Photo by Eric Liebowitz/USA Network
Tune in to the White Collar midseason premiere on January 18 at 10 p.m. EST/9 p.m. Central on USA.
Q: You have such great chemistry on screen and you seem to get along well off screen. How do you continue to maintain that?
TIM: We went to therapy once a week.
MATT: Couples therapy.
TIM: Yes. It really —
MATT: It’s worth it.
TIM: It is.
MATT: We meet our deductible pretty quick and from there on out it’s just a co-pay and it’s worth it.
TIM: Because we’re both in the union so that helps.
MATT: That helps. That’s good. I think Tim is inherently a generous person and very generous of spirit and he brings a real sense of play to the work. I try to do the same. I know he lifts me up on my off days and—
TIM: Oh, and you lift me up on my off days. No, listen. We have a blast. We have fun together, but in the end, we respect each other. I mean as far as the work is concerned. It’s just like any other relationship, if you don’t have that then there is no ground to it.
Q: Do you think the working relationship between Peter and Neal could really exist within the FBI?
TIM: My technical consultant, Tom Barton, he has expressed to both [Executive Producer] Jeff Eastin and me certainly relationships like this [do exist]. To the extent that the CI or Criminal Informant just comes into the house and pours a bowl of cereal, I don’t know if it goes that far. But Tom certainly has talked about how he’s received Christmas cards from people in prison that he’s worked with. That’s where Jeff’s inspiration came from. Who knows? Maybe there is a relationship like that out there.
Q: Do you think that Peter is more understanding or appreciating of the art of the con and is Neal seeing more of the wisdom of doing things legally?
MATT: I hope so. I think that’s the long-term trajectory certainly in Neal’s character, is starting to see the benefit that his expertise has in helping the FBI and helping better people’s lives. The great thing about Jeff Eastin’s writing is usually when you think it’s going to go one way you never know what could happen next. I think he is, but I think there is a part — one of his feet is still planted somewhat firmly in the world that skirts the law or the typical moral parameters of getting what you want.
TIM: Really, that’s the crux of the show… That balance going back and forth on that line… That’s what we hope to keep the show living for many seasons.
MATT: My dad used to — whenever we were fishing — he used to say, “Keep your line taut so the fish will bite.” I feel like between Neal and Peter the line always has to be taut. It can never be somebody comfortable, inherently trustful dynamic between them. There is always that tension of the poker game. What are you going to do next? What cards do you have and what are you going to play? Are you going to go the right way this time? Are you going to take your own road?
TIM: Yes, it’s true. To keep that with a poker game, they can be at the table having a beer together and enjoy it, but that tension is always there.
Q: When the show started it was about the two of you and it’s become more of a real ensemble piece. Are you enjoying the fact that you get to work with your co-stars more frequently?
TIM: I certainly do and yet I like that in the end that it’s about Peter and Neal. That’s the base of it. I love it when Elizabeth gets involved with a case and I love that Dianna is back and working on the case. She adds such an intelligence to it.
MATT: Yes and a sexiness.
TIM: I love that Jones is involved more and that Peter and Mozzie have found a way to dance together.
MATT: Yes. I think it makes the day really fun and it has added a lot to the show. It opens up a lot more relationships and we get to work with Hilarie, who brings so much to the table, and Gloria who’s relationship is so different than that of Neal and Peter’s. It breaks things up. It’s more of a window into the character when you see how they behave with a lot of different people. It’s fun to get to explore those relationship dynamics. At the end of the day, for me it always is fun just come back to home base and do a nice Peter and Neal walk and talk down the streets of New York.
Q: Can you talk a little bit about how Neal and Sara’s relationship is going to develop this season? What’s it like having this challenging female character to play off?
MATT: I think it’s fantastic. She brings so much to the role. She’s the real deal. She’s gorgeous, and she’s in it, and she has brought this amazingly intelligent, challenging, super Type-A character to life that Neal finds really intriguing and ultimately on some level I think wants to tame. It’s a really fun dynamic to get to play with her and she’s such a great actress. It’s really moment-to-moment with her, which is always fun and keeps me on my toes. Yes, and she’s gorgeous to boot — a really, really great girl. We have a lot of fun stuff that we get to do with each other and their relationship will grow and there will be a lot of tension there, maybe a little sexual frustration and then maybe some sexual frustration release. I don’t know. I’m just saying maybe.
Q: Now that the show is established, how have things changed, or how would you like to see things change with the development of the characters?
MATT: I don’t really feel like much has changed for me personally other than it’s great to have the support of fans who are interested in the stories we’re all trying to tell, which is amazing and a great feeling. In terms of character, now that we’re starting to really put a lot of major story arcs to bed, I would love to dip into Neal’s past a little bit more and maybe see some of his family members come into play and see what kind of conflicts that brings up between he and Peter. I wouldn’t mind seeing him be a little bit of a man-whore, to use a little bit of the James Bond tactics to maybe do whatever it takes to solve the case.
