In anticipation of tonight’s Jones-centric instalment of WHITE COLLAR, we recently had the opportunity to take part in a conference call with his charming portrayer Sharif Atkins. What follows is what he had to say about tonight’s episode “As You Were,” as well as what’s next for USA’s hottest summer series.
Can you talk first about how you became involved in WHITE COLLAR?
SHARIF: How I became involved? It’s almost 2 and 1/2 years ago now. Three seasons ago I met up with Jeff Eastin and, at that time actually, I was an actor looking for work. He and I had worked together on a project called HAWAII about 4-5 years ago and developed a great professional rapport, and did great work together. So we got together and he said there was a possibility that there was a role that could be brought together and put together for the purposes of the show. So I said, ‘Hey, I’m on board!’
What do you think would be Jones’ ideal case to work on – something other than Neal?
SHARIF: Wow. An ideal case to work on? . . Something other than Neal. Well, I think the ideal case actually is coming up [tonight]. I think it actually peaked my interest and it definitely had Agent Jones completely and thoroughly involved. A mix of personal, a mix of professional. It kind of brings out the best of him, I think.
In this episode coming up, I saw this great promo shot of you holding a gun up to Peter and he has this giant crossbow, which looks pretty terrifying. Can you kind of give us an idea of what’s going to go on. What can viewers expect to see besides, as you said, more action?
SHARIF: Well, the premise of the storyline is: I have a buddy that I knew from the Naval Academy years ago. He’s gone missing and there is a bit of a twist in our personal relationship because he marries an old girlfriend of mine. So that’s a bit of a twist, but she’s the one that gives me the heads-up that something is wrong. So then we kind of delve into that and then it was really great working with Brady Smith — he guest stars. He’s the gentleman holding the crossbow. . . He’s a lot of fun. It’s a lot of fun working with him. We just have a lot of great scenes. You see Agent Jones, Clinton, a bit out of his element, sort of leading the charge as opposed to just backing the fellows up — especially because it’s personal to him and it’s something near and dear to his heart. So it’s a nice twist.
What’s been the coolest thing that you’ve been able to do on the show so far?
SHARIF: The coolest thing that I’ve been able to do like as in with regards to my character on the episodes? . . Well, I think the coolest thing quite frankly is coming up in the episode tonight. I got a chance to do a couple of fight scenes with a great guy. So I’m really looking forward to that and it’s something that you haven’t seen on WHITE COLLAR yet.
You’re getting some action in.
SHARIF: Yes, getting a little action in.
What kind of research went into doing this role initially?
SHARIF: The initial research, you know what I did? I ended up just going on the FBI’s website and real casually just sort of reading through some of the expectations, some of the things that I would have had to have done in order to become an agent. But aside from that, I think it’s sort of kind of learning on the job, so to speak. I mean, the scripts provide great storylines and using my imagination, I can create a lot of great backstory with regards to what’s going on. So in terms of preparing for the agent bit, it was relaxed, casual sort of reading on the FBI’s site and things of that nature.
What have you learned about yourself since you started working on WHITE COLLAR?
SHARIF: What have I learned about myself? . . Oh. Wow. . . I’ve learned that I love New York. I know that much. And considering we get a chance to visit every part of New York that is fathomable when we go on location – yes, I love New York! I think that’s one thing that I learned. And having a place here or working here on a semi-regular basis is not something that I had looked down upon at all.
You have done three seasons of WHITE COLLAR now. The stories are getting richer, the action, more packed. What do you think has made this show such a hit among viewers? I of course won’t judge you if you say Matt Bomer is good looking. But there has to be better reasons why viewers are hooked.
