White Collar's Matt Bomer Previews Neal's Not-So-Perfect Island Life and Big Daddy Issues

White Collar Season 4 Matt BomerIt’s good to be Neal Caffrey.

When USA Network’s White Collar returns this Tuesday at 9/8c for Season 4, the con man is living the life in a beachfront mansion on an exotic island while romancing a local beauty (played by Alias‘ Mía Maestro). But as star Matt Bomer tells TVLine, not everything is as idyllic as it seems. And once the dapper fella makes it back to New York City, he’ll be plagued by questions about his own past.

VIDEO | White Collar‘s Neal Soaks Up the Sun

TVLINE | How is island life treating Neal?
[Laughs] You know, it’s very Dickensian for Neal. It’s kind of the best of times, and the worst of times. The good news is he’s living the dream, and the bad news is he’s living the dream in his early 30s. So while he’s enjoying this life he’s constructed for himself, it’s also a little early in the game for him to be this retired guy on an island. He misses aspects of his collaboration with Peter (Tim DeKay) and his life back in New York, the culture and the diversity there.

TVLINE | So he’s itching to get back?
Don’t get me wrong – he’s Neal Caffrey, so he’s obviously made the absolute best of the situation he’s been given. He has the nicest pad. He has an amazing morning routine, a very leisurely life. There are aspects of that he really enjoys because they are things he fantasized about for so long. He kindled a little island romance for himself, going nice and slow on island time. Then things get interrupted, and as annoying as that is – even though he won’t admit it – there’s a welcome aspect to it as well.

TVLINE | How much of a threat is Mekhi Phifer’s FBI agent to Neal?
We don’t really realize what a huge threat he is until the second episode. We hear about how dangerous he is and how renegade he is, how it’s martial law with him in a way. He sets the terms of what’s legal and what’s not. Neal and Mozzie (Willie Garson) take that with a grain of salt until they encounter him and realize, “OK, he means business.” There’s something very specific that happens in the second episode that I think will make people take his character very seriously, very quickly.

RELATED | Exclusive: White Collar Nabs Castle Alum Victor Webster

TVLINE | Obviously, Neal is going to somehow find his way back to New York. What can you share about how that comes about?
It will involve Peter and a madcap, high stakes escape in typical White Collar fashion. [Laughs] It’ll be suspenseful, and it’ll have a big cliffhanger.

TVLINE | Is it safe to say the possibility of walking free from the commutation hearing is off the table?
I’ll tell you this: In typical Neal fashion, he has to figure out the best way to get back into the FBI’s good graces so he’s not back in the clink. It all ends up cooking together in one big game plan – the return and a way for him to get back into their good graces.

TVLINE | What does this mean for Peter and Neal’s relationship?
It’s closer than ever in some ways — and they’re more at odds in some ways, too. It’s out on the table that they respect each other and they care about each other. But at the same time, their poker game this season is more high stakes than ever and ends up coming to a boiling point in Episode 9, where they really are at odds. But they figure out a way to get through it and, as usual, their unconventional pairing is what ultimately always brings them back together because each has something the other wouldn’t think of, couldn’t think of, something that they need.

White Collar Matt Bomer Hilarie BurtonTVLINE | Neal has quite a few ladies on his plate in the new season. Where do Neal and Sara (Hilarie Burton) stand then?
I think their relationship had some closure at the end of Season 3 in a really poetic and adult way. But the writers found really creative ways to bring her back into the picture in Season 4. She’s in three [episodes] of the first 10, and Hilarie is fantastic. They have some fun little sparks that happen here and there over the course of the season. [Ed. Note: Burton is booked for four episodes.]

