Ten Out Of Ten: Matt Bomer

Source: Emmy Magazine
Date: June 1, 2010

By the ripe age of eight, Matt Bomer had already fallen hard for the big screen. So badly did he want to act that he would cold-call talent agents. Some laughed. Others suggested he get his parents on the line. His mother, though, had other ideas.

“She told me to go outside and play,” says the head-turning star of USA’s lighthearted procedural, White Collar.

But Bomer persisted, taking advantage of any acting opportunities that arose in his sports-enthused community outside Houston, Texas.

“I lived a Glee type of existence,” he says, referring to the Fox series about high school glee club peppered with football players who occasionally get razzed for their onstage zeal. One time Bomer had to feign tears in a school play, much to the mirth of his football teammates in the audience. “I heard one say, ‘Bomer’s crying, dude,'” he chuckles.

As soon as he was old enough, Bomer headed east. First to Carnegie Melon University in Pittsburgh to study acting. Then to New York City, where he finally landed that agent along with two jobs to pay the rent. He worked as a hotel bellhop and waiter before breaking into the daytime soap world with a recurring role on CBS’s Guiding Light.

Playing a rich hottie named Ben Reade, Bomer says the fast and furious production pace quickly sharpened his acting instincts. “The first few months you feel like you’re being shot out of a cannon,” he says. “You rehearse and get one take.”

When Fox came knocking with an offer to star in the sci-fi series Tru Calling, Bomer asked the Guiding Light writers for an exit strategy. They had a field day. Within months, Bomer’s character lost his trust fund and turned to prostitution. Then he went really nuts, killing several people and committing suicide by lethal injection. “I asked to go out with a bang,” the actor affirms.

For Bomer, the thrill of performing is in the storytelling. “It’s not about, ‘Look at me,'” he says, although it’s impossible to overlook his dashing appearance. He could pass for Clark Kent minus the glasses. In fact he took a playful romp as Superman in some Toyota commercials last year. “It was pretty surreal,” he says, describing how a production crew hoisted his caped crusader-cladbody onto cables and flew him back and forth across a soundstage.

These days, however, Bomer is keeping his feet on firm pavement playing Neal Caffrey, a suave, slick and hyper-intelligent con artist who got sprung from prison in the first episode of White Collar to help the FBI solve enigmatic crimes.

“It’s great to play someone who’s so mercurial, quixotic and unpredictable,” says Bomer, who got psyched for his master manipulator part by reading books like The Art of Deception by convicted cyber-spy Kevin Mitnick and watching movies like Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, starring Matthew Broderick as a young wise guy. Mostly, though, he’s been trying to channel the smooth operators of yesteryear, like Cary Grant in To Catch a Thief or Paul Newman in any of his likable renegade roles. “He’s my favorite actor,” says Bomer.

He’s also aided by the cool vintage-style attire that the costume department routinely envelops him in. “It totally changes my body language,” says Bomer, referring to the type of fitted suits and rakish fedoras once favored by Frank Sinatra and his swinging Rat Pack crowd. When Caffrey jumps off a store awning and lands on two feet looking like a million bucks, even Bomer’s former football buddies might sigh.