Date: October 12, 2009
The USA Network is welcoming some new characters to its successful cable fold with the new series White Collar, which will premiere on Friday, October 23 at 10 PM ET on the USA Network. The two stars of the show are Matt Bomer, who portrays the criminal Neal Caffrey, and Tim Dekay, who plays Peter Burke, the FBI agent who catches him and forms a unique partnership with, using Caffrey’s criminal mind to help put away other criminals. Bomer and Dekay recently held a conference call where they discussed their new series, and here’s what they had to say.
Matt, I was wondering, what made you want to be a part of this show?
Matt Bomer: I think I wanted to be a part of this show because when I read the role I thought the writing was incredibly intelligent and I thought Jeff Eastin had a really excellent handle on all the characters. His characters were really well drawn out. They were very three-dimensional. They were intelligent but they also had shadowier aspects of their characters. And I like the mix of really intelligent procedural with really character driven scenes. And what I responded to about Neal was the fact that he wasn’t just the smooth slick con artist. He was also very kind of childish in a really fun way. He was always testing his boundaries with Peter and seeing what he could get away with. And ultimately he was a romantic at heart. And everything that motivated his collaboration with the FBI, it was all motivated by his love for Kate. And I thought that was fun, that would be fun to play.
Tim, did you find there was instant chemistry when you began working with the cast or did it take a bit of time to develop?
Tim Dekay: Instant chemistry. There was instant chemistry. Matt had been cast before I had. And I went and did a chemistry read with him and I thought oh, I think this might be mine to lose. So that was great. And then when Tiffani came in she – it was wonderful. I was cast before Tiffany was. So then I got to read with a number of different women for the role. And as soon as she walked in I thought oh, I think that could be my pretend wife which doesn’t suck. So yes I was – I found myself in a lucky position.
Matt, what do you find challenging about the role?
Matt Bomer: The challenging thing for me is really the speed at which the process of shooting a TV series in seven days moves and really trying to make sure you flush out all the aspects of your character that you can and all of the story points in every episode. But I think the most challenging thing in terms of just the character was really figuring out what was underneath the front of the cool, slick Grace under pressure demeanor that Neal has and what motivated him to want the better things in life.
Is there any chance you might make a reappearance on Chuck this season?
Matt Bomer: I would love to make a reappearance on Chuck. I have no idea how that is going to work out scheduling-wise. It’s something I’ve been in a dialogue with about the creators. But if everything were to align properly I would – nothing would make me happier.
One of the things I really liked was the dynamic between your characters. You know, in a lot of shows it would have been more I guess antagonistic. I would have been more I guess snarky. And I guess I was pleasantly surprised at the level at which they sort of got along with each other. Moving forward, what can we expect from this relationship?
Tim Dekay: They get married in episode – no. What? What comes up? Just more of that. And it’s interesting as actors, that’s what Matt and I keep asking the writers. Just give us more of the two of us in a stake out scene or something like that where we’re kind of stuck in four walls together. I think there’s more of that. What’s interesting is the way these two solve a puzzle. They each – I think they each respect that they can tell that the other one is very good at solving a problem be it a crime, a caper, a puzzle. They don’t necessarily look at it from the same way but they both realize that they each love the hunt.
Matt Bomer: One of the things we fight for in every episode and Jeff does a great job of writing is the fact that we really respect each other’s intelligence. There’s no – it’s not like Tim is the bumbling FBI agent and I’m the genius con artist. We’re both hopefully the smartest guys in the room and our certain qualities that other – that, you know, Peter has that Neal doesn’t complement his style of problem-solving. And so ultimately they form kind of a good team that way. And that’s something we really try to flesh out in every episode.
Tim Dekay: And on there I think throughout it all — and it was certainly there in the pilot — down at the bottom of this these two guys like each other. They just – sometimes Neal drives Peter crazy because he does things that aren’t – don’t necessarily go with the law. But there’s a heart that underlies all this that I think that I’m glad that you saw.
You know, obviously television viewership is kind of in a weird state now, but it seems like the more, I guess the networks are losing viewers, the more cable is gaining viewers. And on top of that it seems like, you know, many of the best shows in television right now are on cable. Are you guys happy to be on USA?
Matt Bomer: I’m over the moon about it I mean for the simple fact just to start with that the motto of the network is Characters Welcome which for an actor is kind of a dream come true. And they’re really on a roll. I think, you know, I’m not surprisingly anybody when I say the Bonnie Hammer obviously really knows what she’s doing. And they’ve been so supportive of us. And it’s not like they do 15 pilots a year so they really have taken the time to nurture us and get behind us. And that always feels good as an actor as well. And, you know, I think it’s just – I think cable and the 13 episode arc is just – is a really great place to be as an actor.
Tim Dekay: Yes, it goes to that same thing of characters welcome or actors. So it’s always great to be on a network that says, you know, characters. That’s a big part of it and it’s fun to do that. And I also think there is something to say for doing the, I’ll say under 20 season. I think writers might also say it’s beneficial to them. I’m not quite sure but yes, it’s wonderful working for USA.
