Interview with Andrew McCarthy of 'White Collar': More Fun Playing the Bad Guy
Interview with Andrew McCarthy of 'White Collar': More Fun Playing the Bad Guy
Laurel Brown
Laurel Brown
Senior Writer, BuddyTV
White Collar is welcoming a recurring character to its episodes this season. And that character is portrayed by none other than Andrew McCarthy!

McCarthy will play the part of Victor Adler in upcoming episodes of White Collar. Adler, Neal Caffrey's former mentor, is basically the evil mastermind that Caffrey always had the chance to become. Plus, he seems to be the driving force behind the whole music box/Kate mystery.

It shouldn't come as shock to realize that a man as beautiful as Matthew Bomer's Neal Caffrey had to be influenced by another man of impressive looks. And what more impressive man could there be than Andrew McCarthy? We're talking about a guy who brought a mannequin to life, wooed Molly Ringwald and convinced everyone that a corpse was alive!

Along with other members of the press, I had the chance to talk to Andrew McCarthy about his role on White Collar and his many, many other projects in the past, present and future. It turns out that he's as charming as you might expect and full of information about Victor Adler.

How did you get involved with White Collar?

Andrew McCarthy: That was pretty easy. They just called up and asked if I would like to jump in, and I thought the part was fun. I'd seen the show. I like the show. I thought it was good fun and elegantly shot.

What was the most challenging part of playing this character?

Andrew McCarthy: That I was the old mentor. I'm suddenly the old mentor and I'm like, huh, I used to play your part, it seemed like five years ago, and now I'm the old mentor. You know, I hate to say this, but it fit me like a glove, this sort of part. I eventually turned into being a bit of a bad guy, as it were. But you try and find some things that are charming and likable about these people. I didn't find anything hard about them. I thought it was just good fun and well written.

Knowing that you're the guy behind the events of basically the whole series as we know it, how much did you have to prepare for this?

Andrew McCarthy: Yes, once you start knocking down the dominos, it's like, OK, so I know this, but wait. I set into motion that and, oh, well then I'm responsible for her, have that happening to her. So and then I know that and then I know that. So yes, you're right. It becomes sort of how long is a piece of string? I started because I'd seen the show a number of times, but I didn't know everything about the show. And so I'm asking questions. I go, "Wait, wait. How do I know this?" and then that would lead to another question and another and another.

So I got quite an education quite quickly as to how fraught my history was. And it was fun because it just added a lot to every sort of little innuendo that I said -- it all had a history and a meaning that made it fun and playful. So there's a bit of a twinkle behind a lot of things, because there's clues along the way.

What's it like for you playing the villain?

Andrew McCarthy: I don't know if there's any difference between the bad guy, except the bad guy is more fun and gets better lines. And just finding something that's... because no bad guy thinks they're a bad guy. It's all completely justified and makes absolute sense. So I think there's great freedom in playing the bad guy. You don't have the obligation to do all the morally right things. It's easy and fun.

So many guys like Adler have been in the headlines for all the wrong reasons. Can you talk about who or what you used as a reference to understand them?

Andrew McCarthy: God! Yes, just the headlines of the Post are all you need. I just think greed is a pretty universal concept, and people want power. Everybody wants power and wants to be in control. People feel justified in doing -- you can justify things. All of us can. And people like this are funny because they know that sociopathic quality where the rules that apply to you don't apply to me, and there's great freedom in that. I know people like that in my life, and we've all read about them time and again, and it's sort of, we're shocked by it. But it's not that far from who we are.

They're just doing things that we don't do, because we have a bit of conscience and it's not that much. It's one or two little decisions and then that leads to another few that's little decisions and then that leads to another few more. And suddenly you're way down the road. But I don't ever think these people are that far from who we are.

I was walking down the street the other day, and some guy was mumbling to himself and screaming in the middle of the street, walking down the street. And I'm like, this guy is crazy. And then I realized I had just been talking to myself walking down the street. It wasn't that far from who I was, just a few bad choices and there you are.

I think it's similar, but especially in power. Power gets to people and all that. It's too much of an aphrodisiac.

Fans of the show have been dying to know about Neal's mentor. Knowing this, was there any certain way that you approached the role of Victor Adler?

Andrew McCarthy: Yes, knowing they couldn't be anything but disappointed when someone actually shows up. No, it's one of the great, one of the best when you're acting, to be in a part that's been talked about for a long time or alluded to for a long time, because 90 percent of your work is already done, and people projected all sorts of things onto you. And so when you show up, it's like, ah ha! It's like that last piece of the puzzle. And so it's always great to be in a role where people have -- it's great to show up late in the movie. It's great to show up late in the game in a TV show, because you're the last piece of the puzzle, and people want to see it and they want to know what it is. And it's like you said, they've done a lot of the work already. And so you don't have to do all the exposition and all the leg work. You come in and just put the cherry on top, and it's a great luxury.

What do you like about playing the character of Victor?

Andrew McCarthy: Like I said before, you just get to do whatever you want. Your rules don't apply to me. I don't have to be polite to you. I have absolute power in this relationship. And if I choose to be nice to you, that's fantastic. If I don't, it's no skin off my back. So there's great freedom, and the more playfulness you can find with people that are sort of nasty, the more fun it is. So that you can kind of go, wait, is he charming or is he an a**hole?

