Tim DeKay of 'White Collar' Talks Bizarro Jerry, Matt Bomer
Tim DeKay of 'White Collar' Talks Bizarro Jerry, Matt Bomer
Last week, we told you about the upcoming directorial debut of White Collar star Tim DeKay. After three seasons in front of the camera as Agent Peter Burke, DeKay steps behind it to direct an episode primarily set at Yankee Stadium in New York. The episode, which airs tomorrow night at 10pm on USA, is significant not only because of the unique setting, but also because it is the second-to-last of the show's third season.

BuddyTV caught up with Tim DeKay last week at Yankee Stadium for a wide-ranging, exclusive chat. Part of the chat was excerpted in last week's feature - specifically the part of the chat that dealt with DeKay's connection to baseball. Today, we focus on some of the bigger issues surrounding the final two episodes of White Collar season 3.

DeKay talks about Neal Caffery's (Matt Bomer) pending commutation hearing, and what Agent Burke might decide to do. Also, he discusses what it's been like to work with the legendary Beau Bridges - who has played Agent Kramer this season. And finally, DeKay looks back at the iconic role that he's, arguably, still most-identified with - despite the fact that it was a part he only played for two episodes on a show that originally aired 16 years ago.

Buddy TV: The chemistry between you and Matt is undeniable. It's a great television duo. And you've been half of it for three seasons now. Have you ever had that kind of rapport with anyone else on screen before? Because that's certainly another thing you hear from fans of the show. They'll say, "I could watch these two guys for an hour just playing off of each other." How special has that dynamic been for you?

Tim DeKay: It's been very exciting. And it's a wonderful, trustworthy dynamic that Matt and I have. We get along extremely well, and we enjoy playing with each other. And that's a balance that the show tries to keep. I've likened this to two guys who love each other, and enjoy each other's company. They love playing poker with each other. And while they're playing poker, they talk about their personal trials and tribulations. Talk about life, tease each other, have a great time. But they never reveal their hand.

And therein lays the difference between Peter Burke and Neal Caffrey, and Starsky and Hutch. Starsky and Hutch, they go out, solve a crime, and then go [party] somewhere. But here, there's a tension. And it's, "Neal, are you gonna run from me?" Or, "Are you gonna steal something?" Or, "Peter, are you telling me everything there is to tell me about what the FBI knows?" There's always going to be that tension. And that has to be there. If we trusted each other implicitly, we wouldn't have a show.

BTV: Peter Burke, as originally constructed, is one of the classic good guys. But he's ventured into some murkier waters as the show has gone along. Do you feel that's a natural arc for him?

TD: I still think he's a good guy. In the past, it was very clear what was right and what was wrong. He believed in the law. Unfortunately, because of people like [Agent] Fowler, he found out the law wasn't as clean and as clear as he thought it was. And he became jaded as a result. He wants to hold on to the fact that the FBI is doing good things - and they are. But he also now cares for this guy Neal Caffrey. So sometimes he has to bend the rules a bit.

BTV: A lot of White Collar fans get upset about how dominant the "story of the week" is in a given episode - which is a testament to what you guys do on a weekly basis. They want more focus on the recurring storyline. Given the unique setting for this episode, that opinion might change for a week. People might want to see more of this story. But then, it's also the penultimate episode of the season. How did you walk the line between serial and procedural in this Tuesday's episode?

TD: It's a tough line to walk. There are a lot of stories that need to be told. The premise of this episode [from a procedural standpoint] is that a baseball was stolen from Yankee Stadium. And not just any baseball - an extremely valuable ball. But the episode doesn't take place exclusively at Yankee Stadium. We go to other locations. We're at a cool hotel. We're still at the FBI office. We're at Neal's apartment.

And then the other story that we have to tell is that Neal's commutation is coming up. That it's up to Peter, really, whether Neal should be set free or not. But you bring about a good point. It doesn't matter what's stolen, really, on this show. Or, who the bad guys are. It's just fun to see the two of us interact.

BTV: Beau Bridges has had a recurring role on your show in season 3. He's just one of the many high-profile guest stars you guys have been able to attract over the years. Tell us about what it's been like working with Beau over the course of the season.

TD: Beau and I feel as though we've known each other our whole lives. The relationship we have...I mean, he calls me "Timmy." It's a great relationship. I adore him. I took my family to the wrap party, and he sat down with my son for a half hour and talked baseball with him. So my son thinks Beau is cool. And he's right.

BTV: You're wrapping up your third season of White Collar. You starred in Carnivale. You've done a bunch of movies. Swordfish, Get Smart, you name it. I'm guessing, though, that, at least once a day, somebody stops you on the street and says, "Bizarro Jerry!"

TD: (Laughs) Yeah. Once a day, at least.

BTV: That has to gnaw at you a little bit, no? That you've put together this awesome career, and your calling card, to a certain extent, is a nearly two decade old bit part that you played on Seinfeld.

TD: You know what's interesting, 90 percent of those people who say "Bizarro Jerry" will then go on to say, "I know you've done other stuff." No, it's fine with me. Before White Collar, a lot of people would say to me, "I know you. We went to school together." And I would never say, (mocking tone of voice) "No, no. I'm a TV star." The second you say that, somebody will say to you, "No. We did go to school together. We got our degree together. Remember?"

Now with White Collar, it's a little different. It's been more popular than Carnivale, or Tell Me You Love Me, or some of the other series I've done. I mean, people all over the world watch White Collar.

BTV: They've been watching for three seasons. They'll be watching for, at least, a fourth - as the show has already been renewed. Any indications from (White Collar showrunner) Jeff Eastin how long you guys might continue?

TD: I hope we do ten (seasons). As long as people keep watching, we'll keep doing it.

BTV: Okay. Let's get down to business. Two episodes left. The preview of the season finale says, "Peter faces an important decision." Care to elaborate?

TD: Peter actually faces two important decisions. And they both come in the last minute and thirty seconds of the episode. And one is a very subtle decision. But we see it, and it has amazing implications. And the second one is a reflection of that first one. (smiles) I don't know how much more vague I can make it.

Don't miss the Tim DeKay-directed episode of White Collar on Tuesday at 10pm on USA.

Joe DePaolo
Contributing Writer

(Image courtesy of USA)