Source: Pop Culture Madness.com
Date: September 30, 2009

PCM’s Kristyn Clarke has the awesome opportunity to visit the set of the upcoming USA network show “White Collar”and partake in a very informative Q&A with several key cast members including Matt Bomer, Tim DeKay, Tiffani Thiessen, and Willie Garson! The cast of this series appear to have wonderful chemistry with one another, on or off, the camera and from the looks of things the series is off to a great start!

The first Q&A participants were Matt Bomer, who plays charming criminal mastermind, Neil Caffery and Tim DeKay, who plays FBI agent Peter Burke.

Matt was asked his initial thoughts on his character and how he felt about the part here’s what he had to say:

“Well, what I loved about him from the get go, was that he was flawed. He wasn’t-I mean, he had this-he has this veneer of the charming, hyper-intelligent, eloquent, sly mastermind, but underneath, he was really a kind of diehard 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 and-but I liked the fact that, even though the fun he puts on is so suave and debonair, underneath there’s somebody who is also-has a hard time-has always really relied on himself and doesn’t really trust a lot of people.”

Matt was also asked which elements of his own personality match up to his character on the show and he claims:

“I don’t want to say zero, because I mean, I like-I guess we all like to think of ourselves as romantics. But, I like to think of myself as romantic and I guess I understood that part of him and that’s-that to me, has always been the driving force. I mean his compliance with the FBI and all that stuff ultimately is really so he can get closer to Kate and find her. So, to me, that’s the core of the character and that’s the part that I relate to the most. The suave and debonair stuff is, you know, really fun to get to play, but I would say that I fall short of the Neal Caffrey bar in terms of that.”

Matt went on to say when asked about his characters redeeming qualities that:

“Human beings are good, they have shadow, 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 or who are, you know-I think the fact that he does try to create that life for himself, is what makes him human and is his redeeming quality. Because he’s trying to cover up for ultimately a life before that that was really, as a kid, probably really unfulfilling. And, he-that’s his way of controlling and controlling his environment, controlling his life, having some sense of control. And, you know, I think he’s some-but he-I don’t think he’s somebody, he is somebody who wants to have fun in any given circumstances.”

It seems Matt did do his homework when researching the role of Neil Caffery. He read a ton of books, everything from Frank Avengale’s memoir “Catch Me If You Can”to “The Art of Deception”by Kevin Mitnick and states that all were very informative and assisted in learning the in’s and out’s of social engineering.

I was able to ask Matt what elements of White Collar help it to stand apart from other crime dramas on television and he answered:

“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. We’re-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 and we’re so blessed to have Jeff Easton at the helm. 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.

So, you do get more back story elements and a lot of interplay, fun interplay between characters that you might not get on a show that’s straight procedural.”

As we could see with viewing the pilot episode Matt’s character of Neil is a likeable guy even though he is a con-artist and thief and Matt shares he own thoughts on how the audience will develop a love/hate relationship with the character.

“As an actor, you can never judge the character you’re playing. I think-I just said I think. I want, like, an electric shock that goes up my arm. If you approach a character from a place of judgment, you’re really digging yourself a hole as an actor. So, what I try to focus on is who he is and what motivates him and play the truth of it. I really can’t concern myself whether people like him or don’t like him or think he’s a good guy or a bad guy. I can only play what’s written in the given circumstances.

So, even if you’re playing a serial killer, you don’t think of-to go in from a place of judgment, you might not agree morally with whom they are or what they do, but to play them truthfully, you have to try to get in their world and under their skin and look through their eyes. So, I tried to mine out some qualities with Jeff from the get go, that I thought were more redeeming. You know, I think there’s a really quixotic quality about the character and ultimately, underneath it all, he’s kind of a three-year-old. I mean, he doesn’t have a lot of impulse control. He doesn’t even understand the concept of no. There’s always a way to get into things and he’s always testing his boundaries.

So, there’s a certain part of that, that I hope will come across as interesting and fun and unique and not something you’re used to seeing from a criminal mastermind. But, you know, you just try to go as deep as you can and play the truth and good, bad, nice, evil, whatever is going to play itself out.”