RELATED | Eye on Emmy: Matt Bomer on the Allure of His White Collar Con Man Role

TVLINE | Alex is also back. Is that a welcome return?
Yes, I’m so happy that Gloria Votsis is back! I missed her terribly in Season 3. She’s one of my favorite characters because she is so badass, but at the same time so vulnerable. They have a similar dynamic where no one really trusts the other person, but at the same time they really like working together and being around each other. And obviously, their relationship has benefits that Neal and Peter’s does not. [Laughs]

TVLINE | Jeff Eastin told me that Season 4 is going to be a lot about Neal’s pursuit of his family. What’s driving that search?
First of all, he met Ellen last season, which opened a lot of floodgates as to, “Who am I? Where did I come from? Am I predestined to be this person? How bad was my dad? Can I overcome it on my own? How much of being bad is genetic and how of it is learned [or] acquired?” For him to really collaborate with the FBI on the terms he wants, there are aspects of his past and blanks he needs to fill in before he can proceed. When he comes back [to New York], he’s pursuing full throttle all these answers as to who he was, who his father was, why he left. How did he leave? Was he guilty? Was he a bad person? Was he set up? Was he framed? To me, the way I play it is he has to put these things to bed and have closure on them before he can move forward as a man.

TVLINE | Jeff once said, “[Neal] wants to be good but he was born bad.” Do you think he’s inherently bad?
[Laughs] As a parent of three children, I know there are certain aspects to personalities you come into the world with. I think Neal from day one was high energy, curious, willful, questioning, independent – all the things a parent probably fears in a child on some level. But those things are also great and enabled him to survive and thrive in the world. As an actor, I’m never interested in labels like “good” and “bad.” I’m more interested in what do they do and why do they do it. I think Neal was born with a really strong lust for life, and because of his family and where he came from, that might have led him down some darker roads. If he’d grown up in Greenwich, Connecticut, with an idyllic household with two parents and a sibling and a golden retriever… I think there’s some conditioning involved there.

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  1. Hannah says:

    So excited to have this show back. Definitely one of the most interesting shows on television right now with a great cast to boot. But we’d been told before via Michael Ausiello that Hilarie was in FOUR of the first ten. Is Matt mixing some numbers up? I think he mixed numbers up for last season, too, so I’m being hopeful. Neal and Sara need to have much more of a future together.

    • Caitlin says:

      Agreed. For me, I don’t care how many episodes she’s in, as long as she’s there (though I’m hoping for plenty more than the three out of the first ten Matt says she’ll be in). All I really know is that I’ve missed her on my screen, and with Neal, and whatever happens, I’m looking forward to it.

    • Brittany says:

      I agree, more Neal and Sara! I don’t think I’ve ever seen that kind of chemistry between two characters before. They are fantastic together. I think Alex is kind of boring…I’m excited for the next season…I literally watched all three seasons for the first time in the last two weeks or so. Thank you, Netflix! I still have to figure out how to watch this season, considering we don’t have cable. :S White Collar, you are fabulous. Wonderful actors (Willie Garson, you are hysterical and brilliant, Matt Bomer, I don’t think any other actor could pull of your character, Tim DeKay, I am always on your side and I am always rooting for Peter and Neal, and everyone else on the show is fantastic), great balance between Character development and plot development, just the right amount of suspense, humor, etc…Great show, and I’m pretty picky when it comes to entertainment. :)

      • keller says:

        absolutly! Neal and Sara have chemistry. They need more screen time for them.

        • Lu says:

          No Way! I like Sara and Alex but I think a combo of the two would be better. Someone spunky, smart, and with a health(ish) character. Sara is not quite genius enough– Neal can pull things over on her & she is a bit bland. Alex is smart and fierce but I haven’t seen her to be on the same path as Neal. But, I think Neal still has some issues to work out and I hope the writers stay true and not put him in a romantic relationship too soon just to satisfy some viewers. Here’s to hope for someone yet to appear.

    • Ella says:

      I was just about to say this. Ausiello said 4 episodes AT LEAST. I hope it’s more than just sparks because I miss them together like whoa, haha. They have insane chemistry.

    • astrid says:

      can sb explain in how far Neal and Sara’s relationship had closure at the end of season 3?

      I thought that they seemed to be willing to try again. Did I misinterpret or do i just remember it the wrong way?

      • SG says:

        Seems to me they had closure on their relationship with regard to Sara recovering the Raphael. I think Matt was spot on his comments. And Sara in three episodes this season will be MORE than enough for me.