It's trying to walk that fine line. It's like, are those guys really charming and charismatic? I see how he's gotten everyone to do exactly what he wants. But, oh, wait a minute, don't trust him. It's like a knife blade will come swiping onto you. So all of that is kind of good fun. I think it's much more a sort of twinkle and enjoyment of -- because I find people, a lot of these people who earn great power or wielding or manipulating are really enjoying it. They get really high on it.

How long is your arc going to last? How many episodes are you going to be on?

Andrew McCarthy: There's no telling.

Is there something special about USA shows or the network in general that appeals to you as an actor?

Andrew McCarthy: They're just very wise and asked me to work for them.

Yes, I think actually the USA shows are interesting. They have an interesting formula that they work with. They're playful. They don't take themselves too seriously. They usually have a very interesting visual style, which I'm attracted to. I think the tone of them is just of interest to me. I like the tone that they have.

I wanted to find out from you if you have a really memorable moment from appearing as an actor on the show so far.

Andrew McCarthy: This is the thing you need to do when you act on these shows. You have to remember this instant and go, OK, this is my anecdote when they ask me. And I don't. Well, I can try and think of one, but I don't. You know like I was just sort of talking about, there's a scene with Matt where he comes in and sits down with me at a table. There's nothing interesting about it, except that we settled into sync and sort of captured it nicely as opposed to just... So there's no clever anecdote about it. It was just one moment where we kind of had one take, that it was just like, ah. And we both looked at each other after and we went, yes, yes.

So it was just a nice moment, because when you act, if you do a move and say you have maybe two good days. You have two really bad days. And you have about 20 days that are just going to work, and you just sort of do it. And so when you actually have those instants where it's... and that's fine. It's like playing: movie making and TV making is like making the donuts. You know, and it's a great donut factory job. It's a great job, but you're making the donuts.

If someone offered you a series regular role, would you take it?

Andrew McCarthy: I built my life to do as I have other interests that I really enjoy: the directing and I enjoy very much the travel writing. So I like having different outlets for my advice, but, yeah, I guess the simple answer would be yes, absolutely. If I found the right thing and there's good people involved and preferably in New York because I live in New York and my kids are in school and all that stuff, but yeah, sure. Because I think nowadays you can really create something over a period of time in television that I would find interesting.

What was it like working with the cast?

Andrew McCarthy: The cast is great you know, because I have been working in television on, you know, girl's shows, frankly. I've been working on Lipstick Jungle and then I've been directing a lot of Gossip Girl, so they're all sort of female-focused and female-driven largely.

And the pace of this show is different, and it's about slightly different things. These guys are like, OK, let's shoot. The ladies are like, wait, wait a minute. Now can we get makeup in? It's a different energy and a different vibe.

And so the guys are just, they're great. They're relaxed. They're happy to be there. They love doing the show. They know the show is good. They know they're good on the show.

Could you describe Victor Adler's New York City journey and what the city is like through his eyes?

Andrew McCarthy: New York when you're rich is great. It's a big playground. New York is a big playground when you have all the money in the world. Every place is, but in New York, you can have cars at your disposal. It's all right there. It's like any big city. If you have money, it's a great place to be, New York. New York without money is a tough place to be, I think. I've lived there for 30-odd years.

I think it's just a big playground to him. I think I suppose traffic bothers him sometimes, but it bothers us all sometimes.

How do you think the perception of television has changed in terms of better options for actors?

Andrew McCarthy: Well, from when I started acting 100 years ago in the early '80s, you only did the television show if your movie career was over. Now I'd say most of the best writing is on television. And movies are a different beast entirely: there's big blockbusters and then occasionally there's some little interesting movies that come along that somehow get made. And 12 people are in them.

But I think, now television, there are all sorts of amazing roles for people on television. And like I said, the best writing, I think, is on television, and there's tons of it. I mean I think it's a real golden age for television for sure.

You spend a lot of time behind the camera now. Do you find that your directing experience has added another dimension to your performance in front of the camera now?

Andrew McCarthy: I'm a much easier actor to work with now. It's absolutely true. If a director wants me to go stand in the corner and stand on my head and face the other way, I'll be "Yes, that's fine. I can do that." I understand, particularly in television, where television is like wham, we got to do this now. I understand you want to stand by the window, but I really need you to stand over here because of time.

So can you speak about any other upcoming projects that you might have going on right now?

Andrew McCarthy: I just finished acting in a film called Forbidden Love, an independent movie that was fairly interesting. I just finished that last week. This Friday, I guess Friday, I start directing Gossip Girl, an episode of Gossip Girl. I do that fairly regularly. I have an episode of that that I directed on, I think, Feb. 7th. I'll direct another episode of this at the end of the week. That's a show I like to do. It's just fun. I like directing. I'm going to actually direct an episode of White Collar next season, so that will be nice.

And I'm actually out here right now, I'm in Nevada. I'm in the Ruby Mountains in Nevada. In my other life, I'm a travel writer, so I'm out here doing a travel story about heli-skiing out in the mountains, so that's why I'm out here.

Is there a role that you regret doing?

Andrew McCarthy: Yes, there are some bad movies I wished I didn't do. I think there must have been roles I regret. You know, they did a Mannequin 2, and they asked me to do it and I didn't do it, and I think I probably should have done it because it was nice fun, that movie. It was a long time ago.

But I probably shouldn't have done Weekend at Bernie's 2. The first one was very funny. The second one was whatever it was.

(Image courtesy of USA)