The Boys of Summer

Source: TV Guide Magazine
Date: June 21, 2010

Admit it. You like to watch.

The way ex-con Neal Caffrey charms his way to FBI immunity on White Collar. The sex appeal of Miami ex-spy Michael Westen on Burn Notice. The Long Island princesses who say “Ahhh” to Dr. Hank Lawson on Royal Pains. Yes, characters are welcome — but you watch USA Network because someone somewhere is always scheming, punching, backstabbing or slipping naked into a ridiculously expensive pool.

Primetime’s guiltiest pleasures? Oh, yeah. But they’re also three of cable’s most popular shows, and TV Guide Magazine kicked back with the three dudes who star in them. In a breezy oceanfront house in Malibu, White Collar’s Matt Bomer, Burn Notice’s Jeffrey Donovan: and Royal Pain’s Mark Feuerstein: hung around after our cover shoot for some freewheeling, chest-thumping, my-show-is-bigger-than-yours guy talk.

So, do you watch each other’s shows?
Donovan: Hate ‘em both.
Bomer: Wait. Why? I love your show.
Feuerstein: I do, too!
Donovan: It’s because both you guys are better looking than me and your shows are getting more successful than mine. Other than that, the shows are great. Never miss them. The funny thing is, people talk about all three shows as a set. They’ve all got pretty skies, cool locations, foxy women and our characters are always figuring out how to solve things.
Feuerstein: With duct tape.
Bomer: Without our shirts on.

Is it written into your contracts that you have to go shirtless a certain number of times?
Feuerstein: Hank’s only done it twice.
Bomer: Neal did it twice, too.
Donovan: Everybody thinks we do it a lot but I only did it twice during the second season and not once last season or this season. So far.
Feuerstein: Perhaps the memory of Michael Westen’s bare chest is so ingrained in the American psyche, it feels as if you are always doing it.
Donovan: Please note that during this interview, Mark has his shirt off.
Bomer: And for the record, I’m doing dumbbell flys right now.

What’s new for your shows this season?
Bomer: We’re focusing on a lot of the things people responded to last season, mostly the relationships. We expand on Neal’s relationship with Peter. Neal dealing with the Kate aftermath. He’s determined to find the people who killed her in the plane explosion from our last episode.
Feuerstein: That was such a cool finale.
Bomer: It was really tough, actually. When we shot that scene, I started profusely sobbing. It wasn’t anything I planned or expected. But I was inconsolable. I think it’s because I had worked something like 93 days in a row and everything was about getting to Kate, and then the moment came and—baboom!
Donovan: These shows are like that. Each season on Burn Notice, we’ve tried to top ourselves—bigger explosions, bigger casts, bigger guest characters, but we still only shoot our episodes in seven days. So it’s all about packing each scene with as much intensity and action, comedy and drama as possible. But this season, we have a new character, Jesse Porter, played by Coby Bell from Third Watch. He’s a spy. He gets burned just like Michael Westen so Michael tries to help him get back in. It’s a new dynamic for the show because for three years it was the Sam, Fi and Mike show. Now it’s Sam, Fi, Mike and New Guy. And that’s good because we don’t know how to deal with the new guy, so awkwardness ensues.

Royal Pains has a new guy, too. What’s it like having the Fonz play your dad?
Feuerstein: Henry Winkler plays a hustler and a cad who took all our money. But he is truly the nicest guy in Hollywood. I was such a huge Happy Days fan.
Donovan: (shaking his head) Don’t do it, man.
Feuerstein: Don’t do what?
Donovan: Don’t say ‘Aaaaaaay’ to the Fonz. Or did you already? You know he must get that a hundred times a day.
Feuerstein: Oh, he loves it. I’m trying to get him to introduce me to Ralph and Potsie.

How do you account for the cult popularity of your shows?
Donovan: Do cults like our shows?
Feuerstein: I have to say the network as a whole does a great job putting these shows together. It’s like they’ve found the sweet spot of cable television’s newfound power. There’s nothing on TV quite like these shows. If you’re on a network show, it’s either some wacky sitcom or a drama where you’re servicing a procedure. On USA you get to be a little funny, a little serious, a little wacky, a little sexy.
Donovan: And kick some serious butt.

Since you mention it, one Burn Notice promo goes, “Michael Westen has been blown up, punched, kicked, slapped, chased, sliced, kidnapped, ambushed, shot, and of of course, burned.” Aren’t you sore?
Donovan: It’s taking it’s toll. I blew out my arm the first year. I cut my arm second season. Third season, an explosion burned my eyebrows off. This season I got a herniated disc. [Turns to Feuerstein:] Now, when you grab a scalpel, do you ever, like, pull your wrist?
Feuerstein: So far so good.
Donovan: Or when you flip off your surgical apron, do you ever pull your back?
Feuerstein: OK, OK. I get it. I’m sorry Hank doesn’t get to run through a field of mortars every week.
Donovan: And Matty, when you straighten your tie and wink, did you ever pull an eye muscle?
Bomer: No, but I did almost get killed by a fan when I was crossing the street.
Seriously? Nice fan.
Bomer: I know! I’m walking and this car runs me off the side of the road [makes braking sound] and they go, “Oh, sorry. We thought you were Neal Caffrey,” and I was like, “Um, no, I’m Matt,” and they peeled out.
Feuerstein: That’s way more exciting than what I get. I get the big fat guy in Yonkers going, “Hey yo, Dr. Hank. I broke my arm. Can ya help me out over here, bro?”

OK, let’s do a speed round. Guiltiest TV pleasures?
Feuerstein: Celebrity Rehab and Sober House. And, oh, man! The Hills! It’s like watching a show about a show where the characters are all screwed up by the show they’re on. It’s so meta — and kinda scary.
Bomer: I watch Dateline.
Feuerstein: What’s wrong with Dateline?
Bomer: Well, nothing, but I have a morbid fascination with that guy Keith Morrison’s sardonic tone when he’s talking about people being murdered with an ax for a life-insurance policy. I find that entertaining. OK, I admit it.
Donovan: You’re right, that’s sick.
Feuerstein: [To Donovan:] What about you, Mr. Highbrow?
Donovan: Oh well, as long as we’re all in the USA Network family. I can confess I’m a huge fan of the original Silk Stalkings [wails the theme song].

Worst summer jobs?
Bomer: I worked on a gas pipeline with my brother from Texas all the way up to Ohio. It was a great way to make a lot of money, but it was brutal, hot as a terrarium. A lot of awful buffets in small towns. Hacking through dense brush with machetes in Louisiana, and once we almost stepped on a baby deer.
Donovan: I once got paid $2 an hour to scrape the gunk off the bottom of desks in school.
Feuerstein: I was the worst pool cleaner in the history of Westchester County, New York. I left the backwash hoses on one time, and the Silver family’s entire pool flooded onto their lawn. Trucks had to come refill it. They fired me. I think I still owe the company $2,000.

Coolest thing about your characters?
Bomer: Neal Caffrey’s style. He works in the upper echelon of society, and he’s got the uniform that earns him membership in that club. I’ve borrowed a thing or two from him. People treat you differently when you dress well. It’s very old Hollywood. Cary Grant didn’t shlump it, and neither does Neal.
Feuerstein: Hank’s medical skills, though I’m dreading the day someone turns to me for actual help. I’m literally just going to sprint out of the room.
Donovan: Because of Michael Westen, I’m getting to throw the first ball out at the Fenway Park on July 3.
Feuerstein: That’s so cool. Hey, Matt and I got to open the NASDAQ recently. That was fun.
Bomer: Yeah, and it dropped like 700 points!