      • Hannah says:

        That’s just the thing. There was absolutely no closure. Hell, Neal and Elizabeth’s talking in the kitchen in Stealing Home even implied that Neal and Sara had slept together the night before, given their chipperness and Peter’s comments implying a very steamy night between himself and Elizabeth. Pair this with the comment about there usually being a second show with “fireworks,” as well as the kiss in Judgment Day and the hand touch and longing looks toward the end of the episode, and I hardly see anything like a book that has been closed and shelved. Their story is far from over. The writers are heading in the wrong direction with this one. I hope they snap back to reality before it’s too late.

    • Maii says:

      Agreed!! Sara and Neal are amazing!! Their chemistry is just … I love them together, they just fit.

  2. HC says:

    Love the interview, thanks! Matt Bomer is always so well-spoken and charming. Can’t wait for the premiere tomorrow!! I need Neal Caffry back in my life :)

    • Deena says:

      My thoughts exactly. I feel like I’ve been waiting for this day for forever. This is by far one of my favorite shows on TV and you can tell how much the actors enjoy being apart of it. Matt Bomer is just amazing.

  3. bklyngirl says:

    I’m glad Alex returns, and the door is open to Neal and Alex.
    Matt is right, they are kindred spirits.

  4. Rachel says:

    So freaking excited Alex is back!! Love her so much more then Sara.

  5. Isabelle says:

    Loved everything he has to say, very intriguing without giving too much away. Cant wait for Alex to return, so glad Matt is a fan of her too, I wish Alex would be involved more in the show.

  6. Ashley says:

    So glad that WC is back! I’m exited for this season and I hope we can see a lot of Sara, she is so good for Neal, no hate for Alex, she’s really cool but Sara is just the one.

  7. Raspberry22 says:

    Great interview. So excited for season four! AHHHH! I’m glad Alex is back for an episode – missed her! I’m disappointed that Hilarie’s only going to be in three episodes, though. She’s AWESOME and I LOVE her and Neal together, together or fighting – they have such chemistry. Oh well, with any luck she’ll have more of a part in the second half the season.

  8. Marsha says:

    I’d love to have Sara as permanent fixture on Neal’s life.. She is good for him.. and Sara is not too bad on the con-man stakes either, re:Season 3 capers they did together.. I like Alex, but i’m more into the dynamics of Neal and Sara relationships.. Sara is the future for Neal..

  9. Mia says:

    Learning that Sara will only be on 3 episodes for S4 is a bummer. I want Sara-Neal tandem together.. They are good for each other.. Neal and Sara relationship is complicated but I like their take on it.. I do hope they get Hilarie to be a regular on the show again.. She did a fantastic job on the show plus the chemistry with Matt was tops!

  10. Alex says:

    Excited for the new season but, definitely, more excited that Alex is back.

  11. allena says:

    So sad that Sara’s only going to be in 3 episodes :( Hopefully she’ll be in more episodes in the second half of the season. I really can’t wait see what will happen when they reunite again!

  12. Katie says:

    Sara is easily the best female to happen to this show that wasn’t right from the get-go.

  13. Karen says:

    It’s call a COMMUTATION not a computation. Geez….Makes you wonder if the writer even understands what it is :-)

  14. Harper says:

    i’m really disappointed that it doesn’t seem like sara’s going to show up in the first few episodes at all, but at least she’s coming back eventually? even though that’s good news, i’m feeling really hesitant about where this season and neal’s character seem to be heading.

  15. Lena says:

    I love the character of Alex Hunter. Glad she is back on the show. I miss her not being on Season 3. I agree with Matt that Sara and Neal had a good closure. This is show is about Neal and Peter not about Neal and relationships with woman. I am glad season 4 is starting tomorrow!

  16. Alex says:

    Love Matt, and love the show, can’t wait to have it back. Really excited about the prospect of exploring Neal’s past and his family, ever since that little tease back in season 2, and especially since the mysterious woman in the season 3 finale! Glad for Matt that he feels comfortable talking about his family in interviews now, I bet he’s a fantastic parent. Haha.

  17. Hanna says:

    Please tell me which episodes have Sara in it so I can avoid them.

