"Tune in and give it a chance on any episode, really," Matthew Bomer says about his USA drama "White Collar," which returns with new episodes tonight. "I don't think there are a lot of other shows like it on TV right now. Bomer and co-star Tim DeKay were on hand at the TCA Winter Press Tour earlier this month where our Jim Halterman got the chance to grab a few minutes with the onscreen duo.
During the chat, DeKay and Bomer previewed upcoming episodes where Peter (DeKay's FBI agent) saddles up and rides a horse through Central Park and Neal (Bomer's con-man with fashion flair) gets to sing with June (played by Diahann Carroll) while being accompanied by another legend. They also talked about the fashion sense of the show, the full-time return of Tiffani Thiessen and how easy it is for new viewers to join the show, which returns with new episodes tonight on USA.
"I trained for about two hours on the horse three days beforehand and it felt good that day," said DeKay about his positive experience with the four-legged animal during filming in New York City. Unfortunately, it ended up not being so positive for his body. "I woke up the next morning," he explained, wincing at the memory, "and I'm not exaggerating I thought 'I can't move!'"
Thankfully, Bomer didn't share the same pain in being able to show off his singing skills (which he also displayed late last year at the Kennedy Center Honors) in a "White Collar" episode in this cycle. "Diahann Carroll and I sing together while Billy Dee Williams tickles the ivories," he said, beaming. "That was one of the more surreal experiences in my life. It came about because Tim and I sing together a lot on set and I think the writers thought 'let's do it' and I said 'as long as you can make it happen organically.' It's a little too early on to do the musical episode of 'White Collar.' If we can be organic, that's great so they did it." DeKay added that while he doesn't have the singing chops of his co-star, "I would love to be on 'Glee' as maybe the dad who can't sing but thinks he can. That would be fun."
While the show has intricately woven storylines and cases, one of the more buzzed about elements of the show is Bomer's fashion palate in the guise of Neal Caffrey. How did fashion become such a part of the show? "I think from the beginning it's been a really fun, creative dialogue," Bomer explained. "['White Collar' creator] Jeff Eastin has some really strong, interesting choices that he made from the beginning like the fedora and things like that. We just always figured that the Rat Pack was a really central influence on Neal's life because they embody everything that he wants to be and that they would have a strong look. Then every time we'd come together I'd cut out pictures from old magazines, old movies and bring stills in and say 'Hey, we're shooting the summer now, how about a Harry Belafante look for some of these suits?' so we'll have that dialogue and we'll go from there."
Besides the show's impressive fashion sense, Bomer has been a staple of the media for his good looks and sex symbol status. The actor, who started his career in daytime television, doesn't see the hunk label as hurting the show if it gets people to tune in. "I feel like it's obviously not a [great] achievement to be singled for your genes but, you know, I think at the end of the day I'm really proud of our show and the work we do on the show and any press that we can do to say to people, 'Hey, watch this because I'm very proud of it.' I want people to watch work that we're all really proud of and that we work really hard on and the rest is what it is and I don't have much control of it. My only hope is that people watch the show." DeKay agreed that his co-star is more than just attractive window dressing. "He's a great looking guy but in the end he's a great actor."
One prominent element of the show's success is undoubtedly the dynamic chemistry between Bomer and DeKay. "We have a great time," said DeKay, who went on to explain that the characters' complicated relationship is key. "The thing that I like best about Peter and Neal is when they are very close and they seem like they're friends and their closest emotionally but there's something that they're both keeping from each other. That's what is interesting and honestly that's what is interesting about any relationship like a man and a woman - a married couple. They're very close but yet they're both keeping something from each other maybe for a good reason or maybe not." In fact, it's that element of which side the characters are on that DeKay predicted could go on for the run of the series. "There's that line where we both kind of go back and forth over and back and maybe in season eight or nine I'll say 'We're both on the right side' and then at the end we'll go back. Again, that's what's great about USA. The cases or the capers are just the vehicles to watch the characters interact."
One part of the coming episodes that Bomer said he's happy with Neal's chance to be, as he put it, a "man-whore" for awhile. That opportunity comes in the form of "One Tree Hill" alum Hilarie Burton, who returns as Sara Ellis, the insurance investigator who perhaps will be sharing more than a spark with Neal. "We have closure with Kate's death and he's ready to move on in a healthy matter," Bomer said. "That's not to say that he doesn't have a little fun in the meantime. Look, when you work those long hard hours with somebody who happens to be as attractive as Hilarie Burton, who's playing a character who's smart and self-assured and strong and everything that Neal finds attractive because he wants to tame it... some things might happen in the wee hours..." Bomer added with a smile "and that's all I'm going to say."
DeKay also promised that viewers will see his on-screen wife Tiffani Thiessen return full-time to the show after the actress was limited previously due to her real-life pregnancy. In fact, he teased, "Tiffani is getting more involved in the cases coming up and it's great to no longer be doing green screen with her."
Now that the show is in the middle of a successful second season, does Bomer think it's too late for viewers who haven't sampled the show yet to jump in? Absolutely not. "I think the writing is smart and it respects its audience and there are little surprises and it's organic and [has] great chemistry between the actors and writing that's fun. It's snappy and quick and also the case by case is really well thought out. I think that's a way the show has really grown this year. I feel like the procedural level of the show has gotten stronger this year in terms of the cases."
New episodes of "White Collar" return to USA tonight at 10:00/9:00c.