I recently got a chance, along with a few other journalists, to interview Matt Bomer and Tim DeKay from White Collar. It was a great experience.
For those of you who are not familiar with the show, White Collar is a new show this season to the USA network, and it centers around the strange partnership of a con artist and an FBI agent who have been playing cat and mouse for years. Neal Caffrey (Matt Bomer) a smooth talking, criminal genius who is finally caught by Peter Burke (Tim DeKay) who is a very savvy and uptight FBI agent.
When Neal escapes from a maximum-security prison to search for his true love,Kate, Peter catches him again.However, Neal offers to help Peter catch other criminals using his criminal genius in and exchange for not going to jail and for Neal to eventually be let go permanently.They make the deal and although Peter worries he’s making a mistake Neal proves himself to be indispensable with his criminal knowledge that’s hard to find among those on the good side.
The show quickly became a success and recently had the premiere for the second half of the season, which was impeccable. It’s hard not to love this show with the witty banter between Neal and Peter, who are played superbly by Matt and Tim, as well as the stellar supporting cast (including the lovely Tiffani Thiessen).
I’m also not above mentioning how sexy the main characters are making it a feast for both your mind and your eyes. I’ll admit to being slightly tongue-tied while interviewing the leading men. I couldn’t help but picture Matt with his sexy blue eyes and Tim with his charming smile and it reminds me that sometimes my life truly rocks! 😉 Without furthur drooling let’s get to the interview part, enjoy!
It seems that both Neal and Peter seem to toe the line between right and wrong on the show, especially after seeing the cliffhanger in your fall finale. My question is what types of real life shenanigans have you gotten yourselves into that you can draw inspiration from?
Matt -Tim, do you want to go?
Tim -I know we only have a little under an hour so I won’t be able to go through all of my real-life shenanigans. That’s a good question.
Matt -I snuck my brother’s car out of the driveway in the middle of the night and was trying to run over trash cans with it. I was 16 and I got a flat tire and literally tried to go to the gas station to put air back into it. It was nothing but shredded rubber and the rim. I came home and by the time I got home the rubber from the tire was literally slapping on the concrete so loud the entire neighborhood – my dad was waiting for me at the door and my license was revoked for quite some time. I wouldn’t say that I have the same kind of criminal savvy that Neal does.
Tim-Is that a shenanigan?
Matt-If that’s not a shenanigan I don’t know what is.
That definitely qualifies for me, thank you.
Tim, the show obviously took a large step, something that you don’t always see in a mid-season finale. What did you like about that last scene and what can you tell us about the ramifications as we move into the second half of the first season here?
Tim -Jeff Eastin approached me with that last scene a couple weeks before he was going to put it on the script. I said, “You’re the writer; this sounds exciting, let’s go for it.” I love the scene and I love the continuation of the scene as well. I think it’s some great writing and some great storytelling and very exciting and it’s a perfect cliffhanger. That’s all I’m going to say about it.
Natalie Morales and Jeff Eastin are both currently on Twitter. In order to get more followers, Jeff was putting out topless pictures of Matt and even offering naked pictures of Matt to get more followers. Are either of you planning to get on the Twitter wagon and, Matt, we want to see more topless pictures of you.
Matt -If you want to see more topless pictures you can tune into the season finale, as weird as that response was. But no, I will not be joining Twitter any time soon. I just don’t think that the day-to-day ramblings of my life would be interesting enough to hold an audience. Tim?
Tim– I’ve got quite a few pictures of Matt shirtless. No, I don’t have any. But if there is some Web site like, I don’t know, Hippie Shirtless or Shirtless Hippie or something like that I was told about as well. I don’t Twitter; I don’t think most people want to know about my daughter’s dance class or Little League baseball. I don’t think people would want to hear about where I’m headed or up to.
[Note From Me: I would follow, I find daily ramblings from people interesting because it’s a picture into how others work. Consider me odd, but I’d definitely follow.}
The finale for the first half of the season, like everyone’s been saying, had one hell of a twist that I really don’t think many people saw coming, if anyone saw it coming. How has this suspicion between the two characters changed the series, as it’s been the first half of the season to the last half of the season?
Matt -I think it actually comes to resolution pretty quickly. It’s not something that is as dire as it might seem; it’s something that resolves itself relatively quickly in the second half of the season. Ultimately it’s one of those things that ends up, I think, really bringing the two characters closer.
Tim -I couldn’t have said that better myself; I concur.
Over the first half of the season, Neal seems to have been developing a kind of trust in Peter and Peter has become kind of protective of Neal. With that last twist and having seen the second half premiere, it seems like, as you said, things do resolve. Could you speak to the development of each character in regards to the growth of trust and that sense of protectiveness?
