"Matt Bomer and Tim DeKay Discuss <i>White Collar</i>

The two stars of the new USA Network hit talk about the show's return

The USA Network's hit freshman series White Collar just came back with all new episodes this week and will continue airing the last half of its first season on Tuesday nights at 10 PM on USA. Two of the show's stars, Matt Bomer and Tim DeKay, recently held a conference call about what will be in store for the rest of the season on this hit series. Here's what they had to say.

It seems that both Neal and Peter seem to toe the line between right and wrong on the show, especially after seeing the cliffhanger in your fall finale. My question is what types of real life shenanigans have you gotten yourselves into that you can draw inspiration from?

Tim DeKay: I know we only have a little under an hour so I won't be able to go through all of my real-life shenanigans. That's a good question.

Matt Bomer: I snuck my brother's car out of the driveway in the middle of the night and was trying to run over trash cans with it. I was 16 and I got a flat tire and literally tried to go to the gas station to put air back into it. It was nothing but shredded rubber and the rim. I came home and by the time I got home the rubber from the tire was literally slapping on the concrete so loud the entire neighborhood - my dad was waiting for me at the door and my license was revoked for quite some time. I wouldn't say that I have the same kind of criminal savvy that Neal does.

Tim DeKay: Is that a shenanigan?

Matt Bomer: If that's not a shenanigan I don't know what is.

Tim DeKay: That's an excellent shenanigan; I can't top that one.

Tim, the show obviously took a large step, something that you don't always see in a mid-season finale. What did you like about that last scene and what can you tell us about the ramifications as we move into the second half of the first season here?

Tim DeKay: Jeff Eastin approached me with that last scene a couple weeks before he was going to put it on the script. I said, "You're the writer; this sounds exciting, let's go for it." I love the scene and I love the continuation of the scene as well. I think it's some great writing and some great storytelling and very exciting and it's a perfect cliffhanger. That's all I'm going to say about it.

Natalie Morales and Jeff Eastin are both currently on Twitter. In order to get more followers, Jeff was putting out topless pictures of Matt and even offering naked pictures of Matt to get more followers. Are either of you planning to get on the Twitter wagon and, Matt, we want to see more topless pictures of you.

Matt Bomer: If you want to see more topless pictures you can tune into the season finale, as weird as that response was. But no, I will not be joining Twitter any time soon. I just don't think that the day-to-day ramblings of my life would be interesting enough to hold an audience. Tim?

Tim DeKay: I've got quite a few pictures of Matt shirtless. No, I don't have any. But if there is some Web site like, I don't know, Hippie Shirtless or Shirtless Hippie or something like that I was told about as well. I don't Twitter; I don't think most people want to know about my daughter's dance class or Little League baseball. I don't think people would want to hear about where I'm headed or up to.

Some other friends of mine were wondering, that last scene in the aired episode I don't know if you can tell us this or not. Was it a coincidence or was it just a red herring or is there a reason, if you can tell us, that the actress that plays Kate looks an awful lot like with Tiffani-Amber Thiessen?

Tim DeKay: I've been asked that and I never realized that they look alike. Now that it was brought to my attention I do see the similarity, two beautiful women. I think it was, I don't know, maybe the writers have something up their sleeves that I don't know.

As far as you know it's coincidence?

Tim DeKay: I believe so, yes.

The season finale, like everyone's been saying, they had one hell of a twist that I really don't think many people saw coming, if anyone saw it coming. How has this suspicion between the two characters changed the series, as it's been the first half of the season to the last half of the season?

Matt Bomer: I think it actually comes to resolution pretty quickly. It's not something that is as dire as it might seem; it's something that resolves itself relatively quickly in the second half of the season. Ultimately it's one of those things that ends up, I think, really bringing the two characters closer.

I kind of have a thing for both of you, a little bit of background. Over the first half of the season, Neal seems to have been developing a kind of trust in Peter and Peter has become kind of protective of Neal. With that last twist and having seen the second half premiere, it seems like, as you said, things do resolve. Could you speak to the development of each character in regards to the growth of trust and that sense of protectiveness?

Matt Bomer: In terms of trust I think that Peter is the first person in Neal's life that he's really been able to have that with, but I also think it's an interesting dynamic that's always kind of liquid between the two of them given their history and given the fact that Neal's not really ready to jump over to the other side of the moral spectrum immediately. It's something that he's struggling with and it's kind of his journey on the second half of the first season to figure out if I'm going to buckle down and be with the FBI or am I going to do whatever I have to do, legal or not, to find Kate. I think the trust thing is sort of everything in the relationship, but as opposed to normal relationships where it can be a little bit more black and white, in this particular relationship, it can be more liquid. He has more trust for Peter than he's ever had for anybody else.

