Tim DeKay Talks Baseball, Directing 'White Collar'
Tim DeKay Talks Baseball, Directing 'White Collar'
Much to Tim DeKay's disappointment, they did not set up the batting cages at Yankee Stadium for him. A dusting of snow had fallen overnight, and the tarp was on the field. In truth, despite the wishes he expressed on twitter two days earlier, it was probably for the best that the 48-year-old star of the hit USA Network drama White Collar didn't get the chance to play Home Run Derby. If a batter makes the wrong kind of contact on a blustery February day, it can really sting.

So the best Tim DeKay could do was take his batting stance in a vacant suite on the second deck of "The House That Ruth Built." This he did with gusto, despite the fact that he wasn't wearing an overcoat, and the temperature was hovering around the freezing mark. Common sense be damned, it was obvious that he really did want a piece of that batting cage.

"I proposed to my wife at Cooperstown," DeKay said - when asked about the extent of his baseball fandom. "My uncle played in the majors. My dad played. I played growing up. Baseball has just always been part of our lives. And a wonderful part."

Fitting then that this majestic setting would serve as the location where DeKay realized a long-time dream. He got the chance to direct the February 21 episode of White Collar, shot largely at Yankee Stadium. Though DeKay has an extensive background directing theater, next Tuesday's episode of White Collar marks his television directorial debut.

It was an opportunity that DeKay was extremely excited for, and one that he worked quite hard to get. On the White Collar set over the course of the past three seasons, DeKay paid close attention to the directorial process. His studious nature on set was noted by White Collar showrunner Jeff Eastin.

"Jeff knew that I wanted to direct. And so did the studio. They saw how I behaved on the set. They saw that I'm a storyteller. And that, when I approach a scene, I'm interested about my character, but I'm more interested in making the scene right. They saw that, and they offered me an episode."

The episode, because of the unique setting, presented a lot of technical challenges. But DeKay knew exactly what he wanted on screen.

"When I look at a scene, I know what I want there," he said. "And I know moments that I want to standout. So I just communicate that to my [director of photography], and say, 'I want the scene to feel [a certain] way.' Or, 'I want to shoot it from [a certain] angle so that I can get the Yankees logo in the background.'"

DeKay was always mindful of Yankee Stadium's presence in the episode. From the historic facade, to the exquisite interior, Yankee Stadium provides a breathtaking backdrop that few other locations can match. DeKay wanted to make sure he captured it.

"There is a majestic quality to [Yankee Stadium]. There's a grand beauty to it. So I wanted to bring that out in the scenes"

The baseball lifer had to temper his enthusiasm, though, so that his reverence for the place wouldn't come off as over-the-top. At the end of the day, DeKay understands that people will be tuning in on February 21 to see an episode of White Collar, not Field of Dreams. He insists that fans will not be disappointed in that regard.

"You don't want it to be a Yankee Stadium commercial. I approach this place just like I approach any other beautiful place in New York that our show shoots at. But obviously, the most important thing is to tell the story. And if Yankee Stadium can help tell the story, that's great."

The premise of the episode involves the theft of a treasured baseball from the Yankee collection. This part of the plot will keep Agent Peter Burke (DeKay) and Neal Caffrey (Matt Bomer) quite busy. But still, there is the pending matter of Neal's commutation hearing. DeKay acknowledged the difficulty of trying to incorporate just the right amount of procedural and serial in this episode. But he realizes that it is the latter that the majority of White Collar fans crave.

"It's a tough line to walk. There are a lot of stories that need to be told. But 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 (DeKay and Bomer) interact."

DeKay likened the duo to Starsky and Hutch. Given the setting, a more apt comparison might have been Jeter and A-Rod. Like the two men who patrol the left side of the Yankee infield, there is an unmistakable tension to the relationship between Burke and Caffrey. DeKay believes that the distrust between the two is what sets the pair apart from others.

"Starsky and Hutch, they go out, solve a crime, and then go [party] somewhere. But [with Burke and Caffrey], there's a tension. And that has to be there. If we trusted each other implicitly, we wouldn't have a show."

But they certainly do have a show, one that has been most popular with viewers over the course of its three seasons, and counting. Number four has already been guaranteed, and according to DeKay, the show will go on as long as the fans support it.

"I hope we do ten seasons."

But don't take that to mean anything is being held back. DeKay promised fireworks for the season's last two episodes, as well as a superb arc for season four. Because if White Collar does end sooner than DeKay would like, he doesn't want the show to go down with the bat on its shoulders.

Don't miss next Tuesday's episode of White Collar, entitled "Stealing Home," at 10 on USA.

Joe DePaolo
Contributing Writer

(Image courtesy of USA)