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TV Junkie Interview: Matt Bomer of USA's 'White Collar' - It's 'White Collar' Night at PaleyFest Tonight!
Matt Bomer plays Neal Caffrey on USA's "White Collar" which airs at 10pm on Tuesdays. "White Collar" is the PaleyFest2011 event for tonight - 7pm at the Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills.
We first met Matt Bomer in October of 2009 on a frigid morning in New York City at the premiere event for USA's "White Collar" (read the article/see the video here) and we can't believe a year and a half has gone by since we first asked questions about the partnership between Bomer's sophisticated criminal Neal Caffrey and the lawman he's teamed up with, Tim DeKay's Peter Burke. Many capers later, and well into an excellent new season, we had the chance to catch up with Bomer over breakfast a few weeks ago and he filled us in a bit more on his background in theater and his experiences with the show which shoots in New York but has a great following in Los Angeles.Coincidentally, "White Collar" is the featured program at tonight's PaleyFest2011 event at the Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills at 7pm. Go here for more info and tickets. We went to PaleyFest's "The Walking Dead" and "True Blood" events over the weekend and were blown away by the fans and enthusiasm for the shows. You can submit questions to the cast via the Paley Center for Media's website or feel free to send me some via Twitter to ask on the red carpet at tonight's event: shoot me a question at @TheTVJunkie with the #WhiteCollar and #PaleyFest hashtags.
The TV Junkie: It's interesting to know that you're friends withBen McKenzie (from TNT's "SouthLAnd") who is an alumnus with you from the Williamstown Theatre Festival in Massachusetts.
Matt Bomer: I think there's a strong group of people who have that theater background, who came from that and who want to go back to it. We have a common bond, a common vocabulary. I have a lot of friends who are of that ilk. I have a lot of friends who aren't but [the ones that are from theater] are fun people to have creative dialogue with because you came from the same place.
The TV Junkie: It's where you are from, you have an affinity, that shared experience.
Matt Bomer: Yes! That affinity based on shared epxerience.
The TV Junkie: What has changed the most, in your work with "White Collar" over the past season and a half?
Matt Bomer: I'm a lot more tired! [Laughs]. I'm sorry, I cut you off.
The TV Junkie: The things that was most apparent to me, the thing that was the most incredibly solid from the beginning [of the series], is the dialogue. The way you and Tim DeKay do dialogue has always been great.
Matt Bomer: What has changed the most about the show.... I think the writing has remained really crisp and really smart and respectful of its audience, you know? Over two seasons we've really had a chance to flesh out the characters and their relationships. And also, the procedural element of the show has gotten stronger. The cases are a lot more fleshed out. But really, a lot of the dynamics that Tim and I had so much fun with from the beginning have remained the same.
The TV Junkie: Your character's relationship with Tim's, Peter Burke, is so much more familiar now.
Matt Bomer: Yes, so it's been fun to do this flashback episode this season. Because we go back and see when I met Mozzie and Peter for the first time, and we get to fill in a lot of the holes with Kate as well.
The TV Junkie: You and Tim have been so strong. Is it true that when a show goes to multiple seasons, that the writers know you better and your capabilities better and they write to them? Or is it "I'm writing this and those [actors] had better deal with it!"
Matt Bomer: [Laughs] We've been really fortunate that it's been a collaborative experience from the beginning. They've given Tim and I free reign to ad lib or improv if we want to but a lot of times the script is so strong as is that we don't have to do anything. But there are some times when Tim and I say, "You know this is a great chance for us to sneak a little character in, what if I did this when you say that or what if I say this instead of that?" Fortunately we have a network and a creative team that puts that level of trust in us that we can tweak things, and thankfully, they usually end up making the final cut instead of falling to the editing room floor.
The TV Junkie: I such a pleasure to watch you guys work though. You have these scenes when you guys are so close [to each other] and the dialogue is just boom-boom-boom. How many takes does it take for that to happen? You're watching these people have this [intense] conversation and it's just so real, I just wonder, does it all come together on take 15?
Matt Bomer: If it's something that's really tricky then Tim and I will rehearse it as much as we can because we don't get a lot of takes in the show. We get somewhere around 2 or 3 is usual, which is not a lot. Something like working on a Clint Eastwood movie [laughs], you sort of do it and that's that. If it's something written that is rhythmically tricky or it's a physical bit that we have then we take the time in rehearsal to make it as smooth as we can by the time we put it on celluloid or whatever it is these days.
The TV Junkie: Then, obviously, your theatre background has been a huge strength with respect to that process.
Matt Bomer: Definitely in the improvisational aspect it helps but the great thing about theater is that you have 3 weeks of rehearsal to figure out how to pick up a teacup in a certain way, because that's how your character would do it. But in the mediums of film and TV it's so fast that a lot of times you just have to be in the skin of that character because you're not going to get the chance, you're not going to get the 3 weeks to figure out that rhythm or that prop.
The TV Junkie: That's sounds so intense and you guys pull it off so elegantly. The capers in the show are great this season, but [to me] it's just icing because it's your relationship that is the core to the show.
Matt Bomer: Oh, thanks. I think a lot of that comes from Tim who is so generous in spirit and really.... you can work with actors who are not as confident in themselves and think if you throw a risk at them they go "No! No, let's not." But Tim is one of those, kind of dream actors, who says yes to everything. He always has an idea or opinion that I try to say "yes" to as well. It's not about either one of us look good, it's about bringing that relationship to life. I think that's factored into it pretty strongly.
We just have fun with it, getting to play these two guys who love and respect each other but there's always this trust dynamic going on that is not secure, and we don't ever want it to get secure. Just for me, to think that it's getting secure, it just blows up in your face. There are times when I'm his parent and his big brother and there are times that he's my parent and big brother. There are times when I am his therapist and vise versa. It's kind of therapeutic to get to play all those things.
The TV Junkie: There's a dynamic about where your character came from: a criminal. Do you think there will ever be an understanding on the part of Tim's character that it would be something that could have happened to him too, or that he would never cross that line?
Matt Bomer: What's fun about this season is that Tim does get to cross over to my territory a bit more. There's sort of a giddiness in him to get to do that which is reflective about how his character feels about those things, ultimately. But I think ultimately he really likes doing what he does and I really like doing what I do and it's fun for me to get to do his job sometimes and vise versa.
The TV Junkie: It's been a great season - can't wait to see how you guys close this one out.
Watch "White Collar" on USA on Tuesday's at 10pm. Tonight at the Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills at 7pm, the Paley Center for Media's PaleyFest2011 focuses on "White Collar" with a screening of material from the show as well as the following panelists:
Matt Bomer, "Neal Caffrey"
Tim DeKay, "Peter Burke"
Willie Garson, "Mozzie"
Tiffani Thiessen, "Elizabeth Burke"
Marsha Thomason, "Diana Barrigan"
Sharif Atkins, "Clinton Jones"
Jeff Eastin, Creator/Executive Producer
Jeff King, Coexecutive Producer
Mark Goffman, Executive Producer