White Collar's Tim DeKay: 'It's Game On, Neal'

Will Neal take the treasure and run? That’s the question at the center of White Collar‘s current season (airing on USA Network, Tuesdays at 9/8c). But the bigger question is: Will TV’s best bromance ever be able to gain back the trust?

It may be difficult to repair the damage from the tense cat-and-mouse game Peter (played by Tim DeKay) and Neal (Matt Bomer) have been playing, but DeKay feels confident the two will work it. After all, these guys “love each other,” he points out. But that doesn’t mean G-man Peter can skirt his FBI duties and ignore his instincts about what his not-so-former con man partner may be up to when the Suit’s not watching.

TVLine chatted with DeKay about what he thinks of this new relationship twist, what Peter really knows, and the new mentor coming in to give Peter a reality check.

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TVLINE | Peter and Neal’s relationship is in a very interesting place this year. It’s probably the most tense it’s been since Season 1. Where is it headed?
I can’t give you a spoiler, but you’re right. It’s one thing when you don’t trust somebody that you’ve never been with. But after two years of being with somebody, you get close to this person. Now that Peter doesn’t trust Neal, it’s different energy between the two because not only is Peter professionally affected by this, but he’s personally affected as well. I also think that the show will always make sure that no matter what the outcome of this particular season, you’ll never lose the sense that Peter and Neal would still enjoy hanging out together and solving crimes even though there is the element of the lost art on the Nazi sub.

TVLINE | So you definitely think they can come back from this?
I do think so, yeah. Because these two guys, at the heart of it, love each other. They’d take a bullet for the other one.

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TVLINE | When I spoke to [series creator] Jeff Eastin, he said Neal will be torn between wanting to take off and realizing he has something to stay for. Will Peter be similarly torn about what to do?
He will be, yes. That’s something I talked [about] with Jeff a lot. It’s a process that Peter has to take because he has this feeling that Neal may have the artwork. He hopes that his instinct that Neal is up to something is wrong, because Peter doesn’t want this. But he has to do this job, and if there’s artwork out there that has to be brought to its proper owner, then that has to be done. But yeah, there’s a part of Peter that hopes he’s wrong on this pursuit.

TVLINE | There was a winking smile at the end of “Deadline.” How much is Peter aware of what Neal is up to and what he has in his possession?
That’s great that you saw that; it was a really fun moment. We were hoping the audience would come to their own conclusion [about] as to whether or not Peter knows exactly who Neal is talking to [on the cell phone] or not. It is one of those where I don’t know if he has the artwork or not, but anything related to the artwork on my end, I’m going to be one step ahead of you. … It’s game on, Neal. Game on.

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TVLINE | Will Peter be calling on Melissa (Anna Chlumsky) from Art Crimes again?
He will. Also the character Kramer that Peter mentions, from Art Crimes, will be introduced in the show [played by guest star Beau Bridges].

TVLINE | What does Kramer think of Peter and Neal’s relationship?
Kramer understands. He can see that Peter and Neal are very close. He talks about the reputation that Peter and Neal have as far as solving crimes, and their closing a case record is fantastic. But he also is warning Peter, as a mentor, “You gotta be careful.” He doesn’t say, “Once a con, always a con,” but he is certainly the other side of Peter. Kramer is there to remind Peter what his job is and where Neal used to be as a person.