Tim DeKay on Directing White Collar's Yankee Stadium Visit, 'Biggest Cliffhanger' Finale Ever

In his first time at bat as a director for USA Network’s White Collar, Tim DeKay was given the opportunity to literally swing for the fences, helming an episode that takes place in part at Yankee Stadium. (The set-up: Neal finagles his way onto a team of thieves out to pinch a priceless baseball signed by Babe Ruth.)

TVLine spoke with DeKay on location at the stadium’s museum about his brush with the big leagues, airing this Tuesday at 10/9c — as well as the caper drama’s Season 3 finale, coming next week.

TVLINE | Which came first, the premise for this episode or Yankee Stadium’s involvement? At some point could it have been, like, the “New York Rascals” Stadium?
The premise of the episode came first, and then there was a possibility of not getting the Yankee Stadium because of rights and such….

TVLINE | They’re very protective of lending out the name.
Very. So then we thought, “OK, could another artifact be stolen?” But once you introduce the Yankees, I mean, that’s a white-collar crime. There was another script that we came up with, but it just wasn’t the same. If Neal’s going to steal a Raphael, he’s not going to steal Slim Burmbox’s ball from some fictitious team. He’s going to steal Babe Ruth’s baseball from the Yankees.

TVLINE | Absolutely. And at what point did you enter the mix, as director?
I knew I was going to direct an episode. And the way the schedule worked out with the [midseason] hiatus and me being able to have a little down time to prep, this one showed up and the stars aligned. I was like, “Are you kidding me? This is my episode?”

TVLINE | What unique considerations did shooting here present as a director?
That’s a great question. One is a limit of time. We had a day to shoot five locations within the stadium and I was only able to prep here for about 20 minutes, so I had to quickly come in here and look at the angles of these and decide how I wanted to shoot this [museum] scene and the same with the others. The other thing is that is I wanted to find a balance and make sure I continued to tell the story yet let the audience know we’re in the Yankee Stadium. I didn’t want to have 10 minutes of the episode be a commercial about Yankee Stadium, but I also…

TVLINE | … didn’t want to leave open the chance that viewers could think this was shot in, like, Vancouver.
Exactly. Yeah.

TVLINE | So, as some actresses do, does Yankee Stadium have a bad side?
Ha, no — although there is a better angle of the Great Hall that is better than another. But I cannot tell you which one because then all the guys who are on the “bad angle” are going to want to get on the good one.
TVLINE | I interviewed Tiffani [Thiessen] recently, and we were talking about how White Collar is such a “love letter” to New York City. This is like the ultimate stamp to put on the corner.
It is, it is. Of all the lofts, of all the great skyline views that we’ve shot at Central Park, all these gorgeous locations…. There’s another place that, for me at least, is equal to [Yankee Stadium] — Grand Central Station, which is my favorite public space in New York.

TVLINE | Does this episode have any time to inform the season finale (airing Feb. 28)?
It does, because Neal’s commutation is coming up and it comes down to Peter’s decision. Peter gets quite a bit of information and realizes that Neal’s fate could possibly not just be decided by Peter, but also by Kramer (played by Beau Bridges). Peter also realizes his decision is going to not just decide Neal’s fate, but it’s going to possibly decide his own because of what Kramer would say.

TVLINE | How are you describing the finale? Tiffani said they upped the ante once again.
They have. Listen, I thought Kate being blown up in the plane should have been held until Season 7, and I was proved wrong with that. This is our biggest cliffhanger because it truly leaves the audience wondering what is going to happen to this relationship between Peter and Neal.

TVLINE | So it’s yet another wrinkle to put that bromance in jeopardy?
In a huge way. Yeah.