Date: January 18, 2011
PASADENA – Of all the relationship dances on television these days, from “Castle” to “Fringe,” few feel as fresh as the one between Tim DeKay’s Peter Burke and Matt Bomer’s Neal Caffrey on USA’s “White Collar.”
Burke is an FBI agent. Caffrey is the world-class white-collar con man Burke finally caught. Now, as the alternative to prison, Caffrey is working for Burke. Sort of. Most of the time.
This arrangement requires them to trust each other. Which they almost do. Since we like them both, we want them to become good friends. Which they almost do.
The “almost” part, of course, provides the foundation for much of the dramatic tension on the show, which kicks off the second half of its second season tonight at 10.
Nor does anyone enjoy that tension, say DeKay and Bomer, more than they do.
“You know the moments I enjoy most?” says DeKay. “When they seem to be closest – because just when you think the barriers are down, you realize there’s always something in between. There’s always something one isn’t telling the other.”
“It’s a poker game,” says Bomer. “They never know exactly what cards the other guy is holding.”
Each also has a wing man, or wing person, in this dance. Burke’s is his wife, Elizabeth (Tiffani Thiessen), who DeKay promises will be more prominent this season. Caffrey’s is his fellow con man, Mozzie (Willie Garson), who at the end of last season suddenly seemed to have fallen into lethal danger.
And yes, fans have been worried about him.
“Aren’t we all?” says Bomer, finishing the last of a tall bottle of water.
Relationship dances always pose a challenge for scriptwriters, because audiences are torn between wanting to see a resolution, preferably a happy one, and enjoying the continued tension.
Resolving them is tempting, but rarely a good idea. So Peter and Neal are happy the way things are.
“We want to keep the air in the balloon,” says Bomer. “The ‘Moonlighting’ thing. It’s better for the show and definitely more fun to play.”
“I think they can just keep going back and forth,” says DeKay. “Peter can cross a little to the dark side. Neal can look at something and think about how it might have been if he played it the other way.
“Maybe by the eighth or ninth season, knock on wood, we can resolve it.”
The other unavoidable constants about “White Collar,” of course, are Neal’s piercing blue eyes and the fact he’s always the handsomest and smartest guy in the room.
Bomer’s been asked about that one before, so he’s ready with a shake of the head.
“The whole thing with Neal, the skin he wears, the uber-confidence – I do that for the character,” he says. “That definitely does not come from my own life experience.”