SHARIF: Hey, listen. There is nothing wrong with having a great looking leading man! So you know what? I think the writers have found the ability of creating an awesome relationship between Bomer and Tim DeKay. I think that’s one of the things that draws the audience in. It’s interesting because the demographics for this show are all over the map. I mean, I’ve seen some of every type of person say that they’re absolutely in love with WHITE COLLAR. So sometimes it kind of takes me aback. But I realize that the humor is excellent and I think the way the writers craft the season where this is this overarching storyline so the mystery is there with that leading guy Matt Bomer. You know, taking us through so you kind of keep up with that while at the same time each episode has its own sort of hour-long arch that they can play with. So I think being able to follow along each episode knowing that there is going to be a big-bang at the end of the season for instance, is something that probably attracts smart viewers quite frankly. I think it’s a smart show.
What is the one crossover you would like to see with WHITE COLLAR and any other USA show?
SHARIF: Wow. One crossover? You know what? I would love to give the young men over at PSYCH the chance to walk through those FBI doors. I think that would be actually very fun and the rapport they have with each other — that’d be a nice rival with the rapport that Caffrey and Burke have with each other. So that might be fun.
What do you find most challenging about working on WHITE COLLAR?
SHARIF: In terms of challenging, I don’t know if that’s a word I’d use to describe as far as working with the cast, it’s been great. As far as sort of uncovering the storylines that they put out every week and a half, I think has been great. So I wouldn’t say anything is necessarily challenging. It’s always a joy to go to work every morning.
If you could use one word to describe Clinton, what word would it be and why?
SHARIF: I would say ‘solid.’ Solid because he always has Burke’s back. You can always rely on him and as I am discovering as well, he’s proficient in tech speak. There are just a lot of things about him that you can definitely look to and rely on him if you’re agent Burke and quite frankly even if you’re Neal Caffrey.
You’ve appeared in around 95% plus of the episodes and you’re still kind of down as a guest star. What kind of assurances do you get at the start of the season to say you’re going to be in this number of episodes? Because being a fan of the show and I’m sure a lot of fans are, we’re kind of worried are you not going to be in some episodes? And it’s great that you’re now getting the backstory, but what kind of assurances do you get at the start of the season?
SHARIF: You know, it really sort of boils down to contractual details. But I’ve had a lot of fun on this show. It’s great with the cast and Jeff Eastin, the creator of the show, has really appreciated the work that I have done. He and I are in communication often enough for me to know or at least have an idea if my character wasn’t coming back the following season. So no worries for the audience. I’ll be sure to tweet it if there are any problems.
Are there any TV shows you’re a big fan of and you’d like to appear in or have you already done that and appeared in a TV show you’re a big fan of already?
SHARIF: Oh man, I’ve got to tell you there are two shows that I would absolutely love to have some form of a role on if it ever came to be and that’s BREAKING BAD and THE WALKING DEAD. I just don’t know if you saw BREAKING BAD’s episode last [Sunday] night, but it was another good one, another really great one. . . . Bryan Cranston is an absolute beast. The show is great. The writing is great. So if the executive producers were to give me a call up and say, ‘We’d love for you to do a couple episode arch on this show,’ I’d be there in a heartbeat – as long of course as it didn’t interfere with my WHITE COLLAR.
What has been your favorite role so far besides WHITE COLLAR?
SHARIF: My favorite role besides WHITE COLLAR? You know what? Actually it was another Jeff Eastin production – HAWAII where I played a character called John Decklin. I just remember at that time I had just left ER and it was just a lot of fun. I had the most fun I think that I’ve ever had with any character that I’ve played on television. Even though the show didn’t go long, it aired for about nine episodes. It was still a blast.
I’ve heard rumors that WHITE COLLAR wants to do a musical episode. Any news on that? What would you sing?
SHARIF: Well, that’s a two-part question. As far as the WHITE COLLAR musical, I have heard that (rumor) out on set as well. I don’t know how serious that is. But it’d be interesting. Maybe fifth or sixth season we’d give you something to listen to. . . .
But yes, so that’d just be a fun bonus.
Coming from ER and going to WHITE COLLAR has there been any difference in moving from a network show to a cable show? And can you comment on that experience?
