The model draws on his daredevil past to sharpen his acting chops.
Photography by Bruno Staub | Styling by Grant Woolhead
Noah Mills is not your typical poster boy. Shuffling around his new Los Angeles home, he’s quick to loosen up and share stories, bursting into laughter and cussing like a sailor between anecdotes. “When I was young,” he says, “I would act out in crazy ways to make sure people cared about me—I even ended up in jail for a night.”
He was in a Canadian boarding school at the time, where drugs and car theft were an unofficial part of the school curriculum. That was after a stint at a rural school in Australia, where the local sport was shooting kangaroos and bashing other kids. “I’ve always been a bit of a chameleon, because I jumped around so much,” he says, before describing the look he rocked at an inner-city school in Oakland—“a fake gold tooth and chains, and my pants around my *** so I wouldn’t get beat up.” He pauses. “You gotta fit in, you know?”
Fitting in is not something that has come naturally to Mills, best known as the glistening Adonis on billboards for Dolce & Gabbana. His globe-trotting youth—from Toronto to Baltimore to Australia and then back to Canada—has left its imprint. “I think Mom wanted us to be worldly and not get trapped in an American neighborhood lifestyle,” he says. “She wanted us to go out and have experiences, not be close-minded suburban kids.”
Mills’s ability to adapt quickly proved valuable when he moved to New York at age 18 to pursue modeling. Lost in a spiral of temptation in the big city, he found solace in acting. “When I started modeling, I didn’t really know what I was passionate about,” he says. “My agent at Wilhelmina told me, ‘Why don’t you go and act? You have a certain energy and spark that should be used.’ It was definitely a form of therapy with what I was going through.”
His first acting jobs -- a memorable romp with Kim Cattrall in Sex & the City 2 and a recurring role in the CBS sitcom 2 Broke Girls -- played up his good looks, but did little to liberate his creative energy. “I saw the value and fun of opportunities like Sex & the City,” he says, “but I felt like I was in a creative clog. The things I was auditioning for were so far from the commitment level that I wanted to find in a character. So I thought, Let me write something.”
Now he has. In Wracked, a short film that Mills wrote and produced, he plays Sean, a tattooed, foul-mouthed guy from the wrong side of the tracks who returns home after a five-year prison sentence. It won him a Best Actor nod at Manhattan’s Golden Egg Film Festival. “My character and I share the same internal struggles,” Mills says. “The desire to love and be the leader of the pack, the alpha male -- all those self-destructive behaviors have definitely been part of my life.”