Matt -In terms of trust I think that Peter is the first person in Neal’s life that he’s really been able to have that with, but I also think it’s an interesting dynamic that’s always kind of liquid between the two of them given their history and given the fact that Neal’s not really ready to jump over to the other side of the moral spectrum immediately. It’s something that he’s struggling with and it’s kind of his journey on the second half of the first season to figure out if I’m going to buckle down and be with the FBI or am I going to do whatever I have to do, legal or not, to find Kate. I think the trust thing is sort of everything in the relationship, but as opposed to normal relationships where it can be a little bit more black and white, in this particular relationship, it can be more liquid. He has more trust for Peter than he’s ever had for anybody else.
Tim– As far as the protection that Peter has for Neal, I like that observation a lot. At first, Peter’s protection of Neal was a bit self-centered. He’s protecting himself because he made that decision to take this guy out. But as time has gone on he’s gotten to know Neal in a different way and is now protecting him because he sees a great potential in this guy. He’s protecting him on more than just a professional level.
Matt, what’s the most interesting thing you’ve learned so far in the world of con men?
Matt– I think the most interesting thing I’ve learned is how much of it is about just like a good actor does his research on a role and does all the homework he needs to do to know a character inside and out, the amount of work that goes into a skilled con artist’s game, the amount of research, the knowledge of the mark and the amount of confidence it takes to pull it off are all really fascinating to me. The similarities to the craft of acting are actually fascinating as well.
You have such great chemistry onscreen we were wondering what your off screen relationship is like and if you spend a lot of time hanging out together.
Matt -We always have fun and I can’t remember a day we have not been laughing and having a good time. I’m going to go out on a limb and speak for both of us and say that we both have been in the business long enough to appreciate what we’ve got going on this show and the fact that we like to work with each other so much and the fact that we have a network behind us. Thankfully so far people have been watching so I think we realize; we’re grateful for every day we get to work together. That’s certainly how I feel. It’s just been easy and fun from day one for me. Tim is just a great guy, the kind of actor you feel really safe working with because he just sort of says yes to whatever you bring to the table and then goes with it.
Tim– That’s the way I feel about Matt, to be honest with you. I really do. It is true, but even more importantly, Matt told me that I’m a good singer. I haven’t heard that in a long time. Matt complimented me; he said that I can hold onto the melody while he harmonizes, which I never knew was a difficult thing to do. Now I feel like I’ve got that in my back pocket.
Tim-Here’s the thing. You can ask; I’ll speak for both of us on this one as well, which echoes what Matt is saying. In order to be able to work with somebody in acting, it’s going to sound judgmental and I hope it doesn’t, but you’ve first got to think that person’s a good actor before you can enjoy working with them. I guess that goes with the trust. I like this person, the way they work; I think they’re a good actor. Great, that is done now we can just go from there and see what happens and listen and play together.
My question has to do with the character of Neal. He’s definitely so far a likable bad guy kind of person. I was wondering what you thought personally about the character of Neal, what you didn’t like and what you do like about him.
Matt -I think you always have to be your character’s defense attorney. As an actor you have to find what’s likable about them and you have to empathize with them enough that you understand why they do what they do. I never really judge anything he did, but what I like about the character was that he wasn’t a goody-two-shoes and he didn’t just jump over to the other side of the law and become a good guy. I like the fact that he struggles with it and that he’s human and that he has real Achilles’ heel in terms of his sloppy romantic life. That’s where he makes bad decisions. For me those are the really fun parts of the character to get to play.
Tim– I’ve always liked Neal. I think Peter has always liked Neal. I’m looking through Peter’s glasses as well. I’m sometimes jealous of Neal. Peter can get jealous of that kind of life and sometimes doesn’t understand it. Not jealous that he breaks the law, but jealous that he has that carefree attitude that he can walk in a place with his hat on and be free about that. There’s something that Peter can’t quite, that’s just not in him. He wishes he had it. Peter likes Neal a lot and I think that’s a big part of what keeps Peter rooting for Neal when maybe he shouldn’t on the surface.
I just wanted to know what we can expect out of the rest of the season. What can you tell us?
Matt -Even more car accidents, lots of violence.
Tim -A lot of death scenes. I think the Martians come back.
Matt -They do. I think the intelligent procedurals continue, what I like to think of as intelligent procedurals as well as a lot of character development. In terms of my character, a lot of the stuff is coming to fruition that happened in the cliffhanger gets ironed out between me and Peter. Then my character really starts having to make the decision, is he going to operate for the law or is he going to do whatever it takes, against the law, operating outside of the legal system, to find Kate. That’s his struggle in the second half. He starts to push those boundaries a little bit more.