Matt had wonderful things to say at co-star Tim DeKay and filled us in on a little back story about their audition process and screen test together during the casting of “White Collar”.

“Tim stepped in the room and the first word that came out of his mouth, I was, like, I said, this is our guy, you know, he’s amazing. Tim’s such a wonderful actor and such an amazing human being and a real blessing to get to work with every day. He has this Midwestern quality about him, this sort of wholesome quality that you can’t teach anybody. You can’t-you either have it or you don’t and it plays so intrinsically into the character, because as gruff as he is and as hard as he is, you also believe that his heart is soft enough that he would ultimately empathize with somebody like Neal.

So, I think that’s what I recognized right away and just his playfulness and he got what was funny about the character. He got what was interesting about the character. He got what made their interplay interesting and I’m just-I feel really lucky to get to work with him.”

There is a ton of focus on the smoking hot suits that Neil wears and Matt says that “the wardrobe really informs the character greatly”feeling like when he puts on one of the suits he is one of those Rat Pack guys. “When you get the fedora down over one eye and you feel like maybe you can trust me, maybe you can’t, that is what really helped me get into the skin of the character”.

At this point actor Tim DeKay has entered the Q&A session. Tim is asked about his almost married type relationship with Matt’s character on the show here’s what he had to say:

“I think that’s a big part of the show and it continues on, you know. We both-I’ve said that we both respect each other. There’s an odd respect that we both enjoy and we know that each other enjoys solving something. Now I-Peter looks at it different, solving something than Neal does, but they-it’s-and Peter is aware of that. So, he can have Neal go do-perhaps do something that shouldn’t really be done, but he does it. And, I think that out of that, they-and deep, deep, deep down inside, they like each other. They just-they do, they do, they like each other.”

“I would even go further and say that really, the relationship between these two characters is really the center of the show. And, I think what makes that relationship interesting and something that will continue, they’ll always have things that they clash on. I think Peter is fundamentally one way and Neal is fundamentally one way and they’re both adults, so that’s probably not going to change too drastically.

But, I think they have a certain set of strengths and weaknesses that compliment each other well in terms of solving cases. And, so as the series progresses, we sort of find-we get a better idea of what those are and what is interesting is that Neal has so many things going on, but ultimately, the person who effectively ended his-ended, for now, his career as a social engineer, is also the person he really trusts more than anybody. And, I think that’s an interesting dynamic as well, because there’s the complication of he’s also the person who took something away from me.”

I was able to ask both actors if they had a favorite scene or stand out moment from the coming season and Matt says:

“I know there’s too many to choose from right now. I really like-we have a stake out scene in one of the first episodes, it’s really, really fun. A lot of this stuff, when we go undercover together and we have to-and I, of course, get us into trouble and Peter has to bail us out or we have to use-any of that stuff where we’re just kind of given free rein to be silly and fun and playful and-we just understand the dynamics inherently, all that stuff is just criminally fun to film. No pun intended. ”

While Tim went on to say:

“No, I’d have to agree, I was going to say that one. There-you know what? If I could say one scene, probably that one. I think what’s really fun are the-between Matt and myself, I feel it’s just little moments here and there.”

Tim was asked about comparisons between his former role of Jonesy on HBO’s series Carnivale and his character of Peter on White Collar, here’s what he had to say:

“You mentioned Jonsey, I had a really good time playing a guy who has a limp, who has a drinking problem, who chews tobacco, who is sleeping with the-not only his friend’s wife, but his friend’s wife’s daughter. Wow, I keep playing the bad guy who is sinister, does that start to inform you and tell you, well, that’s what will get me work. So, I’ll keep doing that, you know. But, I was-I think it-I think Jonesy and Peter are quite different. But, they are the salt of the earth, yes, they both-there is a grounded ness to these guys.”

Matt gets ready to exit the Q&A and turn the table over to Tim, but is able to share his thoughts with us on what the future hold for this character.

