White Collar’s Tim DeKay Talks Islands, Chemistry, Hats, and Season 4

July 10, 2012

Tim DeKay and Matt Bomer as Agent Peter Burke and Neal Caffrey in White Collar. Photo credit: Robert Ascroft/USA Network

We were already more excited than a kid on Christmas for the return of White Collar tonight. Then we spoke to Tim DeKay, who plays FBI Agent Peter Burke.

When we left our odd couple at the end of last season, Neal (Matt Bomer) was up for a possible commutation of his prison sentence. But Agent Kramer (Beau Bridges) had other plans for Neal. In the end Peter tipped Neal off and Neal panicked and fled, despite just having told the commutation panel that he had changed and was happy with the life he had created for himself in New York.

So what’s in store for our favorite odd couple? Neal and Peter together on an island that isn’t Manhattan? Peter doing something different at the FBI? And what’s this about the possibility of Peter wearing a hat?

DIRECTV: I’m concerned that the season is starting with Neal and Peter in different places.
Tim DeKay: I know. A lot of people have that concern. All I can say is I wouldn’t be worried about that too much because I think the heart of this show is that relationship between the con artist and the FBI agent and in order to have that wonderful tension and chemistry, those guys have to be in the same room, whether it’s on the island of Manhattan or another island.

DTV: They might be together on a different island?
TD: Well, who knows? Who knows where they will end up in the first couple of episodes?

DTV: They could have adventures outside of Manhattan?
TD: It’s quite possible. I think the writers have constructed a great way to answer a lot of the concerns that the audience has. I think everybody knows the first couple of days we were shooting on location. We’ve got some great action in the first couple of episodes and then by the third or fourth, Peter finds himself in a place he didn’t think he would be. He is certainly still with the FBI, but in a different capacity than he is used to.

DTV: Really? That’s intriguing.
TD: Mmm-hmm…. I hope I’m teasing you enough. I’m just planting these little teases.

DTV: You’re doing a good job. I think you’ve done this before.
TD: [laughs] Maybe.

DTV: Peter seems to have changed a bit from the beginning of the show. He used to be very by-the-book and he seems to have… loosened up a bit. Possibly with Neal’s influence.
TD: That’s one of the dances that I’ve had to do throughout the seasons, to make sure that Peter does, number one, stay in charge. And perhaps sometimes remind Neal that he could put him back in prison any time. And yet as time goes on, Peter has learned to like Neal and to care for Neal very much so there is a personal aspect that has changed between the two of them. Also, there is a professional change in their relationship. Peter has realized that if he looks the other way, in the end you can get the bad guy. It’s just a matter of how long and to what degree Peter looks the other way. The other thing is, I think Peter has become a better dresser. [Laughs]

DTV: Peter needs a hat.
TD: That’s funny [laughs]. Peter will never wear the hat.

DTV: Well, I guess they can’t become the same person.
TD: Right. That’s like an old married couple. You know when they start to look the same and talk the same. Though we certainly finish each other’s sentences enough that we’re [starts to laugh] likely headed down that path.

DTV: Do you finish each other’s sentences just as the characters or as Tim and Matt, too?
TD: A little bit of both, I’ll have to say.

DTV: One of the things that comes across on White Collar is that the actors are having fun and that you really seem to like each other.
TD: That’s good to hear because we certainly do like each other and we do have a good time. I think that’s important. A lot of people have asked about the chemistry between the two of us and it comes from two actors respecting each other and definitely listening to each other in a scene. Fortunately, I get to work with one of the funniest men in the business. Matt is hilarious and when you feel that way about another actor, it’s wonderful because you don’t question anything, you just trust it, and sometimes it becomes a wonderful improv. We certainly adhere to script but there’s times when we can go a little off book. It’s great. The writers have also picked up on our rhythms and they write wonderful banter for us as well. But we have a good time. That’s part of the energy of the show. It’s a heightened reality. As somebody has said about the show: it’s intelligent escapism.

Don’t miss your chance to catch some of the intelligent escapism during the Season Four premiere tonight at 9 p.m. on USA, followed by the season premiere of Covert Affairs at 10 p.m.