Tim DeKay: As far as the protection that Peter has for Neal, I like that observation a lot. At first, Peter's protection of Neal was a bit self-centered. He's protecting himself because he made that decision to take this guy out. But as time has gone on he's gotten to know Neal in a different way and is now protecting him because he sees a great potential in this guy. He's protecting him on more than just a professional level.

Matt, what's the most interesting thing you've learned so far in the world of con men?

Matt Bomer: I think the most interesting thing I've learned is how much of it is about just like a good actor does his research on a role and does all the homework he needs to do to know a character inside and out, the amount of work that goes into a skilled con artist's game, the amount of research, the knowledge of the mark and the amount of confidence it takes to pull it off are all really fascinating to me. The similarities to the craft of acting are actually fascinating as well.

You tend to have very distinct fashion styles. I know this sounds like a really wild question to ask especially because it's guys and you're not usually in charge of your wardrobe. Tim, as an FBI agent, you seem to be pretty black suit kind of person, FBI kind of guy. How does the fashion style suit what you actually dress in real life?

Tim DeKay: I think that Stephanie Maslansky, who's the costume designer, and the rest of the wardrobe team do a great job. They put me in mostly Brooks Brothers suits, a couple Burberry suits. For the most part they certainly can't be too flashy. We keep pushing the envelope with ties. That's what Stephanie keeps saying. Every time we get too flashy of a tie we get a note from USA Network. My immediate reaction to this question is the fact that I love wearing a suit because I hardly ever wear a suit in real life. And every time I put on a suit I think I should wear this more often. I like wearing a suit. It heightens wherever I'm headed to. That's why I love putting on a suit for Peter because it puts me in a different world than my own. I used to dress up; my dad teases me. He says this show's haunting me because when I was five years old and I wanted to buy a suit and a fedora and there's a picture of me somewhere like that, I'm leaning up against the coffee table, but kind of in a cool way with my legs crossed and I've got the fedora on. I'm about ready to walk up the street and ask Julie Buchanan if she wanted to take a walk around the block. This all just came back to me right now. That's where it all began, enjoying wearing a suit. Even then I was kind of playing this guy who was certainly not me at five. I don't know if that answers your question.

Matt Bomer: I'm definitely more of a T-shirt and jeans kind of guy. For me, I've learned a lot from Neal's wardrobe. The fun part for me is just that it helps me get into the character. When you dress a certain way especially something as specific as Neal's fascination with the Rat Pack, sort of the Marcello Mastroianni nicely cut suits with the thin ties and stuff like that. It just helps me feel like I'm kind of slipping into the skin of the character and forms the way he moves and things like that. I always like to try to make an effort if I have to dress up nice, but I've definitely learned that you get treated a little bit differently when you're wearing a suit. I'm definitely trying to make the effort to dress up a little bit more.

Tim DeKay: You are trying to do that?

Matt Bomer: I'm trying. On any given day I'm probably in a T-shirt and jeans, but --.

Tim DeKay: I'm trying to do that, too. I think part of it is because when you're in New York and the weather is a factor, you can kind of layer. Maybe I'll wear this certain kind of overcoat or sweater. In L.A. it's just what T-shirt, long sleeve or short sleeve. The other thing that I've noticed with the wardrobe that they give Matt is just, I'll be the first to say it, they're going to trap themselves because he can only wear a certain kind of suit because it comes from June's closet. I was so wrong with that. It's unbelievable the variations of suits and ties and outfits that they've given Matt to wear.

Matt Bomer: I think it's so cool.

You have such great chemistry onscreen we were wondering what your off screen relationship is like and if you spend a lot of time hanging out together.

Matt Bomer: We always have fun and I can't remember a day we have not been laughing and having a good time. I'm going to go out on a limb and speak for both of us and say that we both have been in the business long enough to appreciate what we've got going on this show and the fact that we like to work with each other so much and the fact that we have a network behind us. Thankfully so far people have been watching so I think we realize; we're grateful for every day we get to work together. That's certainly how I feel. It's just been easy and fun from day one for me. Tim is just a great guy, the kind of actor you feel really safe working with because he just sort of says yes to whatever you bring to the table and then goes with it.

Tim DeKay: That's the way I feel about Matt, to be honest with you. I really do. It is true, but even more importantly, Matt told me that I'm a good singer. I haven't heard that in a long time. Matt complimented me; he said that I can hold onto the melody while he harmonizes, which I never knew was a difficult thing to do. Now I feel like I've got that in my back pocket.