[Note from Me: They were both very sweet to talk to and both were quite amusing. This next question is the last question where both guys were present. Matt had to leave but we continue on with Tim.]
I wanted to know because now the show’s airing on a different day and time. I’m so curious about actors, how they feel when a show switches a day and time, if there was a particular reason in this case why it did. Even if there wasn’t, if it were due to programming differences, how does that have an effect on you? Does it become nerve-wracking? Do you get nervous to see how the show’s going to do in a different time slot?
Tim– It doesn’t become nerve wracking. A lot of that business stuff and the decisions that come from that certainly come into your brain. You don’t want to hear about it because you know, I know my job is to be an actor and to be in the show and to play the role. I have to say it’s nice when your boss at the network continues to say they’re behind you and they feel that they’ll get more viewers if they move to Tuesday night instead of Friday. When moves like that are made you feel that they have great confidence in you. Whenever somebody else has confidence in you, the person who hired you, you feel they have confidence in you, it does give you more confidence as well.
Matt– I agree and would just say in the hands of another network it might be worrisome, but I think USA does a really incredible at marketing their shows and making sure their audience knows that there’s a time change coming. As an actor it’s important to understand what you’re in control of, as Tim was saying. That’s our work and showing up and doing the best we can when the cameras are rolling. The rest of that stuff we have to trust and leave to the professionals. I trust that they know what they’re doing.
The show’s doing awesome because it’s an awesome show on an awesome network and I’m really happy for you and proud. You do have time to do other things and I wanted to ask you about an upcoming project, I believe called Political Disasters, if you’re able to talk about that or if you wanted to talk about that at all.
Tim – It’s a movie that I shot a good year ago. It’s an independent film; I’m not quite sure what the release on it will be. I know that they just finished it up in post. It’s by a very promising young writer and director. I’m trying to get you some information on that, but I don’t want to say too much because that will be coming out soon. It’s part of a trilogy that I think is quite good, actually. Political disasters, Natural Disasters and I think the other one is Plane Disasters; I’m not quite sure.
I’m also producing a film with my brother that my brother wrote. It’s called The Bride of San Lorenzo. It’s actually a bilingual piece in Spanish and English that is going to be done. We’re going to be doing it in Mexico. We’re going to try and start that sometime in the next month or two. We’re working with a production company right now. I’m working with that.
Political Disasters by Zak Horton should be coming out soon so be looking for it.
I just want to say first of all, as a fan of both White Collar and your former show, Carnivale, it’s really nice to see you back on network television. I think it’s really interesting what you said about protectiveness. Your character, Jones, in Carnivale, who coincidentally is very protective of his group, the relationship is kind of similar with Peter’s role with Neal.Having said that, I think that would, with the cliffhanger that it has, is there going to be any sort of disruption with the supporting cast as far as their reaction to what happened, like Mozzie or Elizabeth? Will they be caught up in it?
Tim– That’s a good question. They will become part of that. They will become part of, let me say, not to get any spoilers out there, but they’ll become part of answering that cliffhanger, yes. That’s a good question. Everybody gets involved. It becomes a big family affair.
That’s great because I think one of the things about the show that makes it good is that connection he has with the people in his life; he’s not just contained in his work. I that it’s interesting how he has kind of a darker side, would you say?
Tim – Yes. You’ll see, but to that I think all four characters – Neal, Peter, Mozzie and Elizabeth – as the season progresses you see all four of them mingling together in a certain way. It’s great. I think it’s one of the reasons why the show’s so special; it’s about the characters. The writers always write some very smart procedural, but really, it’s about how these characters are going to solve that crime. Not so much about you want to see the crime solved; you want to see how they’re going to solve it.
How do you think the series would change if roles were reversed, if Matt played the agent and you played the con man?
Tim– I don’t know. We’ve never had that question, I don’t think. When we shot the pilot friends of mine would ask me what I was doing. I would say I’m shooting a pilot about this con artist who helps out this FBI agent solve crimes. Most of my friends would say, “You’re playing the con artist, right?” It would be interesting. That would be fun. You just may have given us an idea for an episode where Neal has to play the FBI agent and Peter has to wear the fedora and be the cool ex con artist. Who knows.
What do I think would happen? Honestly I think parts of the show would be very much the same. It would still be Matt and me working together. You have stumped me on that one. That’s a good one; I’ll have to think more about that. One of the reasons I couldn’t imagine that is because I feel that the two of us, the roles fit us, I believe. We certainly enjoy playing these roles. I’m speechless on that one; I’ll have to think about that and get back to you.
That’s all for this interview, but what a great interview for a fantastic show! Catch new episodes of White Collar on USA network on Tuedays at 10 pm.