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The Paley Center for Media in Los Angeles paid tribute to USA network's first season success "White Collar" with a panel made of the cast and creator Jeff Eastin and our Jim Halterman was there.
7:00 PM - A right-on-the-nose start with Paley guru (and Executive Director) Craig Hitchcock introducing the night devoted to USA's first season hit "White Collar." Craig goes so far as to say he thinks it "may be the best TV crime drama going."
7:01 PM - TV Guide's Craig Tomashoff is introduced as moderator for the evening. Craig gushes just a little bit and says 'White Collar' reminds him of shows like 'It Takes A Thief' and 'The Rockford Files' as well as some of those great buddy cop films.
7:03 PM - Craig brings series creator Jeff Eastin to the podium and regular Tweeter Jeff literally tweets that the night is beginning. To whet the crowd's appetite for the night, Jeff introduces two featurettes that will appear on the first season DVD - one on FBI consultant Tom Barden who guides them through the white collar cases on the show and the second on the wardrobe and style for the slick-dressed characters.
7:16 PM - Craig returns to the stage and introduces tonight's panel. Sharif Atkins! Willie Garson! Tiffani Thiessen! Tim DeKay! Matt Bomer! Jeff Eastin!
7:19 PM - Craig immediately jumps to the big-boom season finale of the first season. "When the phrase 'explosive finale' gets used it's not a literal thing... but you guys took that to a different level."
7:20 PM - Jeff says that the mid-season finale scared him more than the big season finale "in terms of people's reactions because we knew that hopefully Peter [Dekay] wasn't evil but there was a chunk of time where you weren't sure."
7:22 PM - Tim says what amazed him most about the mid-season finale was how well certain journalists would try to get him to spill the beans about what was going to happen in the rest of the first season.
7:23 PM - "I often have no idea what's going on," Willie says about the complex scripts that he often has to read more than once in an attempt to figure it out.
7:24 PM - About the moment in the finale when Peter and Neal talk right before the big explosion, Matt says, "It was one of those scenes that when you read it you know it holds a lot of importance and needs to be given the respect it deserves... it ties into why I enjoy being on the show and working on this show is that we get to work on really fun writing in a writer's medium where characters are given the respect they deserve... Jeff knows which moments should be brought out."
7:25 PM - Tim says acting teachers had told him how you should "'hold your trump card' and Jeff held it until that scene and you lay it down between Peter and Neal." Jeff admits that he probably rewrote that scene more than any other scene. Tim also fought having Peter cuff Neal again in that scene and Jeff admits that Tim was right and it was changed.
7:27 PM - Craig asks if last minute rewrites happen often in the filming of the show and the panel busts out laughing. Bomer adds that it's an exercise in trust when scripts are coming in down to the wire.
7:30 PM - Jeff admits "the wine episode was probably the hardest episode that we did... what happened on that particular episode is we had rearranged some of the airing early in the order and it came close to killing us all because a lot of the mythology had to move and there were a lot of pieces."
7:33 PM - On the origins of the show, Jeff had first met with Matt Nix for 'Burn Notice' and didn't get hired but it helped build his relationship with Fox Television Studios and USA. Jeff also reveals that he used photographs of Leonardo DiCaprio and Denis Leary handcuffed to sell the concept of the series to USA.
7:34 PM - Jeff says he had watched 'The Rockford Files' but really thought there hadn't been a buddy comedy on TV in awhile. "Also pulling out of my hat some characters that I wanted to do. I really wanted to do the slick con-man." Jeff said that Matt Nix once said that Peter is his alter ego and if that's true then Jeff said that Neal is probably his Id.
7:36 PM - During casting, Jeff says that an actor stopped midway through the audition for Mozzie and, having seen Willie in the casting office, said "I can't. You guys have Willie Garson out there and you're going to hire him." He was right.
7:37 PM - "This is not dumb-ass TV," says Garson on the show being the kind of show you have to sit and watch carefully. Craig jokes that that was a promo line for the launch of the show that didn't make the cut.
7:40 PM - Tiffani calls her audition process a 'rollercoaster.' "I knew this show was going to get picked up and I wanted a show that's going to be on for awhile." She didn't get the part at first but then producers came back around and hired her. "From the moment I read the script through that whole rollercoaster, I knew I was going to get the job. I really did. I knew I was meant for this job."
7:42 PM - Tim had to do a chemistry read to get the job and said of his first time reading with Matt that it was "right out of the gate. It was like two buddies who'd been together a long time."
7:44 PM - "What I responded to were these three-dimensional characters that were well drawn, intelligent, the characters weren't perfect; they had flaws. Especially the relationship between Neal and Peter had so much history to it. It was so intermeshed," Matt says on when he first read the pilot script for the show. Matt adds that working with Tim is "criminally fun."