Matt Bomer: It's true.

Tim DeKay: Here's the thing. You can ask; I'll speak for both of us on this one as well, which echoes what Matt is saying. In order to be able to work with somebody in acting, it's going to sound judgmental and I hope it doesn't, but you've first got to think that person's a good actor before you can enjoy working with them. I guess that goes with the trust. I like this person, the way they work; I think they're a good actor. Great, that is done now we can just go from there and see what happens and listen and play together.

Matt Bomer: Agreed.

My question has to do with the character of Neal. He's definitely so far a likable bad guy kind of person. I was wondering what you thought personally about the character of Neal, what you didn't like and what you do like about him.

Matt Bomer: I think you always have to be your character's defense attorney. As an actor you have to find what's likable about them and you have to empathize with them enough that you understand why they do what they do. I never really judge anything he did, but what I like about the character was that he wasn't a goody-two-shoes and he didn't just jump over to the other side of the law and become a good guy. I like the fact that he struggles with it and that he's human and that he has real Achilles' heel in terms of his sloppy romantic life. That's where he makes bad decisions. For me those are the really fun parts of the character to get to play.

Tim DeKay: I've always liked Neal. I think Peter has always liked Neal. I'm looking through Peter's glasses as well. I'm sometimes jealous of Neal. Peter can get jealous of that kind of life and sometimes doesn't understand it. Not jealous that he breaks the law, but jealous that he has that carefree attitude that he can walk in a place with his hat on and be free about that. There's something that Peter can't quite, that's just not in him. He wishes he had it. Peter likes Neal a lot and I think that's a big part of what keeps Peter rooting for Neal when maybe he shouldn't on the surface.

My question's more on the writing side, wanting to pick your brain as actors. As actors, when you go through the process of trying to determine what your character is like and trying to get the back story, could you explain a little bit about how script can inspire your performance?

Matt Bomer: I think your text is everything; it's what informs you; it's what gives you the given circumstances. Then you take that and you add your own creativity and your own spin on things and you make it personal. That's what makes that character and that text unique to you, when you personalize it. I think that's where your job as an actor comes in. The text is everything especially in TV, which is really a writer's medium.

Tim DeKay: I agree. The text and the words simply have to inspire you. If they don't it's an awful, awful battle that is not fun. If they inspire you it's great, you fly. If they don't you spend much of your time justifying what has been written for you. Fortunately that's not the case here. The words are great; we get to fly off of them.

I just wanted to know what we can expect out of the rest of the season. Can you tell us?

Matt Bomer: Even more car accidents, lots of violence.

Tim DeKay: A lot of death scenes. I think the Martians come back.

Matt Bomer: They do. I think the intelligent procedurals continue, what I like to think of as intelligent procedurals as well as a lot of character development. In terms of my character, a lot of the stuff is coming to fruition that happened in the cliffhanger gets ironed out between me and Peter. Then my character really starts having to make the decision, is he going to operate for the law or is he going to do whatever it takes, against the law, operating outside of the legal system, to find Kate. That's his struggle in the second half. He starts to push those boundaries a little bit more.

I wanted to know because now the show's airing on a different day and time. I'm so curious about actors, how they feel when a show switches a day and time, if there was a particular reason in this case why it did. Even if there wasn't, if it were due to programming differences, how does that have an effect on you? Does it become nerve-wracking? Do you get nervous to see how the show's going to do in a different time slot?

Tim DeKay: It doesn't become nerve wracking. A lot of that business stuff and the decisions that come from that certainly come into your brain. You don't want to hear about it because you know, I know my job is to be an actor and to be in the show and to play the role. I have to say it's nice when your boss at the network continues to say they're behind you and they feel that they'll get more viewers if they move to Tuesday night instead of Friday. When moves like that are made you feel that they have great confidence in you. Whenever somebody else has confidence in you, the person who hired you, you feel they have confidence in you, it does give you more confidence as well.

Matt Bomer: I agree and would just say in the hands of another network it might be worrisome, but I think USA does a really incredible at marketing their shows and making sure their audience knows that there's a time change coming. As an actor it's important to understand what you're in control of, as Tim was saying. That's our work and showing up and doing the best we can when the cameras are rolling. The rest of that stuff we have to trust and leave to the professionals. I trust that they know what they're doing.

I want to know if you have a favorite moment from shooting the episodes that are upcoming that you could share with us.

Tim DeKay: There are so many favorite moments. The scene that I did with Kate was exciting because it just was very different for Peter. I think there are some really fun, on the set and with the writers, we call them Peter/Neal moments where it's just the two of them. Those are the ones I enjoy greatly. You'll see Peter go undercover a couple times, a few times, I think, in the second half of the season. He's good at it; not as good as Neal.

