet and shy,” and said that he was motivated to pursue acting in order to be close to a girl he liked. The young lady was trying out for the school play, “Fame.” Ironically, Miller was cast in a major role while the girl was not.
“We did wind up getting together later on,” he told students.
Miller enjoyed the experience so much that he won the lead role in his college production of “Pippin,” and knew he wanted to become an actor. Although he graduated with a business degree, he also studied acting and theater. He started the arduous process of going on auditions and developed a strong work ethic in the process.
“Here were all these actors with agents and degrees from places like Rutgers and NYU,” Miller said. “I knew I had to be better than them to get the part.”
Miller got a lucky break and landed a role in an off-Broadway production of “A Raisin in the Sun,” attracting the attention of a Hollywood casting director. The casting director not only helped
Miller get an agent but set him up for an audition in what turned out to be his breakout role, playing Denzel Washington’s brother in the critically acclaimed “American Gangster.”
“I went from walking the red carpet with Denzel Washington and Common to waiting tables for a long time until my next role,” Miller, who made several appearances in notable television dramas like “Law and Order,” “Chicago PD,” “Boardwalk Empire” and most recently “Luke Cage,” said.
“I’m not an A-list actor,” Miller continued. “A-list actors have scripts sent to them. I still have to go out and audition regularly.”
When not appearing in the theater, television or movies, Miller explained many actors will teach “educational industry arts” and literacy in local schools.
“I’m I have glad I have a business degree and a business mindset along with interests that go beyond acting,” he said. “That is an appealing thing to many directors.”
A multifaceted creative talent, Miller is a poet, the author of “Diary of a Mad Christian,” penned in 2011, and currently works as an assistant choreographer for a project in Philadelphia. To share his career insights, he teaches and holds speaking engagements.
Miller offered his final piece of advice to appreciative students as the bell rang.
“I act because I love it. Do it because you love it. What you get out of it is what you put in.”
Photos Courtesy of WOSD