White Collar season 3 returns tomorrow night on USA. It follows Neal Caffrey and other FBI special agents as they try to catch criminals. Marsha Thomason plays Special Agent Diana Berrigan on the show.
Marsha spoke with BuddyTV about White Collar, what makes it stand out against other crime shows, her character’s relationship with Christie, the rise of cable TV, and her time on Lost. Below is our exclusive interview.
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White Collar is a show about Neal Caffrey who makes a deal with FBI Agent Burke; he’s going to help him catch criminals. And it’s a really fascinating concept for this crime show. And back when you first signed on to the show, was that concept something that made you want to join the show? What made you want to join the show?
Primarily, it was the writing. The characters in the pilot were so interesting. I mean, Neal Caffrey. Neal and Peter’s relationship is really fascinating and they’ve become, over the years, really good friends. It’s kind of bizarre. He’s this con artist who has never really stopped his shenanigans. He’s definitely turning more in the right side of the law these days, but he’s always up to something, you know?
And so it was really that pilot script. It was just really good, well written and great characters, and I really liked my character. I thought she was kind of interesting, this woman, in what really is a man’s world, holding her own. There were quite a few factors that came into it, but overall it was just a great script.
For those who haven’t started watching and might want to get in to it, what is it about this show in particular that distinguishes itself from other crime shows?
It’s got a real sense of humor. That’s one of the things I would say. And again, that core relationship is the center of the show between Neal and Peter. It’s really unlike anything else that you’ve seen on television. Usually, the partners are both law enforcement. We have a criminal who’s helping the FBI solve crimes. It’s really interesting. It makes for some very intriguing scenarios.
You’ve got a very strong group of actors and actresses working with you on the show there. Because of some of the storylines that can happen on the show, things might get serious sometimes. Is it hard to keep things kind of light and fun on the set?
No, we’re always laughing. We’re always singing and telling jokes and we have a wonderful crew. We all get on really, really well. We have a really good time making this show.
That’s good. So, it’s fun to come to set everyday then?
It really is.
You’ve been doing this show for a little while now. It’s in its third season. And since it deals with the FBI, have there been experts on the set teaching everyone the proper way to do things?
You know, in the first season, the FBI–there was one guy in particular that was around a lot. But I was only in the pilot and the last episode, so I kind of missed all the FBI 101. So I just kind of came in and played catch up, really. Initially, yes, there was an expert on the set. And if they have any questions, anything comes up, he’s always on the end of the telephone. And, of course, our writers are always fact checking and making sure that we stay within the realms of reality.
Your character, Diana, she’s been in a relationship with Christie. Have you had any sort of a reaction from fans regarding this relationship?
Oh yeah, they love it. They really love it. One of the things I really love about our show is that Diana has been in this relationship with Christie for all this time, but it really ain’t no thing. It’s not like, “Ooh, let’s have the episode about the lesbians.” It is what it is. As far as Diana’s life–there’s no difference that Neal is with Sara or Peter is with Elizabeth, you know? And I really like that. It isn’t the subject of the week. It’s just ain’t no thing.
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Since White Collar is on a cable network, obviously over the past few years, we’ve seen a big rise of cable shows all over the place. What do you make of that rise in cable shows?
I think it’s fantastic and it makes for a really, really interesting playing field. The networks don’t have it on lock-down anymore. I love that. And as a viewer, I’m a fan of television. It just makes for a larger scope of choices. There’s just so much television. It never ends. It used to be that the networks came on in the fall, they went off for Christmas, and they come back on, and then it all comes off in May or June. Then there’s this dearth during the summer or something. And now, there’s just wonderful programming all year round. And I think that’s really great.
Especially now that we have TiVo and other DVRs to be able to catch up on everything.
Yeah, exactly. You need it now with so much to choose from.
Sometimes it’s hard to keep track of everything that’s going on.
I also want to bring up a movie that you were in a while back. You played Eddie Murphy’s wife in The Haunted Mansion. How was that to act like alongside Eddie Murphy?
Oh my goodness. It’s so much fun. It’s kind of surreal, very, very surreal to be playing his wife. But it was great. It was such a fun movie. It was really fantastical and magical. There was quite a bit of blue screen, just other-worldly on every level to be working on a Disney movie. So iconic. So it really was a special time.
And did he joke a lot on set?
Yeah, he joked. But he also takes his work seriously. He’s able to turn it on and off.
That’s good. He knows when to do the comedy and when to take it down a little bit.
And also, since I’m talking to you, I really have to bring this up. You also had a recurring role on Lost. I have to say that Lost was one of my favorite shows ever, by the way.
I’m sure it was difficult to have to film in Hawaii, right?
Hell no. Hawaii is one of the most beautiful places in the world. What I will say is that the stuff in the jungle–I arrived on that show, spent my first week flat on my back in the jungle, having parachuted coming all the way down on the island. Being in the jungle is kind of…I will say this. It’s one of the toughest physical shoots that I’ve ever experienced.
But it was so rewarding because it’s such a great show and I’ve been a fan of the show from the beginning. And to be a part of that was really special. And also the energy, you know? Everyone was very welcoming. They really made me feel like I’d been there from day one. It was a really lovely environment, even though the work was physically grueling. It was mentally very rewarding.
And the character that you played, Naomi, she was killed by John Locke. Was it hard to film that death scene?
Yeah, it was kind of a bummer. Nobody wants to get killed off. But [Terry O’Quinn, who played Locke] was just so sweet. He kind of felt guilty, and I was like, “you didn’t write it.” No, it wasn’t so hard. It was kind of fun. I got to do one of the classic death scenes where the camera is in close-up. It was in daylight. There’s this expression on the face, and it’s like, “What is that?” And they pull out and it’s a knife in the back. It was fun.
Did you know that that death scene was coming up in advance, or did you only find out when you got the script for that episode?
Yeah, we only found out when we got the script. Yeah, it was kind of a bummer.
Have you ever gone back to re-watch that scene?
What’s funny is that my husband had never seen Lost. And just in the fall of last year, we watched the entire series from beginning to end. So yeah, I recently saw it.
It was a great show that lasted six years, I do want to go back again sometime in the future to re-watch it all because it’s such a great show.
Yeah, I hope you find the time with all the new things coming up.
Yeah. And as we’ve mentioned, you’re on White Collar now. The show comes back this month. What’s coming up on the show in the remaining month or so of season 3?
We had a big cliffhanger with Elizabeth last season. It’s going to be a lot of that. I’m not really allowed to give anything away. It’s an action-packed, emotional roller coaster in these last few episodes.
I’m sure it’s going to be. Beyond season 3, what about a season 4? Is there going to be one?
Yup. We start shooting in March.
And you’re going be back for that?
I am indeed.
Good. So we’ll look forward to that, too.
White Collar returns Tuesday night at 10pm on USA.
(Image courtesy of USA)