• The Nifty 50 | Matt Bomer, Actor

    Source: The New York Times
    Date: January 29, 2010

    Clothes maketh the con man. Just ask Matt Bomer, the criminally handsome actor who plays Neil Caffrey, the master scam artist turned F.B.I. consultant on USA Network’s breakout dramedy, “White Collar.”

    Bomer’s character struts around, unraveling the lies of the rich and famous, in slim-line, single-breasted Devoré suits (in the script they’re vintage threads made by Sinatra’s tailor), club-collar shirts, Dapper Don accessories and a fedora.

    “Neil’s expertise is maneuvering through the upper echelons of society,” Bomer says, “and there is a certain uniform for navigating these waters smoothly. So his look is somewhere between the Rat Pack and Marcello Mastroianni, with a bit of Jack Kerouac’s swagger thrown in for good measure.”

    In addition to stealing the show in his immaculate retro get-ups, Bomer’s polymath character possesses the kind of sprezzatura that would make even Castiglione proud. “Neil is certainly esoteric,” Bomer says, “from knowing the fibers used in Canadian currency to how to play Pai Gow” — a Chinese domino game — “and using a lot of sleight of hand. He’s an interesting guy.”

    Bomer, who recently sold a script he wrote about a young Nashville songwriter to the CW, could be speaking about himself. Now 32, the Los Angeles resident grew up in Spring, Tex. (His dad is the former Dallas Cowboy John Bomer.) After receiving a B.F.A. from Carnegie Mellon University, he moved to New York, where he did obligatory stints in soaps and musical theater, and had supporting roles in movies like “Flightplan” before landing his own TV shows, “Traveler” and then “Chuck.”

    “I’ve been knocking at the door for a while,” says Bomer, a picture of unstudied American cool in his nondescript jeans, checked shirt and beat-up Red Wing boots. “When I landed the part on ‘White Collar,’ I had briefly been in ‘Grey Gardens’ on Broadway and did the movie ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning,’ so I’m not averse to selling out art for commerce.”

    Besides, he says, his varied filmography is all grist for the mill, exercises in genre that help him to shape the most colorful hustler on TV: “Playing a role successfully and preparing for a con are startlingly similar. You have to know your mark, do all your homework about the character you’re inhabiting in order to pull of your con. And, let’s face it, in this business, people are conning you all the time.”

    “White Collar” is on USA Networks Tuesday nights at 10.