Matt Bomer collars big audience on cable

Source: Sioux City Journal
Date: July 8, 2011

Matt Bomer is so handsome you wonder if he was engineered, not born.

Dig beneath the model looks and you realize he’s not just a good-looking guy, he’s a really good actor.

The tailored look he sports in public? It’s just a matter of respect, he says. “I think you need to dress nice when you go to talk to people about your show.”

The show — “White Collar” — has generated a lot of buzz, largely because Bomer is such a charismatic leading man. He plays a con artist who partners with an FBI agent to solve crimes.

Like “Remington Steele,” the USA series gives its star a great launching pad — one that has translated into film work and occasional hosting gigs.

While filling in for Kathie Lee Gifford on the “Today” show, Bomer even sang, revealing yet another color in his box. Performing on the Kennedy Center Honors, he wowed audiences with a tribute to Jerry Herman.

“It was an amazing experience,” Bomer says. “I think the last time I sang on stage was 10 years ago.”

More layers to reveal? “I just do my work and live my life. There’s always that volume knob of people’s voices and speculation. But I found you can turn it as low as you want. I have a great family and people in my life. I don’t focus on other parts of the business.”

Indeed, Bomer was pretty insulated from Hollywood while growing up in Houston. His parents didn’t let him go to many movies, so the ones he did see became obsessions. “I’d inhabit a character until I saw another one. That accessed part of my imagination.”

After “E.T.,” he says, he asked his mother for a hoodie and became a character in the film. In middle school, he participated in forensics. In high school, he acted in plays.

Additionally, he performed at Houston’s Alley Theatre, then went to Carnegie Mellon University where he got a bachelor of fine arts degree. Moving to New York, he landed roles in both “All My Children” and “Guiding Light.”

Then, prime time television came calling. Before “White Collar,” he had a pivotal role on “Chuck.”

But now? He’s more than grazing the radar.

“So many things are zeitgeist dependent,” Bomer says. “It’s how they’re marketed, what kind of love they’re given, who’s in control.

“Sometimes shows appear before their time. As an actor, all you can control is what you do.”

Surprisingly, Bomer didn’t always think about acting as a career. “I wanted to go to Northwestern and become a serious journalist,” he says. “But I think there was some divine hand leading another way.”

Now, he says, “White Collar” is his home base. “I get to leave the nest and do things here and there.”

Among them: a film with Justin Timberlake called “In Time.” In it, he plays a “JFK Jr. type who’s really depressive.”

“That gives me some variety so I’m not pigeon-holed as con artists and swindlers.”

It also plays on those looks in a good way. Although Bomer knew he’d probably be shirtless at some point in “White Collar,” “we fought really hard to postpone that as much as possible. Now, if it’s organic to the scene or the moment, we’ll do it. But if it’s indulgent? Well…”

His voice trails off.

Because he photographs so well, magazines are quick to ask him to model. “They rightfully believe the trade-off is you and your show get publicity.”

He’s fine with that. But when the cameras aren’t focused in his direction, Bomer is hardly one to obsess over labels. “I’m a creature of comfort,” he says. “When I’m around the house, it’s jeans, T-shirts, old jackets.

“I feel comfortable in old clothes — anything that has gotten me through a traumatic experience I hold on to.”

Now, he’s just looking to do good work. “I’ve never cared about how successful or how big I was going to be. I just wanted to be part of a story that affected people, made them laugh or cry. To me, that was more important than having my face on some billboard.”