Can you give us a typical day on the set of White Collar, what you do and everything that goes on.

Tim DeKay: The typical day starts very early. You get there and you get your breakfast and then we shoot about anywhere from seven to ten pages a day. We try to, depending on where we are. Sometimes we're on location; sometimes we're on the set. For the stages we have the FBI offices, Neal's apartment, Peter's apartment, Peter's home. Sometimes they'll build something else as well then everything else is on location. So half the day we may be on the stages and then the other half we have to go to some location. Then you're dealing with these New Yorkers who want to be part of the movie or some cabbie's mad at you because you're taking up his street that he's supposed to be driving down and we're not supposed to be shooting. It's a good, exciting 12 to 14-hour day. It's gorgeous. It's amazing how many wonderful locations we've been to and how many homes. Every time I walk into one of these homes I just think really, somebody lives here in what looks like a museum? It's astounding how many gorgeous, six-story homes are right in Manhattan, just astounding.

I think that would, with the cliffhanger that it has, is there going to be any sort of disruption with the supporting cast as far as their reaction to what happened, like Mozzie or Elizabeth? Will they be caught up in --?

Tim DeKay: That's a good question. They will become part of that. They will become part of, let me say, not to get any spoilers out there, but they'll become part of answering that cliffhanger, yes. That's a good question. Everybody gets involved. It becomes a big family affair.

That's great because I think one of the things about the show that makes it good is that connection he has with the people in his life; he's not just contained in his work. I that it's interesting how he has kind of a darker side, would you say?

Tim DeKay: Yes. You'll see, but to that I think all four characters - Neal, Peter, Mozzie and Elizabeth - as the season progresses you see all four of them mingling together in a certain way. It's great. I think it's one of the reasons why the show's so special; it's about the characters. The writers always write some very smart procedural, but really, it's about how these characters are going to solve that crime. Not so much about you want to see the crime solved; you want to see how they're going to solve it.

How do you think the series would change if roles were reversed, if Matt played the agent and you played the con man?

Tim DeKay: I don't know. We've never had that question, I don't think. When we shot the pilot friends of mine would ask me what I was doing. I would say I'm shooting a pilot about this con artist who helps out this FBI agent solve crimes. Most of my friends would say, "You're playing the con artist, right?" It would be interesting. That would be fun. You just may have given us an idea for an episode where Neal has to play the FBI agent and Peter has to wear the fedora and be the cool ex con artist. Who knows. What do I think would happen? Honestly I think parts of the show would be very much the same. It would still be Matt and me working together. You have stumped me on that one. That's a good one; I'll have to think more about that. One of the reasons I couldn't imagine that is because I feel that the two of us, the roles fit us, I believe. We certainly enjoy playing these roles. I'm speechless on that one; I'll have to think about that and get back to you.

There's a scene in Tuesday's episode where you're actually out trap shooting. I wanted to ask Matt how long he practiced that because we didn't get to really see you do it. Is there anything coming up at the tail end of the season, anything that sort of takes you out of your element that Peter attempts to do for the first time? We've seen Neal have a lot of that kind of fun, but not so much Peter.

Tim DeKay: Peter has to go undercover as a massage therapist, chiropractor. That was fun. There's a bit more action in the second half of the season, but I've always enjoyed doing action. I wanted to do skeet shooting. I'd just done it for the first time in Maine this past summer. I was all ready to show the boys how to do it.

I'm really glad I had a question specifically for you. Your resume is really impressive and you have worked with a lot of really talented people throughout the span of your career. I was wondering if there is anyone that stands out to you that you thought would be a good guest star for White Collar or maybe what role you could see them potentially filling.

Tim DeKay: That's a great question. That is fantastic and I feel that if I gave you ten people I'd hang up the phone and say oh, my gosh I didn't mention this person. This person would have been great, let alone all the people that I did theater with. Let me answer this. I go back to actors on Carnivale --.

... play favorites. It's okay; I won't tell anyone.

Tim DeKay: ... you won't tell anyone; you'll write it though. It won't come out of your mouth; it'll come out of your fingertips onto your computer.

Details, details.

Tim DeKay: I'm on to you. I play an FBI agent; I know these things. You can't get that by me.

Fair enough; I tried.

Tim DeKay: You did try. There could be scores of people. That would be a dream of mine to have all these different people that I've worked with come and guest star. That would be a dream.

You can watch Matt Bomer and Tim DeKay on the brand new episodes of the second half of White Collar's first season, which airs on Tuesday nights at 10 PM ET on the USA Network.