Tim DeKay and Matt Bomer on Season 2 of 'White Collar'
by Joel Keller, posted Jul 12th 2010 3:02PM
If you're a fan of USA Network's 'White Collar,' you know that the show's appeal lies in the chemistry between its two stars, Tim DeKay (right in the picture above) and Matt Bomer. They play an unlikely pair in the battle against white collar crime: FBI Special Agent Peter Burke (DeKay) and suave master thief Neal Caffrey (Bomer). Over the show's first season, viewers have seen the trust between Caffrey and Burke -- who also happened to be the guy who caught him -- grow during their caper-of-the-week adventures. But there was also a fun continuing plot involving a kidnapping, a music box, a secret FBI task force, and the love of Caffrey's life.
That story continues when the show returns on Tuesday, July 13 at 9PM ET. DeKay and Bomer got on the phone with me last week to talk about season two, including a short list of upcoming guest stars. Bomer also mentions some of the skills he's gained by playing an art thief for the last year, and they don't just involve how to properly tie a skinny tie or wear a fedora.
How has the experience been over last season and this season, shooting in New York? Has it been a different experience compared to filming in L.A.? Is it a more fun experience? What have you guys seen that makes it different than shooting in L.A.?
Matt Bomer: I feel like New York is such a character on the show itself and the way our director of photography shoots it, it really celebrates the city, and looks up at the city with the buildings and they sky behind them. And everything from the locations we shoot in which is specific to the show, a lot of the upper crust penthouses with multimillion dollar chandeliers to the exteriors with the lovely people of New York walking by in the background.
Are there cases where you have somebody walking through a scene who wasn't supposed to be walking through the scene? How much do you clear a street to do a scene when you're shooting it?
Tim DeKay: We have PAs clear whatever side of the street we have been given by the city or have rented from the city, but the other side of the street is not cleared off. And undoubtedly you get what you call 'bogeys' walking through the scene.
MB: Usually screaming profanities because we're blocking the entrance to their building, but we kind of enjoy that actually.
Do you ever have people shaking their fist or something like that? Or are those just scenes that never make the cut at all, and you have to start over.
TD: No, I don't think the audience would ever see anybody, because usually it's so blatant and flagrant that it would never make it into the final cut.
MB: Maybe if it was an HBO show, but not on USA.
When you guys first started shooting the pilot, did you realize that the two of you had a good connection going?
MB: I realized from the first time Tim and I read together, that we were going to have a great time together. And we understood the way our characters played off of each other and the way we were playing our characters. The great thing about Tim was, he said yes to everything I brought to the table, and I tried to say yes everything he brought to the table. And we were able to do a lot of hard work and a lot of fun play to figure out what the dynamics were between the two characters.
TD: I agree, right away from the second we met, Matt had already been cast and I went to read with him. Right away I thought "Oh, this could be something." and even though Neal and Peter have an issue with trust, I can confidently say that Matt and Tim don't have an issue with trust. We trust each other wholeheartedly and we're there for each other as actors to make it work.
MB: I think what Jeff Eastin did well, was he wrote characters who wouldn't necessarily be friends in the real world but who have mutual respect for each other and compensate for each other in really interesting ways. And also, Peter has something that Neal wants, which is a white picket existence which he thinks he can never have, and Neal has this certain freedom and panache that maybe Peter would want in some alternate life.
TD: Peter would like to be able to do some of the things Neal does so easily and never has been able to do that.
Is it refreshing to you guys that Neal and Peter are more equals, like they can outsmart each other? The fact that Peter has caught up to Neal more than once even though Neal is the master thief? Because usually shows don't do that, it's just one who outsmarts the other all the time.
TD: Yeah, I think you have to have that and Jeff Eastin has made sure that that is always the case. Otherwise you don't have tension.
MB: We keep an eye on that on a day to basis.
TD: Yeah we do, there were a couple times where we think "I don't know if he'd get away with that," or "I wouldn't see that," or whatever. But if you didn't have that, there wouldn't be that tension.
Do you have an example where you had to do a self-correction?
MB: I think we always just make sure in a scene that Peter never comes across as the bumbling agent and I'm the savant. We make sure the dynamic is more in the middle, we're on the same levels of intelligence. One of us may be more ahead or behind the other in terms of a case or whatever else is going on. But a lot of times we try to think of it as a poker game. We both know all the circumstances, but we may not be revealing all the details that our in our hands.