Story-wise, the fact that, you know, Matt, you’re character’s going to still be seeking out his girlfriend Kate, is that kind of a thread that’s going to go through the whole first season or is it just a few episodes or how is that going to work or at least what can you tell us?
Matt Bomer: It – I can say that it plays out over the course of the first season. That was a little vague wasn’t it? Well I can say one of the things that really attracted me to the role was that, you know, he wasn’t just this smooth slick con artist out for money. Ultimately what motivates really the entire performance and the pilot and what continues to motivate him through the season is he’s collaborating with the FBI in order to try to find the love of his life on the side which is Kate. And over the course of the first season he gets little glimpses and gets – takes steps closer and closer to her and starts to slowly unravel the mystery of where she is and what’s happening to her and starts to find out if there’s hope of them getting together again.
Tim, you and Tiffani have a really nice chemistry and I like that relationship. Does she get involved with the cases and gets a little more action as the series goes along?
Tim Dekay: Thanks for saying that about the chemistry. She does. I mean I think Elizabeth is somewhat Peter’s consigliere. She helps him look at problems that he has in his work through different lenses. And she does help every so often. And she’s wonderful. The role of Elizabeth is wonderful and certainly Tiffani is wonderful. Yes, you’ll see more of her.
Matt Bomer: She’s you’re immanence mauve.
Tim Dekay: She – whoa, she is.
Matt Bomer: Yes. Because Peter always said mauve before she came in.
Tim, what – if there are anything what kind of things do you share with Neal? Is there – is he anything like you or anything not like you or…
Tim Dekay: You mean that I share with Peter, the…
Peter, I’m sorry. I’m sorry.
Tim Dekay: That’s all right. What do we share that’s similar? That’s a good question. I think we’re both ex-jocks. And I think, you know, what? My home life’s pretty good. I’ve got to say I’ve got a great wife. I think, you know what? The biggest thing, here’s the biggest thing that he and I share is that we both love to solve a case. It’s a blast to solve a case. But I do that too. I – it reminds me of when I was a kid watching I don’t know like old with Basil Rathbone. I’m dating myself. These were reruns — didn’t see the originals. Sherlock Holmes. I just loved trying to solve the case before the show did or before the book solved it for me, yes.
And Matt, what about you? What about with your character? Do you share anything or are you completely opposites or…
Matt Bomer: Yes. Well there’s certain things we share and there are certain things that are diametrically opposite. I would say we share the fact that we’re both romantics at heart. I think what motivates Neal certainly throughout the first season is his love and his search for the love of his life. I think we’re both competitive and interested. And I certainly have moments in my life where I like to test boundaries with people. And I think Neal specializes in that. I think where we’re diametrically opposite is if I ever try to pull anything off or, you know, lie to anybody or be untrue about something, I always get busted. I can’t get away with anything. So it’s fun for me to vicariously get to play out a certain level of success in those types of endeavors.
Tim Dekay: But Matt, you’ve also been wanted by the FBI for at least…
Matt Bomer: That’s true. And I have a 200 IQ.
You all were talking about the 13 episode versus the 20 episode. It’s kind of a love/hate thing with a lot of television viewers because they obviously want to see more of you, you know, in your characters. And but of course the episodes we do see are very, very great, you know, and they’re very, very – people love them. They’re very tight. As an actor of course it’s less work but, you know, do you sit on the fence as well, I mean of wanting to do more but maybe not?
Matt Bomer: I, you know, personally, it’s not necessarily a preference, just a matter of how good you could make the material. I think television especially is really a writer’s medium. So if you can focus on a really tight 13 as opposed to a really spread out 22. If you can do a tight 22, that’s fantastic. But I think when you have less episodes to do the same arc, I think you, as a writer, you’re probably given a lot more leeway and you’re given a lot more to play with in every episode. So as an actor to get that in the writing and to see it come through in the writing is a little bit more rewarding in my experience so far.
What would you like television viewers to take from this show after each episode or even after the season ends? What would you like them to take away from it?
Tim Dekay: I would like them to take away a desire to see more. It’s – you know, people ask me what’s the show – what can you say about the show? I think it’s fun. I think it’s smart and I like that it’s solving a caper almost more than a crime. There’s a snap to it all. And you don’t see – there’s hardly any violence. You never see a murder I don’t think. You might see the victim after the murder but there’s even a little glamour to that. But it’s – I think it’s a fun hour.
Matt Bomer: What’s fun and unique about this show for me is that it’s a really intelligent tight procedural but character is really given – brought to the forefront. And the relationships are really fun and active and alive and changing. And I hope people tune in really especially the dynamic of Neal and Peter’s relationship and just see them as two guys that they want to spend an hour with because they know they’re going to get to solve a really fun case and have a lot of fun doing it.
You can watch Matt Bomer and Tim Dekay when White Collar premieres on Friday, October 23 at 10 PM ET on the USA Network.