White Collar’s Matt Bomer

Source: Brandon’s Buzz
Date: March 1, 2011

He first rose to national attention as cavalier rich kid Ben Reade on CBS’ late, great soap opera Guiding Light, but the ridiculously talented Matt Bomer was clearly destined for bigger things, and wow, has he found them: featured roles on critically acclaimed (but sadly short-lived) series like Fox’s Tru Calling and ABC’s Traveler (not to mention a brief flirtation with a big-screen reboot of Superman, whose title role he very nearly nabbed) led to a recurring role on NBC’s cult hit Chuck, which brought him to his starmaking role in USA’s White Collar, where he has become a straight-up sensation portraying television’s most charming con man, Neal Caffrey. Collar‘s second season comes to a close next Tuesday night (March 8, 10pm EST), and Bomer stopped by to give us an exclusive sneak peek, as well as to reminisce about coming of age in good ol’ Springfield, USA.

BRANDON’S BUZZ: As long as I’ve been a fan of yours, I had no idea until I started reading up in preparation of speaking with you that you’re a Texas kid just like myself. You grew up near Houston, yes?

MATT BOMER: Yes, in Spring, which is about forty-five minutes up Interstate 45 from Houston.

You know, the life you’re living now, the stardom, the success — could you have ever fathomed all of this when you were growing up in Spring, Texas?

No way. I mean, I always kind of had a big imagination, and I knew early on from seeing movies and TV shows that I was really drawn into that world, but no, I didn’t ever think like that. I just kept going after what I was dreaming about, and doggedly pursuing it, and thankfully, I’ve gotten the chance to do some of the stuff that I’d hoped I’d get to do.

No question, and now we’re talking about White Collar here, which is a bona fide smash, and after years of paying your dues and being very, very good in projects that, for whatever reason, weren’t destined to be massive hits. How great does it feel to finally bust through in such an extraordinary way, and with a series that is this much fun and of this high quality?

As an artist, you know, you always hope you’re telling stories that people will respond to, and sometimes it can be frustrating when you’re working so hard and it’s just not happening. So, it feels great. You know, it starts with the writing, and we have incredible writers [on White Collar]. I wouldn’t be here talking to you if it weren’t for them, really. It’s great to have smart, fun writing to work on, and of course great co-stars who I have a blast with. Tim DeKay and I, there’s not a day that goes by that we’re not laughing and singing cheesy ‘80s songs and having a blast on set. I’m a very lucky man, and it’s not lost on me.

So for those who haven’t caught up with White Collar yet, give us a sense of what’s going on and how you fit into the action.

Well, [I play] a con artist who is enlisted by the FBI. His prison sentence is shortened in order to help the FBI solve white collar crimes, because that’s the world he dealt with. And the centerpiece of the show is really the relationship he has with Peter Burke [played by Tim DeKay], the FBI agent who is assigned to watch over him. They have a very complicated, fun, almost like concerned father / rebellious teen relationship. So there’s the case of the week, but there’s also this mythology that has been building up around the murder of my character’s girlfriend, and my character – his whole M.O. this season has been avenging her death. It’s a huge, huge mystery, and the great thing is that all these questions we’ve been asking for the past two years get answered in these next few episodes, and new questions get brought up that are just as complicated and frustrating.

Questions which propel you into season three, I assume?

Exactly.

Please forgive me for rousing the ghosts of the past here, but I have to tell you — I know the show had already begun its unfortunate decline by then, but I was a huge fan of your work as tortured
Ben Reade on Guiding Light —

Oh, thank you so much!

I’d love to know how you look back on that time in your life, and given the enormous success that you’re now achieving for yourself, what lessons you learned working on that show, and working in that kind of peculiar hothouse environment, that you’re now carrying with you.

You know, I had just gotten out of college, and I was working as a bellman at a hotel in the city. And then 9/11 happened, and everyone lost their jobs because no one was coming to New York City anymore. I had studied theater for four years [in college], and I thought, “You know, I’m gonna go and do theater,” and the casting director for Guiding Light, Rob Decina, had called me and said, “Hey, if you ever want to be on the show, let me know.” So it was like, “Well, I didn’t pay my bills this month….” And I called him, and he brought me in to screen test, and I luckily got the part, and it was just the greatest experience. I mean, it’s terrifying at first, because you get one take, and sometimes you’re doing twenty pages of dialogue [at a time]. But, you learn so much as an actor, and for me, it was most important to get comfortable being in front of a camera, and working on a soap is pretty much the best place you can learn [that skill] and get paid [for it].

You know, Sarah Michelle Gellar and Josh Duhamel both tore out of All My Children to massive success in other areas; Nathan Fillion was a smash on One Life to Live and is now an even bigger one on Castle; you, now, with White Collar — you know better than most the extraordinary talent that exists in the daytime world. Does it bother you that so much of that talent is dismissed as lightweight simply because of where on the schedule their work happens to air?

Oh, it’s completely unfair and wrong, but let me tell you something: the people who are working in daytime know how good they are, and they know the work they’re putting into it. And a lot of them are people who choose to have families and regular lives, and [want] somewhat of a nine-to-five schedule as an actor, so that they can go home and be a part of their kids’ lives. Whereas if you’re working on movies or on a [prime-time] show, that kind of work can really be all-encompassing.

So give us a tip-off as to what awaits Neal and Peter as we head toward the White Collar season finale.

I can’t really give too much away, but we’re getting into wrapping up the mythology of the first couple of seasons, and I was amazed at where it leads our characters. I can’t wait to hear from people when they see it.