Matt, has doing this show made you think, "Huh, the life of an art thief doesn't seem like such a bad way to go." Even fleetingly?
MB: It's definitely given me an appreciation for certain things. Whether it's art, or the way I try to put myself together when I get dressed up to go out. So I've definitely taken some of these things in. I've learned how to pick a lock and pick a pocket, (DeKay laughs) but I don't think I'm itching to attempt to use those skills in real life. I'm thankful to have a TV show to work on.
So you're starting to dress like Neal a little bit now? You're doing the skinny ties and the hats and all that kind of stuff?
MB: Well to be honest with you, after 70 hours a week of dressing like Neal, I'm sort of ready for the jeans and T-shirt when the weekend rolls around. But having said that, if I do need to step it up, I'll definitely borrow something of his.
Tim you're not donning any kind of Brooks Brother suit? So that's easy for you to walk away from that?
TD: They've upped Peter's wardrobe quite a bit this year which is great. He's in a bit more slimming outfits and he's gone undercover a bit. But Matt made a good point, because of this show, even I am a little more conscious of - "Oh, what am I going to wear today?" Wardrobe is bringing all these names, and these designers, and you can't help but feel awe at what people are wearing, or who people are wearing.
Where we left things last season, Neal's love Kate supposedly gets blown up in an airplane. Tell us a little bit about where we're picking up in the first episode back and what differences we may see between the show this year and the show last year.
MB: Tonally I think the show is really the same. The writers did me and the show a great favor by fast forwarding three months, so you miss a lot of the natural grieving process. But Neal is proactive guy to begin with so the relationship dynamics, witty banter, snappy dialogue, it's all right there. But for Neal, a lot of his struggle this season is whether or not he should do what he thinks is right or whether to take the legal option. So it's really a struggle of what's just versus what's morally right to him.
Is it because he's starting to look at that everyday life, like everyone else has and is he's longing for that?
MB: No, I think being he's a proactive person and the only way he knows how to make peace with Kate's death is to try to avenge whoever did it to her. The decision is going to be ultimately if he uses the law to do that or he takes it into his own hands.
TD: There's the big issue this season of revenge versus justice. And then for Peter, because OPR and Fowler infiltrated his personal life, they've gone to where his wife works, his view of the Bureau and loyalty to the Bureau is skewed greatly now. So Peter starts to color outside the lines a little bit.
So he's not completely as loyal to the bureau as he was last season then?
TD: Well... he's as loyal as he can be, but there's another agenda going on that's separate from his work. He's got another agenda going on that has to do with last year and how his personal life was infiltrated.
I've been noticing that again, just like last year, not everything is as it seems this season. Like the middle of last year when Peter and Kate were in a hotel room together and he had the mysterious ring on, and who knows what direction that's going to go in? As an actor how do you react to those little twists?
TD: (chuckles) It's sometimes odd, sometimes you become very protective of your character and when there's a big change like that that's not explained to you yet by the writers, it can be frightening, it's like - "Wait a minute, that's not where I was going" or "That's not what I was doing." And now you get this, "What are you saying about me?" That's kind of where you go as an actor,
But 99% of the time, Jeff Eastin or one of the writers knows, here's what happens, here's why you were wearing the ring. It's because everyone has a ring in the FBI agency. So sometimes my initial reaction is one of, I shouldn't say fear, but one of defense for what character I have been living in.
MB: I think it's fun to strap in to the roller coaster the beginning of the season, and go along for the ride and let it take you where it's going to take you. I try to map our with Jeff at the beginning of the year what the landmarks are, what my character ultimately wants. Other than that, I get the script and it's kind of like a Christmas present every seven days that I get to open up and try to figure out - "Okay, how am I going to make this work?" "How did this happen?" and "How does this relationship change?" For me that's part of the fun, and working in a medium that moves so fast.
TD: Because of the speed, eventually you just have to say okay, it will all work out. I get a script, "Oh, this is the world I'm taking."
MB: "Let go and let God," as we used to say in Texas (both laugh)
It was weird last year in that episode before the midseason break where it did feel like the show was going to take this big serialized turn. Were people coming up to you saying, "Is Peter's evil all of a sudden?" Did it feel weird that it ended on that point where people were thinking "Is this show taking a massive turn we didn't expect?"