7:48 PM - Jeff talks about some of the bad reviews he's gotten in his writing career and says "the reality is that I'm the exact same writer. I'm writing the same stuff now than I was then but the only real difference is that these guys are here. Same words but they're the ones who have elevated it."
7:50 PM - Tiffani says that this cast and crew is the easiest and nicest she has ever worked with and "I've worked on a lot of shows, thank God, but not all of them have been as easy as this show... I feel very blessed to be a part of this cast." Everyone agrees.
7:53 PM - There's a lot of singing and dancing on the set and most of it is attributed to Matt but he clearly has some encouragement. Case in point, Willie says, "Matt, what's the best part of waking up?" and, as if on cue, Matt breaks into song and sings, "Folgers in your cup!" Hilarious.
7:55 PM - DeKay jokes that they have a spin-off in mind for Sharif called 'White Collar Nights' and DeKay sings a bit of the theme song in a falsetto, "White Collar Nights!" Matt, in turn, admits that he likes to gets a song - like 'The Rose' or 'Total Eclipse of the Heart' - stuck in everyone's head on the set.
7:58 PM - The show's Director of Photography, Russell Fine, gets a nod for capturing New York City in such a unique and interesting way. "A lot of cop shows show the grittiness and the grayness and the darkness of New York," Tiffani explains, "but White Collar shows the beauty of New York City, which a lot of people don't see on a lot of different shows and that's what I think is special about our show."
8:00 PM - Jeff didn't think they would get to shoot in New York City and, for a short time, he was planning on shooting in either Toronto or San Diego but when the show got picked up they got New York City.
8:02 PM - "I'm very comfortable with it. I grew up with two brothers so this is very much a comfort for me. I like being the only girl," says Tiffani about the testosterone-heavy cast.
8:05 PM - Is it Jeff's intention that everyone gets to interact with each other? Jeff says, "Yeah, we try. It's always tough because you're breaking it out and you realize 'Oh, we haven't put Willie in this episode yet.'"
8:07 PM - Matt reluctantly shares that he has a 'morbid fascination' with "Dateline NBC" and launches into an impression of sardonic host Keith Morrison describing the deadly outcome awaiting a young couple. Pretty damn good impersonation!
8:08 PM - "What was always so startling and surprising to me was how the parallels between acting and con artistry are social engineering," says Matt. "A good con artist does his homework, knows his character, knows what their objective is, knows he has to use a wide variety of tactics to get it and they do their work."
8:09 PM - Craig asks 'Is Kate dead?' but nobody knows except Jeff and he's not telling.
8:10 PM - On knowing future plot points, Willie and Tim both admit to wanting to find out when their character finds out. Jeff does admit that Fowler (Noah Emmerich) will return in the second season.
8:11 PM - Time for a Q&A session. A fan asks which of Neal's ladies Matt would like to see return. "I like the character of Alex a lot. I think Gloria [Votsis] is really fun. She gets it. She can jump right into the world of the show really fast and she's got the sexy-con artist vibe." Willie adds that guest stars have a hard time with the fast seven-day shoot the show does for each episode. "We are at 100 miles an hour and it's tough. We've been really blessed with crazy good guests but we're very cognizant of... 'We've got to remember that they're not at 100 miles an hour the second they walk into the room."
8:12 PM - Are a lot of people asking to be guests on the show? When Jeff says he's in the writer's room and doesn't know, Matt says, "I told you!" Jeff replies, "But I didn't believe you!" and Tim deadpans, "It's a show about trust." Big laughs.
8:13 PM - In terms of storytelling and utilizing Tom Braden, the FBI consultant, Jeff explains, "We usually come up with the crime and something we want to do and then we'll call Tom and say 'How do we make this fall into the realm of the white collar division.'"
8:16 PM - 'The Sting.' 'The Hustler.' 'Ferris Bueller's Day Off.' - titles of films that Matt watched in preparing for playing con-man Neal.
8:18 PM - A fan asks if Peter and Neal would ever switch places and Jeff laughs "That's pretty much season two!"
8:19 PM - The legendary Diahann Carroll will be back in the second season as rich lady June. Tiffani says of the actress, "She's even more beautiful in person than she is on camera. She's stunning." Willie jokes that Mozzie's relationship with June is "really gonna heat up."
8:20 PM - Will Elizabeth (Tiffani) get a little more involved in the cases next season? Jeff says that is definitely "coming up." Jeff also said we'll be seeing more of Jones (Sharif) in the new season, too.
8:23 PM - What do Tim and Matt bring to their roles? Jeff says for Tim it's the non-verbal stuff he does while for Matt, Jeff says, "Everything. Neal could have so easily been the sleazy, charming guy and I don't know what lucky combination I got in casting you but there's an empathy that you bring to it that surprises me... even when you're conning somebody you're incredibly likeable."
The second season of "White Collar" will begin airing on USA in July.