CMU grad enjoys twists and turns in White collar role

Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Date: January 31, 2010

After a handful of episodes aired this fall, USA’s “White Collar” left viewers to cliffhang on a twist before the show’s holiday hiatus: Did FBI agent Peter Burke (Tim DeKay) betray his charge, con artist-turned-FBI consultant Neal Caffrey (Matt Bomer)?

When the series returned earlier this month in its new time slot — 10 p.m. Tuesday — fans were probably relieved to learn Burke remains on Caffrey’s side. But now it appears that Caffrey’s on-the-run love interest, Kate, may be using him. But Caffrey doesn’t believe it.

“His Achilles heel is his romantic life,” said Bomer, a 2000 graduate of Carnegie Mellon University’s musical theater program. “It starts in the pilot episode where shortly before his sentence is over, he breaks out of jail to meet up with Kate. That’s one of his flaws, one of the things that makes him human.”

In a phone conversation earlier this month, Bomer said he was not surprised at the fan outrage in December.

“This show really lives and breathes around the relationship between Peter and Neal and their camaraderie. Amidst all their differences, there’s lightness and fun, but it’s also the way they work together.”

Last summer at the TV critics press tour, Bomer compared his character to a 4-year-old child.

“He doesn’t have a lot of impulse control,” Bomer said. “He’s always testing boundaries.”

But Bomer said Caffrey respects Burke — after all Burke twice put him behind bars.

“Like any 4-year-old, you’ve got to hold their hand when they’re in the parking lot; there has to be structure and they have to be reined in or there’s going to be complete chaos.”

When he was in Pittsburgh at CMU, Bomer lived at different times in Shadyside, Squirrel Hill and Oakland, and he played a bag boy in a Giant Eagle TV commercial. He maintains contact with CMU professor of voice/speech Don Wadsworth, who served as his dialect coach when Bomer had to speak Italian and French in an early “White Collar” episode.

Although Bomer previously had a recurring role on NBC’s “Chuck” (as the spy Bryce Larkin) and starred in ABC’s 2007 series “Traveler,” “White Collar” represents a break-out role for the actor. USA put a lot of marketing money behind the show’s premiere, including huge billboard photos of Bomer that went up in the country’s largest TV markets.

“It’s obviously completely surreal,” he said of seeing himself two stories high. “But the great thing about it is it feels so good to have a network so strongly behind us. Whatever it takes, I’m happy with. I would much rather that than, ‘Oh, yeah, another one of our shows.’ There was a certain point where I wanted to lock myself in my studio apartment for a week or two, but I’m just thankful they’re behind us.”

The support has now extended the show to a second season. Production resumes in March or April in New York.

When the first-season finale airs March 9, viewers will again be left with questions. Bomer called it “a huge cliffhanger” that leaves question marks surrounding the relationship between Caffrey and Burke and Caffrey and Kate.

“I can’t say too much about it, but things are brought to fruition in a really dramatic way,” he said. “I don’t think it will rub people the wrong way, but it will grab people.”