TD: No, it felt great actually, because you realize there were a lot of invested audience members out there. And by then I also knew the explanation to it as well so it was fun to say, "Well, you have to wait and see."
So were you good at keeping people in the dark?
TD: Yes, because my job was at stake had I not kept people in the dark.
MB: I was almost as in the dark as the viewers were, so I was fine to be there as well.
Has this role now, when people see you out on the street, not filming, are people now remembering you for White Collar? Because Matt, you played Bryce on 'Chuck' and there are a lot of 'Chuck' fans out there, is this role starting to take over recognition factor for some of your other roles?
MB: Yes, I would say definitely. Many times people will say we also love 'Chuck,' when are you coming back to 'Chuck,' or they'll comment on another role, but this is what people generally bring up now.
TD: The same with me. Prior to this, as my friend said, I was a household face but not a household name, People came up to me like, "I know you," or "Do I know you?" Now it's very clear, "Hey! Peter Burke!" or "Hey! You're the FBI guy."
I know on 'Chuck,' Bryce is dead, but is there any creative way they're trying to bring him back?
MB: Well I think he's died three times now, so I don't see why they wouldn't bring him back again. I love everybody over there and I had such a blast working with all those people, Zach (Levi) and Yvonne (Strahovski), to the creators, Chris (Fedak), and Josh (Schwartz). If the scheduling were to work out, I would love to go back and do something fun. But in the meantime I just wish them all the best and I'm so, so happy that they're getting into the season and people are sticking by them.
But nothing you can mention or tell us?
MB: No, we'll be here until October, and I'm buckled down here doing my best here until then.
Do you guys like the summer time slots starting the show out and getting viewers in the summer? That summer has become a cable dominated period of the year?
MB: Can I answer that next Wednesday morning? (both laugh) I think the schedule's worked out really nicely for all of us. So it's fun and it's a time when USA does really well and so we're happy to be a part of their lineup in the summer because it's really what they do so well. We had a lot of fun in the fall last year, and we're having a lot of fun doing it in summer this year.
Do you think 'White Collar' is the type of show that would get a shot on like NBC or one of the other broadcast networks? Or is it the type of show that works really well on cable.
MB: That's a really interesting question and one we've thought a lot about. It could work on a broadcast network, but it would be a very different show. We are truly so blessed to be on USA. It's been such a collaborative effort from the get go and they've given us so much license with our characters and our choices. And there's been so much less bureaucracy, for lack of a better word. They really trust the actors they cast, the directors, the writers, to do their job. And it just makes the experience so much for fun for us. I think it would be a lot harder -- possibly, maybe not -- to get our voice in there as strongly as we've been able to.
Even though you might have a bigger budget, you think it would definitely be harder?
MB: I've always been happy with the budget on our show. It's never felt like it was any less than a major network budget, truly. We move a little faster maybe but it's always felt really supportive. And you couldn't ask for a better marketing department than USA has.
You're actually helping to launch one of their new shows then. You're in the position to be the helper instead of the new guy for 'Covert Affairs.' How does that feel that they're depending on you to launch one of their new shows?
TD: I think it shows that USA has a lot of confidence in us.
MB: Hmmm.... I haven't even processed that yet. (both laugh)
Those kind of decisions are out of our hands and I'm thankful that they're putting our show out there in that light and that they believe in us in that way and hopefully it pays off for everybody.
Can you let us know what's going on in season 2 without getting into job jeopardizing trouble?
MB: I think people can expect a lot of writing that they responded to last season. The relationship between me and Peter, Mozzie (Willie Garson) is a lot heavier this season. He have Marsha Thomason back as Diana who is gorgeous and fantastic. We have a lot of fun guest spots and recurring roles. One thing that Jeff does that amazes me, every time we have a mid season finale, or season finale, he really amps up the storyline in a way that's interesting and dynamic that I think "How are we ever going to top this?" So I think if people tune in, it's a fun ride this season.
I know Tim Matheson is in the season premiere. Anything other interesting guests you can mention?
TD: Aidan Quinn is one of our guest stars, we have HIlarie Burton, and also Griffin Dunne.
Are we going to see more Diahann Carroll this year or is she just going to pop in and out this season?
MB: She's a legend, we're not going to let her go far.
TD: It's fantastic having Diahann Carroll as part of the team.