  18. Hannah says:

    Unlike Hanna sans H, I’d love to know which episodes have Sara in them so I can make sure to actually watch them/DVR them and not just casually watch. :D

    • Harper says:

      hear hear! sara adds so much to the show that no other female character does. is there any way to find out which episodes she’s in? on the other hand, i’ll definitely be tuning out for alex’s episode, though. that’s not even worth a “casual” watch. i have better ways to spend an hour.

    • I’m right there with you. Alex made me almost stop watching the show…

  19. Cynthia says:

    Can’t wait for the season premiere, I’ve missed the show! But I’m so sad that Hilarie is only going to be in 3 episodes…

  20. Casey says:

    Boo for Sara only being in 3 of the first 10 episodes. She’s easily the best female character to compliment Neal. Alex is boring and redundant, her storyline was over in the season 2 finale. And the girls of the week? – To be quite frank I think Neal’s character SHOULD have moved past that in season 1.

    I’m surprised that the show has bumped Sara, an interesting and layered character in her own right, to recurring status when Elizabeth is still regular. Why? In three seasons Elizabeth is shown only as a prop. Her character hasn’t developed an ounce and most likely never will. Sara has room for exploration, her sister storyline, her relationship with Neal and her own line of work give so much room for storylines and yet the writers are pushing her aside in favor of girls of the week? A ploy to appease the complaints of haters? Jeff and the writers seemed only to keen to explore a Sara/Neal relationship, Jeff said Hilarie was likely to be a regular to very very recently. I think unfortunately creativity has been pushed aside in favor of making money. Sorry Mr. Eastin but bad move.

    • Hannah says:

      Amen to all of this. I honestly couldn’t have put it any better. They shoehorn Elizabeth into multiple scenes per episode where she just acts as a fluffy relief from all the strain and stress of the actual important plotlines, whereas Sara is an integral character and has so much depth and potential. Sara is a very capable, skilled, and intelligent female character, and with her absence, I see the show reverting to the bland procedural it was in season 1, as you sort of touched upon. Not to mention the fact that Neal and Sara “could be good together,” and Jeff Eastin even tweeted a mention of “adult romance” being in the cards for them this season, so…perhaps there’s still hope. The writers and cast just need to stop being so shady about it all.

  21. CoCoTima says:

    I agree with the majority of you guys: so sad to hear Hilarie/Sara will only be in three (or four) episodes out of the ten, but it’s definitely better than nothing. At the same time also excited for Alex’ return! Though I’m a true Neal/Sara shipper, I can’t deny Alex is a fun and interesting character (great job, writers) and it’s fun to have her appear on the show every now and then.

  22. SG says:

    Always love Matt’s interviews. He’s so wonderfully articulate and insightful in his comments. Glad Sara’s gone as a regular. They had to do so much shoehorning in of her character last season – it just wasn’t working. I’m hoping this season will get back to Neal being footloose and fancy free, and having *fun* with a few women, with the focus otherwise being on Neal and Peter. Trying to shove Neal into some kind of ‘serious’ relationship with Sara was beyond boring, and they had zero chemistry (Hilarie’s fault, not Matt’s).

    • Harper says:

      and trying to shove neal into being some sort of idiot who just whores around with women is grossly out of character–sorry if you missed the memo back in season 1. you’re probably the same person who’d call someone misogynist for calling alex out for being needlessly slutty, which strikes me as really ironic considering what you want to see neal doing….in any case, his character is a romantic at heart, and ignoring that won’t do the show any good.

      • Stacey says:

        Just because he’s a romantic at heart doesn’t mean he needs to be in a serious relationship with one of the MOST boring female characters on a show.

      • Zoe says:

        How is Alex “needlessly slutty”? She’s sexy and clearly has history with Neal but that doesn’t make her slutty. Is Neal a “slut” because he sleeps with many different women? Uhg! They hypocricy ticks me off.

    • Stacey says:

      Thank you. I don’t get all these posts loving Sara. She has absolutely NO chemistry with Neal!

