Bennet Evan "Ben" Miller (born 24 February 1966) is an English comedian, actor, and director. He is best known as one half of comedy double act Armstrong and Miller, with Alexander Armstrong, and for starring as James Lester on ITV's science fiction programme Primeval. Miller and Armstrong wrote and starred in the Channel 4 sketch show Armstrong and Miller, and the more recent BBC television sketch show The Armstrong and Miller Show. Between 2011 and 2014 he appeared in the BBC TV crime drama series Death in Paradise. He is also known for his role as Bough alongside Rowan Atkinson in the 2003 film Johnny English.
Early life and education
Miller was born in London, England, and grew up in Nantwich, Cheshire. His paternal grandfather was a Lithuanian-born tailor who lived in London's East End; his father, Michael Miller, was a lecturer in American Literature at the City of Birmingham Polytechnic; and his Welsh mother, Marion, taught English at South Cheshire College. He has two younger sisters, Leah and Bronwen.
He was educated at Malbank School and Sixth Form College, his local comprehensive school in Nantwich, Cheshire. He then studied Natural Sciences at St Catharine's College, Cambridge, where he acted with and dated Rachel Weisz. He remained at Cambridge to study for a PhD in solid state physics, with his thesis titled "Novel quantum effects in low-temperature quasi-zero-dimensional mesoscopic electron systems," but later abandoned his thesis to pursue a career in comedy.
Miller's interest in comedy began when a friend asked him to help ferry around the judges of the National Student Drama Festival, which was being held that year in Cambridge. Having already finished his undergraduate degree, he then joined the Footlights in 1989 alongside the likes of Andy Parsons, David Wolstencroft and Sue Perkins and went on to direct a revue.
Miller decided not to continue his doctorate studies and moved to London to pursue a career in comedy. He was introduced to fellow Cambridge graduate Alexander Armstrong in 1992, at the TBA Sketch Comedy Group – a comedy club which ran at the Gate Theatre Studio, Notting Hill throughout the 1990s. They performed their first full-length show together at the Edinburgh Fringe in 1994, and returned in 1996, when they were nominated for the Perrier Comedy Award.
Their success resulted in the commissioning of the television series Armstrong and Miller, which ran for four series in total from 1997 to 2001 – one on the Paramount Comedy Channel, and three on Channel 4. The duo had their own radio show with the same name on BBC Radio 4 in 1998, which featured many of the sketches and characters from their TV series. After a six-year break, the show was recommissioned for Hattrick Productions as The Armstrong and Miller Show and is currently in its third series. They also had a second radio show, Children's Hour with Armstrong and Miller, in 2008.
Miller starred in Steve Coogan's first feature film, the British comedy The Parole Officer in 2001. In 2003 he played the role of 'Bough', sidekick to Rowan Atkinson's title character in the film Johnny English. In 2004 he co-starred in The Prince and Me. In 2004 and 2005, he starred in two consecutive series of the BBC television series The Worst Week of My Life, alongside Sarah Alexander, followed in 2006 by a three-part Christmas special, The Worst Christmas of My Life. He starred as James Lester in ITV's 2007 sci-fi drama Primeval, and as Mr Jonathan in the Australian film Razzle Dazzle: A Journey into Dance.
Miller also provides the voice for the ITV Digital and now PG Tips Monkey, in a popular series of television advertisements featuring Johnny Vegas. In 2008 he appeared in three ITV1 series, as television producer Jonathan Pope in Tony Jordan's series Moving Wallpaper, and also starred in Thank God You're Here. In 2010 he made his directorial debut with the film Huge, while in 2011 (revealed by Miller on Twitter) he reprised his role as James Lester in the TV series Primeval. From November 2011 he was at the Gielgud Theatre in The Ladykillers, playing the role of Louis Harvey.
He launched his book It's Not Rocket Science, with a book tour starting on 23 July 2012 from The Royal Society in London. He also appeared at the British Comedy Awards with Armstrong, broadcast on Channel 4. Miller took part in an episode of Room 101 and a Comic Relief Pointless Special, both of which were due to air in early 2013.
One of his successes was starring in the first two series of Death in Paradise for BBC TV, where he played Detective Inspector (DI) Richard Poole 2011 until the series three premiere in January 2014. The first series aired on BBC One from 25 September to 13 December 2011, while series two aired from the 8th of January to the 26th of February 2013. A third series of Death in Paradise was commissioned for early 2014; however, on 9 April 2013 it was announced that Miller would be departing Death in Paradise before series 3 aired, and would be replaced by actor Kris Marshall. Filming of the third series of Death in Paradise began in March 2013, and Miller left in May 2013 after completion of the first episode, in which his character is killed off.
Miller explained that his reasons for leaving were personal, "It was the job of a lifetime, but logistically I just didn't feel I could continue." He went on to say that "My personal circumstances just made it too complicated, but I will miss it like a lung. I love it here." Miller's wife had discovered she was pregnant after he had begun filming the first series. Their time apart caused strains on their relationship, and with his sons. He said that his youngest son had "started crying because he didn't know who I was" after he returned home.
Miller also took a part in a feature film version of Molly Moon that was to be released in 2013 or 2014. He was also cast to appear with Billy Connolly and David Tennant in the film What We Did on Our Holiday, which was due to start filming in Scotland from 17 June 2013.
Starring alongside Nancy Carroll and Diana Vickers, Miller is to play the lead role of Robert Houston in the play The Duck House by Dan Patterson and Colin Swash. The show is a political satire based on the UK parliamentary expenses scandal.
Miller directed a television pilot, which subsequently became the first episode of Steve Coogan's 2006 British BBC TV Comedy series Saxondale. With Armstrong, he has formed a production company named Toff Media.
Miller was awarded a Judges' Commendation for his portrayal of Hamlet at the 1990 National Student Drama Festival. He co-wrote MindGym, winner of the first BAFTA Interactive Entertainment Award for comedy in 1998, with Tim Wright and Adam Gee. He and Armstrong won a BCA Award for The Armstrong and Miller Show. In 2010 they also won a BAFTA for The Armstrong and Miller Show.
Miller was married to Belinda Stewart-Wilson (who guest-starred with him in Series 3 of Primeval), until their divorce in 2011. They have a son called Jackson, a.k.a Sonny, who was born in 2006. Miller has another son, Harrison, born in late 2011 with his partner, production executive Jessica Parker, whom he married in September 2013.
Miller appeared with Rob Brydon in an episode of QI, first broadcast on 20 February 2009 (Series 6. 9). Brydon has often been mistaken for Miller, and as a joke they dressed in similar shirts for the episode and shared an on-screen narcissistic kiss. A talented musician, Miller plays the guitar and drums.