SHARIF: You know, I’m sure there are some differences. From my perspective though, a working actor is a working actor. You’re part of a company and a show that treats you well and is great and expects greatness. I think that’s similar in terms of my experience. So I’m sure in the fine details there are some differences between the two, but in terms of my experience: great people, great show, no difference.
If you had a choice if you could write for the show, what would you like to see happen to Clinton?
SHARIF: What would I like to see happen with Clinton? . . .You know, less specifically about what I see happening to me — I love the episodes that they do that for instance, like ‘Burke’s Seven’ — I don’t know if you’re familiar with that episode. . . . One of the reasons I love that episode is because everybody was somehow involved in solving the caper. I know that that can’t always happen and every caper doesn’t require every character. But those are the most fun because you see it’s almost the way the ball is sort of passed back and forth and seeing everybody believably involved in taking down a criminal. It’s always fun. It’s always fun to watch, always fun to play. And I get to see my castmates a little bit more.
So what part of you do you see in your character?
SHARIF: What part of me? You know what, I think I’m fairly reliable as an individual. I show up, I hit my mark. So I’m definitely a team player and I think that hands down Agent Jones is leading the charge as far as that is concerned — ready and willing to do what needs to be done for the team in order to get the job done.
While talking earlier about Twitter, how much do you actually enjoy the fan interaction through Twitter? Do you try to avoid it or do you like getting comments from the fans all the time and the replies and things like that?
SHARIF: You know, I love it. I love it. It’s one of those things where you’ve just got to be able to [let it go]. You can’t let it control you. You determine when you’re going to respond or when you’re going to pipe up and say anything. But, yes, I love it. I think it’s a lot of fun. I think it’s cool to see the fan enthusiasm concerning the show and even concerning my particular character. So, yes, I enjoy it.
How did you get started in acting?
SHARIF: Wow. You know what, junior year in high school I went to this summer program at Northwestern University. I ended up attending for four years and the big pull was the teacher at this particular summer program because she was just so enthusiastic and so fun that I just kind of fell in love with it and found that I had some talent and some gifts in the area. So I’d have to put the starting point there. After that I went to Northwestern, did a lot of shows with the African American theater ensemble and came back to Chicago, did some theater, flew out to LA and started my career.
Are there any scenes in WHITE COLLAR that you found that were deleted that you wish they had kept in or maybe something in retrospect you wish they had taken out?
SHARIF: You know, every episode often times the writers write a little bit over the time that is allotted them for an episode. So a lot of times you kind of see some things get cut out — it really varies from episode-to-episode. But some of them were kind of like, ‘I wish I had seen that part, it was fun.’ It was a fun moment. But that just comes with the territory.
Are there any kind of hints or teasers you can give us regarding your character or maybe the rest of the season that obviously you’re allowed to tell us?
SHARIF: Spoiler? Well, all I can say is that Mrs. Burke and Agent Jones, they get really close. That’s all I can say. I won’t say much more than that. No, I’m kidding. That’s not going to happen as far as I’m aware of right now. . . . I think it’ll just be more of the same. I think you’re going to see more of the same. I think what the show is really good at doing is sort of slowly uncovering and unveiling different aspects of the different characters of the show. So quite frankly oftentimes I won’t know myself until I get the episode. But for my character, I love the track they’re on. The episode tonight sort of opens up and gives you a really nice backstory for Agent Jones and just gets you to understand kind of where he’s come from and why he’s doing what he’s doing. So I’m looking forward to seeing it.
Regarding tonight’s episode, if you had to describe it in three words what would it be?
SHARIF: Intensely action packed!
With that teaser in mind, be sure to tune into for tonight’s exciting episode of WHITE COLLAR at 9:00PM on USA Network. Catch up on past episodes for free at clicktowatch.tv
Tiffany Vogt is a contributing writer to TheTVAddict. She has a great love for television and firmly believes that entertainment is a world of wondrous adventures that deserves to be shared and explored – she invites you to join her. Please feel free to contact Tiffany at Tiffany_Vogt_2000@yahoo.com or follow her at on Twitter (@TVWatchtower).