As USA Network’s White Collar resumes its second season this Tuesday at 10/9c, it’s a perfect occasion to appreciate the show’s two male leads. As FBI agent Peter Burke and his con man consultant, Neal Caffrey, Tim DeKay and Matt Bomer deliver a chemistry that can only exist off-screen as strongly as it does on. You can see it for yourself, as the actors sat with TVLine for this exclusive 2-on-1 interview.
TVLINE | How would you qualify the state of Peter and Neal’s friendship – if we’re calling it that – given how the summer finale ended?
DEKAY: How are things when we pick back up…?
BOMER: Well, in terms of [this week's episode] “Burke’s Seven,” again they’re in a place where Neal has really leapt over the boundary line of Peter’s ethics to get something done.
BOMER: The fun thing we always talk about getting to play with each other is keeping the trust dynamic liquid, and always have that underlying tension of, “What is he going to do next? And what’s he going to do if I do this next?” There’s also a part of Peter that on a certain level empathizes with Neal and his crazy plight – and certainly what’s going on with Mozzie (played by Willie Garson). So while there’s a definite frustration, there’s something they’ll always inherently respect about each other. Their general repartee gets back up to speed pretty quickly.
DEKAY: It does. People from one side of the law may say it’s a flaw of Peter’s and people on the other side of the law may say it’s a flaw of Neal’s, but the two of them can’t help but help each other.
TVLINE | Do you think either of them considers the other a “pal”?
BOMER: I think Neal does consider Peter a pal – but he’s always got one hand inside his pocket. A lot of Neal’s evaluation of his relationships is, “What does it do for me?” As self-serving as that might sound, that’s one of his flaws.
TVLINE | And part of why Mozzie disses “The Suit” is probably because he’s protective of what he has with Neal.
BOMER: Absolutely – yet their relationship is completely different, They have a whole vocabulary with each other from this underground world. I think what Neal sees in Peter is very different…. There’s something about Peter’s life that ultimately he respects and wants on some level, but maybe doesn’t believe he can have at the end of the day.
TVLINE | Tim, do you think Peter envies what Neal and Moz have?
DEKAY: Oh yeah. I think that’s one of the reasons why he loves this relationship, because he can test those waters every so often, when he has to go undercover. He has vicarious moments. But I do think they are buddies – more than buddies. Sometimes Peter is Neal’s older brother or dad; other times Neal’s status is higher than Peter’s, depending on the environment. I think Peter would do nearly anything to keep Neal from going back to prison.
BOMER: I think it’s interesting to note that 90 percent of the time, when push comes to shove and Neal’s on the run, he ends up at Burke’s door. That says something.
TVLINE | If – if – Mozzie is still with us after the shooting, would you reckon he is now even more jaded about the FBI?
BOMER: [Laughs] If it’s possible to be more jaded.
TVLINE | Where is the music box story going next? Will we meet more and more powerful puppet masters?
DEKAY: We take it to Sesame Street. Gordon is the grand master of puppetmastery.
BOMER: The great thing about the mythology is it’s always one level deeper than you think it is. But we get to the bottom of that [story], closing a lot of doors and we open some new ones.
TVLINE | What are the current Vegas odds on Kate (Alexandra Daddario) actually being alive? 50-50? 60-40?
BOMER: I would say 50-50, just because [series creator] Jeff Eastin is always surprising me as a writer.
TVLINE | And there’s a lot more Hilarie Burton to come, right?
BOMER: Oh yeah. She is fantastic and gorgeous and talented, and a real pro. We are very lucky to have her.
DEKAY: It’s great that she is in a fancy wardrobe [as White Collar‘s Sara], but Hilarie would be gorgeous in a burlap sack.
TVLINE | As would, I imagine, Ms. Tiffani Thiessen (Elizabeth).
DEKAY: Mmm-hmm, yes!
TVLINE | If you could steal any one attribute from the other guy’s character for your own, what would it be?
DEKAY: What would Peter steal from Neal? Oh, man…. His singing. And his sense of style. And he has done it – it’s been subtle, but Peter has bumped it up a bit with his wardrobe.
BOMER: Yeah, he has.
DEKAY: Peter would never admit it — “No, this suit was on sale, that’s why I got it” – but there has been some rub-off.
BOMER: I think Neal would want Peter’s effortless dignity and poise under pressure, his great leadership ability.
TVLINE | I hate to trot out this old chestnut, but: What might people be surprised to know about Matt?
DEKAY: It’s such an immature word, but we’re both very silly on the set. Other than that, he’s just a good man, and that comes through.
TVLINE | And Matt, what about Tim?
BOMER: People would be surprised to know that he….
DEKAY: …doesn’t wear underwear.
BOMER: No, there needs to be an element of surprise here. Tim always comes from a place of love. Not that that’s surprising, but it’s not an act. He’s inherently a really great person that positively impacts everybody that he comes in contact with. One of the things that makes working on the show so much fun for both of us is he loves to work and explore and play.
DEKAY: I think we both do.
TVLINE | What’s your go-to shtick when you need to lighten up on the set?
DEKAY: We sing a lot.
BOMER: And dance a lot. But if we need to pick up the mood, we go to song.
DEKAY: Or play “Would You Rather?”
BOMER: [Laughs] We do play a rousing game of “Would You Rather?”
TVLINE | Give me an example.
DEKAY: No, no, no… They’re way too dark for print.
TVLINE | And lastly: Of course fans use words like “drop-dead gorgeous,” “incredibly handsome” and “dashing” to describe one of you…. Tim, are you OK with being objectified like that?
DEKAY: [Laughs] I was going say, “Enough about Willie Garson!” But yeah, I’m OK with it. It’s a cross to bear.