'White Collar' Interview: Tim DeKay Talks Directing, Plus Secrets Between Neal and Peter
'White Collar' Interview: Tim DeKay Talks Directing, Plus Secrets Between Neal and Peter
Michelle Carlbert
Michelle Carlbert
Contributing Writer, BuddyTV
White Collar season 4 continues on Tuesday, February 5 with an episode called "Empire City." The episode marks star Tim DeKay's second time stepping behind the camera on the series. BuddyTV was on the line when DeKay talked about what it was like to direct again, as well as what we can expect on the show the rest of this season. 

Battling the clock

Asked what the biggest challenge was directing 'Empire City,' DeKay said, "I think the biggest challenge for any of these episodes is the clock. You think of all these cool shots, but there just isn't enough time in the day. The biggest challenge is to tell the story within those seven days, and you tell the story in the White Collar fashion, and make sure it's snappy, it's fun, it's clever, and all those other adjectives we can think of for the show."

Directing a legend 

Asked what his favorite moment was directing the episode, DeKay said, "One of my favorite moments for the episode that I directed takes place in the Cotton Club. I don't think is too much of a spoiler: Diahann Carroll sang two songs at the Cotton Club, so I got to direct her to sing a couple songs."

Luck of the draw

Asked how he got to direct this particular episode, DeKay said it was pure luck. "It was luck of the draw. What they try to do is help me out, which in turn obviously helps the show out in figuring out what's the best time to schedule my directing episode."

His directing style

Asked to talk about his directing style and if he did anything to put his mark on the episode, DeKay said, "I think it's one of these things that we do as storytellers or even artists that put our vent on it or our style. It's something that we just have to trust will come out no matter what. I think if you consciously tell yourself, 'I'm going to put my mark on this,' it's too fabricated."

DeKay continued. "Also, there are moments that we watch in a movie or TV that we really like. So, you know after a movie you say, 'Oh, I liked that moment where she turned around told them, you know get out of the house.' Whatever. And I find myself directing those moments or creating those moments in a scene where maybe they weren't there, but all of a sudden I see them as I read the script. And so I think, "I want to put those in there.' But, at the time I don't think consciously, 'I'm going to put my mark here. This is going to be a Tim DeKay moment.' No, it's just how we like to decode stories. It usually is how we like to tell them as well."

On his character

Asked if anything has surprised him about Peter, DeKay said, "I'm always surprised and challenged at his ability to balance doing what's right for Neal and doing what's right for the FBI. The writers have been able to continue to have Peter walk that line of being a friend to Neal, and yet having to answer to his job as an FBI agent."

As for getting more backstory for Peter, DeKay is all for it. "I've talked to some of the writers about this, and I would love to have some things uncovered about Peter that would be surprising to the audience. I think we have to be careful with any backstory as long as it keeps the action moving forward. I think that's important. How we would delve into Peter's backstory would only be so that we could keep the story moving forward."

The new deception between Peter and Neal

If you've been watching the show, you know that Neal has had to start lying to Peter because of a request by Peter's wife Elizabeth. Following order, Neal lied to Peter's face, which seemed to shock and hurt him more than anything. "If you go back, Neal and Peter have never lied to each other to their faces. Now, one might argue that there's been many lies of omittance; there have been a lot of lies, in so far as not coming forth and telling the other person what's going on. But regardless, if Peter has ever asked Neal a point blank question, he has never lied to his face." DeKay said.

"So, I think the writers did a great thing there," DeKay continued."I would have loved to have been in the room at that moment when one of the writers, 'Well, how can Neal lie to Peter's face? What would allow us to say that was okay that he did that?' And I don't know who came up with the idea, maybe [creator] Jeff Eastin." 

"There is always a secret."

Peter and Neal have been keeping secrets from each other in one way or another since day one. Asked if we'd ever see the day they would completely trust each other, DeKay said, "It's great that we have it that there is always that dynamic. Peter and Neal are always on the case enjoying each other's company; although, they'll never admit it. Two dear friends, best friends, and yet there is always a secret. There's always something going on. There's a chess game going on and they're not quite revealing everything that needs to be revealed. And most of the time those reveals are not given to each other because they think it's benefiting the other person by not telling them. It seems like I've said many times as Peter, 'I'm not going to tell Neal about my investigating this, that, or the other thing for his own good.' "

DeKay continued, "I think the trust issue will always be there. It just never is 100% [resolved]. It can't be. Neal's a criminal. No matter how much we love him, he has stolen a lot of things from a lot of people, and Peter is an FBI agent, so that's wonderful. Inherently there is a trust issue when it comes to that. When it comes to other things they can trust each other implicitly, but when it comes to that, when it comes to those kind of dealings, they'll never trust each other implicitly. [And] we wouldn't want that. We don't want to trust Neal completely. That's half the fun."

Elizabeth's new role

Peter and Neal may have always had their issues with trust, but this is the first time that Elizabeth has had an active role in forcing them to keep secrets. Asked how long Elizabeth will continue to control Neal, DeKay said, "We're going to see it for a while. It plays out all the way to the end of the season. And I think it makes sense because Neal and Elizabeth; actually if you go all the way back to the pilot you can tell that those two had a connection as well, and a connection which I thought was great, but that was not sexual. I thought it would have been too easy and convenient to have that go on, and it actually would have muddied the waters too much for Peter and Neal to have that happen. But, you're going to see the force of Elizabeth and her request to Neal play out through the rest of the season."

In the last episode, Peter's battle with the Senator led to Peter ending up in the hospital and now he's fighting not just on Neal's behalf, but his own as well. Asked about what made this personal for Peter, DeKay said, "I think, at least for me in playing Peter, the accident - yeah, it angered Peter and was a pain, pardon the pun, but what really set Peter off was having Reese Hughes fired. That's what did it for him. Peter is such a believer in the Bureau and what it stands for, and to have somebody in a political position have that happen and be able to do that, it just -unnerves peter. To tarnish the Bureau like that just infuriates him, and personally too, he's always like Reese Hughes. So now it's personal, you know?"

What do you think after hearing from Tim Dekay about his second time as director for White Collar? Are you looking forward to seeing the episode? How do you think the big secret between Neal, Peter and Elizabeth is going to play out this season?

White Collar airs on Tuesday nights at 10pm on USA. 

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(Image courtesy of USA)