  23. Tom says:

    In response to SG, are you serious that its Hilarie’s fault and not Matt’s about the chemistry? Didn’t the writers get rid of Alexandra Daddario because of the chemistry issue. If anything I think it’s Matt who has the issues of lack of chemistry. I mean to date, Kate was written out because of no chemistry, Alex and Neal’s relationship was pushed aside and never fully explored and now Sara is back at recurring status. The math would say Matt has the problem with chemistry with all three women. Period.

    • CoCoTima says:

      Lol I think you’re the first ever to say Matt is to blame for lack of chemistry. Kudos for the guts, but I think you’re gonna get a lot of hateful replies :P
      I, for one, like Matt as an actor and will be the last to deny he’s got both charm and (potential to have) sex appeal, but I’m not one of those overly protective and heavily deluded chicks who think that by “defending” (read: hate on every- and anything that could in the smallest way shed the tiniest bit of negativity/unavailability on their so beloved fantasy of the never to be boyfriend) Matt, their chances of ending up with him will somehow increase.

      Anyway, back to the subject at hand; your “equation” brings up a very good debatable point. I blamed lack of chemistry with Kate on Alexandra Daddario, she just seemed very awkward and stiff to me. With Alex I blamed it on the fact that I never saw them as a (potential) couple in the first place because we found out very early on that Neal was never interested in her that way. And plus, she seemed to be following Neal around like a puppy and I can’t stand it when women make themselves that much available. With Neal and Sara… I see spahaarks (let me be girly!)!

      • Mostly neutral says:

        I’d say there is friendship, professional respect and yes, mutual attraction with Alex and lots of sparks with Sara.
        Usually I don’t like characters like Sara, too marysueish for me (I am smart, I am beautiful, I can kick every bad guy’s ass and I am almost as good as you at everything if not better) but she provided some fun moments, her chemistry with Neal alleviated that dislike and made her tolerable and even enjoyable. I wouldn’t mind if Sara was given more personality and some friendship and connection with Neal besides sex appeal in this season.
        People should look at the bigger picture instead on concentrating on one character. Having said that I must concede that it is not a easy thing to do if a character has started to annoy. I think it is said that people’s first impression can be changed in only 20% of cases and Sara came into the storyline with all the subtlety and friendliness of a battering ram. Changing/being charmed by Neal took time. Maybe that’s where some Sara-dislike comes from?

    • elle says:

      i really think you have a point and that’s most probably because matt bomer is gay

  24. TheDude says:

    This show has grown so much. It’s become nearly perfect and one of my favorite shows for sure. I only say nearly perfect because of the constant use of Ridiculously obvious Green Screen shots. Hopefully they get better at those. It’s way more noticeable on White Collar than any other show that I can think of.

    • lauren says:

      Okay, you seem yourself smart and I’m curious. What since when they had to paste in the Saved by the Bell girl when she was pregnant has been so badly green screened?

      • TheDude says:

        Just off the top of my head….Neil jumping from one ferry to the other was one of the worst examples….but it’s a common thing. I love the show and everything but it’s kind of jarring and takes you out of the story when you can see it so obviously.

  25. Andrea says:

    Sara is, without doubt, my least favorite part of White Collar, so I’m happy that Hilarie’s only slated for four episodes. I’m interested to see where the mythology surrounding Neal’s father takes us, I hope that we see Ellen again this season, and I want to eventually get back to Neal solving some white collar crimes. I miss the days of forged fine art and bearer bonds.

  26. sarah says:

    This is one of my favorite shows on tv. I love Matt Bomer alot.

  27. Ben Kabak says:

    He was GREAT in Magic Mike.

    • Temperence says:

      Nobody was great in Magic Mike. Well, Chamming’s dancing was truly remarkable, and his performance wasn’t bad (along with Matthew McConaughey), but the rest was pretty lame.

      • Mostly neutral says:

        Opinions differ.

        • Temperence says:

          So do asanity levels. Bomer did thebest he could with an almost zero role. His dancing was decent, but he only really had one small, really badly written scene to act. I love all the guys that were in it, but really, Channing, Pettyfer, and Matt McC were the only ones with enough of a part to give them any credit.

      • Rain says:

        Channing’s dancing was the ONLY thing that made Magic Mike even remotely tolerable. And that’s coming from someone who adores all the men that were in the movie!

