Six Questions with White Collar’s Matt Bomer

Source: ACED Magazine
Date: October 18, 2009

ACED was on the set of USA Network’s upcoming new series White Collar. We sat down with the entire cast and got all the goods on the premiere season, which is scheduled to begin airing this October.

First up: Matt Bomer. In White Collar, Bomer portrays the charming con-artist turned paroled F.B.I. consultant, Neal Caffrey. Bomer is best known for his recurring role as Brice Larkin on the hit NBC series Chuck. This time though, Bomer is the center of attention as Caffrey, one-half of the unlikely partnership he so skillfully orchestrates with his so-called ‘nemesis’ Agent Peter Burke (Tim DeKay), in the dramedy series’ pilot episode. He pulls off Caffrey’s slick confidence with ease, injecting the right balance of wit and sex appeal to make the character intriguing enough for us to eagerly want to know more about him. Read on to find out about Matt and his role in White Collar.

Here are six questions with Matt Bomer:

What were your thoughts on your character when you initially read the pilot episode of White Collar?

Matt: What I loved about him from the get go, was that he was flawed. He had this veneer of the charming, hyper-intelligent, eloquent, sly mastermind, but underneath, he was really a kind of die-hard romantic who would go to any lengths to find the love of his life. Not only was that his motivating force, but it was also kind of his Achilles heel, because then it ends up getting him caught. I liked the fact that, even though the front he puts on is so suave and debonair, underneath there’s somebody who has always really relied on himself and doesn’t really trust a lot of people.

Neal lies with ease and sort of breezes through life without too much consequence — what do you think, besides romanticism, are his redeeming qualities?

Matt: I don’t want people to think he’s the perfect guy. I want his flaws to come out, because that’s what it means to be a human being. Human beings are good, but they have shadows. Every single one of us has redeeming qualities and every single one of us has qualities that people can hold against us. That’s what makes us human. I’m not interested in playing characters who are perfect. I think the fact that he does try to create that life for himself, is what makes him human and is his redeeming quality.

You seem to have his back story figured out — are we going to see more of Neal’s origin as the season goes on?

Matt: I hope, honestly, that that can come out in certain moments through my performance. I want the character to maintain a mystery. If I had my way, I would hope that — if we were blessed enough — that by the end of the last episode of the seventh season, you still wouldn’t know everything about Neal Caffrey, and you still wouldn’t know if he was playing you or if he was telling you the truth.

In your opinion, what are some elements of White Collar that help it stand apart from other crime dramas that we see on TV?

Matt: The signature of USA Network is: “Characters Welcome”. So, first and foremost, you’re gong to get all the great procedural stuff. It’s really intelligently written. I’m no fool, I know this is a writer’s medium. You can put the biggest stars on the TV screen, but if the writing’s not there, the shows aren’t going to last. We’re so blessed to have Jeff Eastin at the helm, because these scripts are really smart and fun and unique. The White Collar world is unique, hasn’t really been completely explored yet, and so you’re going to get all the fun procedural stuff, but at the same time, there’s going to be a lot of character elements that come into play as well. That keeps it light and fun, and sometimes serious.

Are you having fun wearing all the different costumes, like the expensive suits?

Matt: I have to say, I think the wardrobe really informs the character greatly. When I put on one of those suits — you feel like one of the Rat Pack guys. And the fedora especially, when you get it down over one eye and you feel like maybe you can trust me, maybe you can’t. There’s something about that that really helped me kind of get into the skin of the character.

Obviously as an actor, any previous role you have on your resume helps you get the next one. Other than just the fact that it was something on your resume, do you think that the role of Bryce Larkin on Chuck helped you get the part of Neal Caffrey?

Matt: Oh, I don’t think I ever could have played Neal Caffrey if I hadn’t played Bryce Larkin because he helped me understand sort of the espionage aspects of the character — when he has to go undercover and things like that. And, he’s cool under pressure, and those kinds of things, and just maneuvering in that world and never really knowing who he can trust or if you can trust him either. So, it was definitely very helpful.

And as a Bonus:

Fun Facts About Matt

He pulled from films like Oceans Eleven, Catch Me If You Can, and even Ferris Bueller’s Day Off in order to inform his portrayal of Neal Caffrey. He’s never gotten into trouble with the law himself. He’s a 30 Rock fan, can do a mean Kieth Morrison impression (Dateline, NBC), and got the hat trick his character pulls off with the vintage fedora in the pilot episode of White Collar on the first take after many practices.

Matt: I had to practice, yeah. That was something that Jeff told me I was going to have to do, and he had kind of given me a two-second tutorial, and then [said] like, “good luck.” I think I stayed up for a good while the night before, because every hat has a different weight and balance to it. I think we ended up getting it on the first take.

White Collar premieres Friday, October 23, on USA, right after Monk, which is currently airing its final season.