Talking WHITE COLLAR with Star Tim DeKay

tim dekay white collar
By: Melissa Girimonte

Good and evil. Salt and pepper. Starsky and Hutch. Some things simply compliment one another so well that it’s nearly impossible to imagine one without the other. So while some might speculate that the primary reason USA Network’s WHITE COLLAR has become such a summer smash has a little something to do with this, we humbly submit that it has less to do with the hotness of leading man Matt Bomer and more to do with the partnership between his bad-boy-makes-good alter ego and the yin to his yang, Tim DeKay’s by-the-books FBI agent.

What is it about white collar crime that makes it so appealing for viewers, and for you as an actor?
Tim DeKay: I think what makes it appealing to the viewers is similar to what makes it appealing to an actor. There’s a heightened reality to it. There’s something wonderfully dramatic and glamorous and sexy about bonds and stolen paintings and gambling rings, things that for the most part have a non-violent nature to them. I think it harkens back to a different time of To Catch a Thief and The Thomas Crown Affair. I really feel that because there isn’t a huge violent element to our show, that gives it the levity and sense of fun that is easy to watch.

There’s no denying the chemistry between your character, Peter Burke, and Neal Caffrey. What is it like for you working on a series that has such a strong relationship at its heart?
It’s wonderful as an actor. It’s great because this is what you look for when you’re an actor and looking for certain roles. You look for those relationships. I truly feel that the key to this show, through the writing – because I think the writing is top notch – is that these guys write “relationship”. As an actor, it’s fun to play “relationship”, much more than it is to play “exposition” and and the “murder of the week”. Also, just Matt [Bomer] and I have a great respect for each other, and we can bounce things off each other, and we’re not afraid to be vulnerable in front of each other.

New York City itself is very much a character in WHITE COLLAR. Could you imagine the series set in any other city?
That’s a fantastic question. Nobody’s asked that. It’s almost as if asking could you see someone else playing Neal Caffrey, because New York is such a character. Could I see another city playing the role of New York City, and right now, I couldn’t. Maybe Paris.

That might be cool for an episode.
Well, now you’re talking. I think I should get on the phone with Jeff Eastin and say there’s an international crime ring that Peter and Neal have to solve in Paris, which then takes them to Florence, then to Milan, then to Prague.

If you had to choose, what has been the most challenging and the most satisfying scene that you’ve been a part of this season?
All of the scenes have been challenging and rewarding. I think the reward comes with the challenge. I’m leaning toward this one particular episode (last week’s “Prisoner’s Dilemma”), I got to drive both a Ferrari and a Lamborghini. For at least maybe two weeks, I will be a cool dad. Until I do something at home in front of them that makes me become the not cool dad that I normally am in front of them.

USA Network is known for being character driven, and offering outside support to its actors to help develop the authenticity of its characters. Who was brought in to help you become Peter Burke?
There was a gentleman named Tom Barton who is a retired special agent. He has helped me as a technical advisor as far as how relationships work with CI’s, which are criminal informants. He’s told me some great stories that he’s had with his criminal informants, how some of them had crossed the line, so he had to turn around and knock on their door and the wife answers and she asks, “Tom, what are you doing here?” and he doesn’t want to say, “I’m here to arrest your husband.” He’s told me how it’s been difficult. He’s the one who received some holiday cards from some criminals he’d gotten to know, while they were in prison, and that’s what gave Jeff Eastin the idea that Neal sent Peter some birthday cards.

The show has such a passionate fan base. What’s the most notable fan experience that you’ve had so far, and do you plan to attend another event like Comic-Con in the future?
I would love to attend another type of Comic-Con event in the future. It was incredibly rewarding to see all of those fans. There’s something wonderful about Comic-Con that I’d never experienced before and I thought it was just a great energy about a ton of people coming to one place to celebrate storytelling.

I found it inspiring and endearing. There was a woman, I think her name is Tricia Owen, she sent Matt and me some comic strips that she had done of certain scenes in the show, but then she wrote her own jokes to the photos that she had grabbed from online. They were really quite funny and interesting. In addition to all of the great comments and the pictures that people take on the street, I thought it was pretty cool that someone had written some comic strips about Neal and Peter.

Speaking of Comic-con, you are a viral video star as a result of the YouTube video of you and Matt dancing [Above]. It’s had over 90,000 views now.
Are you serious? Holy cow! I never thought that would take off the way it did, let alone even get on YouTube. We were just walking around Comic-con, taking in the sights and sounds, and thought it would be fun to go up there and dance. I’m amazed that many people have seen it.

Who selected the song?
Matt did, so I can blame any of my shortcomings in the dance department on him because he selected the song and the dance style. We could have done something else. There was disco style and all these others, but he chose that one. And of course, my daughter says, “Daddy, that’s not how you do that move.”

I know everyone asks you guys about singing numbers on the show, but I want to know, is there going to be a dance number?
I think it would be fantastic to do a dance number. I don’t know if that would be “jumping the shark”. I think that a dance number for Peter and Neal would be great. How you would incorporate that in catching the bad guy, only Jeff Eastin and the writers could figure that out.

Can you share a little bit about what’s in store for us as we near the end of Season 2?
I don’t think I would get in trouble if I were to tell you that we are going to have a few flashbacks, and we’ll see how some people met, which give us more answers to Kate’s death and the music box.

You can catch brand new episodes of WHITE COLLAR every Tuesday at 9PM on USA

Melissa is a Toronto-based TV blogger and music journalist. A TV fan since birth, it was only in recent years that she discovered her love for writing about what she was watching. After contributing to several online and print magazines as a freelance writer, she started her own TV blog, The Televixen, in 2008.

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  • Keppel1

    Thank you! It's about TIMe someone gave Tim the credit he deserves – I get tired of Matt Matt Matt all the time. I watch WC for Tim and for Peter, and for all the great PeterandNeal scenes. As far as I'm concerned, Tim is the leading man in WC and Peter is the main character.

  • Ventus Astrum

    Thank you ever so much for doing such a nice article on the funny, charming, handsome, & fabulously sexy Mr. DeKay. I, too, believe that WC is made by *both* Matt & Tim & not just Matt alone. I am so glad that the writers have finally given us some more Peter-centric episodes & I really hope they write some more for the back half of S2. I really wish more people would appreciate Tim for the wonderful person & actor that he is!

  • Anne

    Adding my thanks for an interview with Tim DeKay! Nothing against Matt for getting the attention he deserves but It's good to see people know how important Tim and Peter are to the show as well.

  • Djbail

    I love Tim Dekay as well. I am also glad to see Tim(Peter Burke) recognized for the talent that he is!!

  • Kellywhitecollar

    Tim DeKAY is such an integral part of the #WHITECOLLAR bromance as he calls it – it would never work with any other than he & MATT BOMER. TIM showed his excellent acting on last nights episode 8/31/10 of # WHITECOLLAR in COMPANY MAN. He is handsome, charming, sexy, always gracious & complimentary to others. He usually tries to bring his two kids into an interview & you can tell he LOVES his job but he misses his family terribly and only getting to see them on Sat & Sun is hard on him. But he never complains because of the rewards of an actor. TIM is forever telling his #WHITECOLLAR fans the TV “secrets”. He is a great asset to our show. Thanks TIM.

  • jen

    love it!

  • Patrick

    Thank you for the unique article on White Collar. I really enjoy this show but I think that it doesn't get enough exposure because it isn't on network TV. I feel that Matt Bomer (Neal Caffrey) really makes this show with his amazing acting style. It will be interesting to find out what happens when this season returns with Mozzie. Check out this other great site about the White Collar TV show.