“I hope he always maintains some of his mystery and that you’d never really a hundred percent feel like-he’d always be a little slippery. But, I would love, as the series progresses, down the road, for him to really understand, I think he’s starting to, to understand the rewards of doing what he’s doing and helping out and how he can use certain skills that he taught himself, to-for a better purpose. I think that’s the better moral story to tell, but I’m excited. You know, I trust Jeff Easton a hundred and fifty percent and wherever he wants to take the character, I’m happy to go. ”

Tim has now taken over the Q&A session and when asked about this favorite moment from the pilot he states “All of the moments with Matt, listen, the show-to me, the show is-it’s not me, it’s not Matt, it’s that energy in between Matt and me. So there were just a lot of fun moments where we were talking and what have you.”

Tim was also asked to delve into his character’s back story a little bit and here are his thoughts on why his character became an FBI agent:

“Yeah, I think Peter has a comb-I talked to Jeff Easton about this and he has a very specific back story about it, which I agreed with a hundred percent. But, there’s another part of Peter. I think Peter that came from a very working class background, but was incredibly smart. I say that Matt-that Peter and Neal both scored exceedingly high on their SATs. I think Neal shared it with quite a few people. Peter was embarrassed to tell people, because where he lived, it just wasn’t cool. Not that it was wrong, but it just-and when he got into a really good school and got letters from these schools, he probably told my dad, “Yeah, I don’t know if these schools, they want me to go there.” Really, you know, because in a way, it’s a comment on, I’m smarter than you dad. You know what I mean?”

“So, there is that and because Peter has that sensitivity, I think he grew up watching people and watching behavior. So, combined with his intelligence and just cerebrally, he’s also intuitive to people. Like, when he asks the question, I think-I hope you see it, I ask a question, and it really doesn’t matter what the answer is, it’s that second right after you ask it. So, you stay with somebody and then it doesn’t matter what they say, it’s their initial reaction and I think Peter kind of grew up that way.”

“Plus he was really good at math and I went to school with a lot of guys who were accounting majors and then the FBI said, “Hey, do you want to help us solve white collar crimes?” But, not the glamorous, sexy ones that we solve, the ones where, you know, somebody’s embezzled some money. So-and a lot of those guys were ex-jocks too and I think Peter’s an ex-jock.”

I was able to ask Tim which one of his character’s personality traits he is best able to relate with and he claims:

“Loves to solve a good case. I love that. I used to watch Columbo with my dad and used to try to be ahead of it. You know, it’s always fun to be ahead of-I love any espionage movie, any spy movie. Like, oh, no, why did they-why did they cut to that guy? Oh, he shouldn’t have told her that. He said that because he really means this and-I love that. And, I think-and there’s a joy that Peter has in solving the crimes. You know, there’s a little-that’s why he works late, because he loves it.”

Tim also goes to state when asked details about the relationship between his and Matt’s characters that he doesn’t feel like Peter will ever truly trust Neil and that is what is key to the tension between the two characters. It will certainly keep things interesting, while they can work well together; the trust is something that will surely have to be built up along the way. It has been stated that Tim has wonderful on-screen chemistry with Tiffani Thiessen who plays his wife Elizabeth, here are his thoughts on the casting:

“It was, the second we met, it was there. The casting director we both knew very well. And, so I think the cast-and the casting director said nice things about ourselves to the other person and it was just there. It was there and she’s a pro. I mean, she is a pro. She knows her work and does it well and she’s married, I’m married, there’s a nice-there’s a comfort there. There’s a good-there’s a comfort there. I mean, in my past show, it was intense, the relationship stuff that I had to do in Tell Me You Love Me. So, it’s-I really enjoy doing this, it’s not nearly as intense as that.”

When asked about the future of Peter and Elizabeth’s relationship and if there is going to be any change Tim says:

“No, I don’t think so. I think it’s important that they stay grounded and happy. I mean, there may be positive changes to their relationship”

And as for the addition of children:

“I don’t know, I don’t know. They’ll remain grounded and good. There will be conflict of course with-you’ll never question anything. Although this is a fun episode, Peter has to go undercover and kind of flirt with somebody, yeah, and he does-he’s not good at it.”

Tim also claims that he is definitely more romantic than Peter, in fact, he is a hopeless romantic! He says, “I love romantic comedies, I love-probably one of my favorite movies is, It’s a Wonderful Life. Oh, yeah, oh, I’m a sap.”