TIM: I feel as far as character, I think Jeff and the writers have met everything that I had hoped for. The big story arc with the music box was something that I didn’t expect or even see. I find it wonderful. I too, would like to delve into some more of Peter’s background and we did an episode where Jeff and I both went to the University and got into both Peter’s and Neal’s background.
MATT: Oh, yes, your blue collar upbringing —
MATT: — in a White Collar world.
TIM: Those are fun because what it comes down to is I think the more Peter and Neal know about each other actually it strengthens and lengthens the relationship because these two just love to dig. Peter would love to meet a family member of Neal’s. He’d love to sit down and get to know his mom or dad or brother or sister.
MATT: I could go on and on with my ideas, but I think the great thing about having somebody like Jeff at the helm is that you know whatever it is, it’s going to be fun and interesting and well written. You get what you get and you don’t get upset.
TIM: It’s one of the most exciting moments of the week is to crack open that next script.
Q: With so many USA shows out there, which one would you like to cross White Collar over with, and how do you think that would work out?
TIM: I think my immediate response goes to Royal Pains because it’d just be nice to go out to the Hamptons for a few days. Then again, it would be nice to go down to Miami and shoot some things in Miami.
MATT: Yes, I think Burn Notice would be a really natural fit just because of the worlds that our characters live in and inhabit, but to be honest with you, I love all the shows they have. It would be really fun and an honor to get to work with on any of them — to cross over on any of them.
TIM: It’d be fun to do some World Wide Wrestling as well.
MATT: Well, yes, I mean that goes without saying.
MATT: Tim, you’re about to get us into a tag team wrestling match.
TIM: I can you just see me reaching over the ring, “Tag me, tag me, come on.”
MATT: Peter and Neal’s trust dynamic, WWE Wrestling.
Q: What was it like filming your series on location in New York City?
TIM: It’s amazing. I’ve been asked before if this show could be shot somewhere else where would it be and I don’t have an answer, because I’ve never been on a show where the location, the city, is so much of a character. If we shot it somewhere else, it’s as if you’d recast it and this is a character driven show and you couldn’t recast it.
You couldn’t shoot it anywhere else. It’s just a blast to be in the city. We shoot quickly. We shoot in seven days for one episode so we are moving. We are shooting so that we can get a great angle. Russell Fine is fantastic that way. He’s the director of photography and the directors are with him to they make sure we get some gorgeous building in the background for whatever location we find ourselves on. We shoot that and then we move on. We’re at some Gramercy Park the first half of the day and the second half of the day we’re on some dock down at the Bowery. It’s beautiful. I’ve seen parts of New York I never thought I would see.
MATT: Yes. It’s a dream come true. To get to work in New York and see so many amazing locations and interact with New Yorkers in many ways and be a part of such an amazingly metropolitan energy that I think adds a lot to the show. I think it’s the way we shoot the show. As well as the way Russell Fine shoots the show is a real celebration of New York. New York is this gritty place filled with alleys, which there aren’t really alleys in New York City. I hate to burst anyone’s bubble on that, but the way Russell shoots the show is we look up at the city and we sort of celebrate the architecture and the people and the blue sky and the sunshine that’s going on above the buildings as well.
Q: A lot of actors have said they don’t like to watch themselves. Do you watch yourselves on White Collar and other shows?
TIM: I don’t like it, but I think I’ve come to learn, for myself at least, that it is an education for yourself as an actor… to watch the stuff. We’ve got to come back to it. I’ve got to come back to Peter and if I’m watching it and saying, “Oh, okay this works, that doesn’t work.” Because it’s such a group effort this filming, so, “I see they edited the scene that way so that was their intent for this scene. Oh I was right about that. I saw which way they wanted the scene to go and I was right,” and then sometimes you think, “Oh, I missed it on that. This is how they wanted the scene to be seen…" in a different way than I did. I’m not crazy about watching myself, but I feel I have to.
MATT: It fluctuates for me as well. I watched the first season really intently because the learning curve was so steep and so much of that first season was a lot of throwing spaghetti against the wall and seeing what worked and what didn’t and what could I learn as an actor. What part of the character that I was trying to bring out was working and coming through and what wasn’t, but I don’t like to watch myself at all. I try to just do it intermittently when it’s something that I can — it’s not an aesthetic thing or anything it’s just I’m really hard on myself. Sometimes it’s more difficult to watch myself. Every now and again I’ll think, “Oh, let me check it out,” but generally I don’t like to watch myself at all.
For other White Collar stories check out:
Season Two Interview with White Collar's Matt Bomer & Tim DeKay
Jeff Eastin Looks Ahead at White Collar Season 2
USA Takes a Stand Against Discrimination
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