  28. lvar12 says:

    I woud rather have this season be all about Neal and Mozzie pre-FBI, Peter (along with Jones and Diana) trying to find him again, and Mehki Peffier trying to bring him in. Feel like they are wasting an opportunity to spice things up a bit.

  29. Ayna says:

    I really hope Sara will be in more than three episode. I love her and Neal.

  30. Can’t wait for the new season! But not a big fan of Alex…and I think Sara is much more a badass, but maybe that’s just me.

  31. Temperence says:

    Just watched the premier, and it was great with one exception: Mekhi Phifer. I can’t for the life of me understand how this guy gets work; he’s a truly terrible actor. He plays the same slightly crazy jerk in every role – this time, he’s barely distinguishable from a career-endingly bad turn on the final season of Torchwood (between the writing and Phifer’s ‘acting’ it’s no wonder it wasn’t renewed). Let’s hope Peter and Neal kick him off the show quickly and we can get back to the usual excellent stories and acting.

  32. Mindy says:

    When is season 3 coming to Netflix? A friend of mine wants to catch up. I have been trying to get her to watch this for 3 years. She finally started and now she is stuck. Alas.

  33. Patsy says:

    Geez..these posts seem more like a battle between the Sarah & Alex “who’s better” for Neal campaign. It’s so obvious all the Hillary “OneTree Hill” fans have come out in swarms to defend her. It is so obvious it borders on ridiculous & so childish. Hopefully after Season 4 they will stop bombarding the comments section of every single White Collar interview that Matt Bomer gives that just happen to mention her name….cause Sarah will be just a sweet memory in Neal’s life.

    • Cc says:

      Sara has become a significant character on the show and there are fans of the show who like her, and thus like Hilarie because she plays a character they like. I like Sara, and Hilarie Burton, regardless of any of her previous roles because I like the character. And many, many fans of One Tree Hill do not watch White Collar and many, many fans of White Collar do not watch One Tree Hill, so it’s not just One Tree Hill fans rooting for Sara.

    • Alex says:

      I hope your right . They should bring a new girl, im sick of Sara.

  34. Rosie says:

    Love Matt B and Tim D. They really have fantastic chemistry together and really make the Neal and Peter Dynamic enjoyable. Glad to know that Matt likes working with Gloria V/Alex. I have always thought they play off each other so well, since their first scenes together in “Home Invasion”. I missed her in Season 3 too.
    I also like that they will be focusing on Neal’s family background. Love the casting of Judith Ivey for the part of Ellen, Neal’s dad’s ex cop partner.
    Yes, Matt is right, Neal is too young to retire, and no matter what I think Mozzie will always want to be where Neal is. They became family and for Mozzie/Willie G. and Neal that is important.
    Very happy to hear Ms. Burton has been cut down to 4 episodes. I was never fond of the Sara character.
    I like the new character Maya, and I do think she and Neal look good together, even if it is temporary. She is soft spoken, smart, pretty and look forward to seeing her character again in the next episode.
    Also, think Elizabeth/Tiffani, looks great and love the way she and Tim/Peter interact. Their marriage has a lot of good communication going on, and it has developed nicely since Season 1. . They are a convincing couple. T and T do a good job portraying them. She has a heart of compassion for Neal and Mozzie, so cute!! Best Wife Ever, nice line!!

  35. catheline says:

    Bonjour à tous j’aimerais savoir quand la saison 4 va commencer en france?

  36. mariam says:

    hello everybody
    i think it is one of the best tv series,i love neal toooo much and mazi,too.
    i guess keit is alive,those eyes behind tief’s mask? i ‘m looking forward for next episode.but i think sara is not realy match to neal.i prefer a girl like leuis in smallville!!

  37. MKW says:

    I agree completely – Burton’s “acting” is so bad it’s almost laughable. Combined with some really awful, awkward, embarrasing Neal/Sara soap opera dialogue, her scenes were truly dreadful. I immediately deleted every episode she was in from the DVR. I just hope she doesn’t suck all the fun out of season 4 – four episodes is 5 too many.