White Collar star Tim DeKay made his directorial debut on the show last season with the episode “Stealing Home.” He’s back behind the camera with tonight’s episode, “Empire City.” To mark the occasion, Tim spoke with BFTV about what goes into his directorial efforts and the continually developing dynamic between Peter Burke and Neal Caffrey.
(SPOILER ALERT – This interview contains spoilers for the most recent episodes of White Collar.)
“We have a very supportive cast and crew, and everybody’s rooting for you, and you’re rooting for them. We’re all in this together,” explained the actor, who plays veteran FBI agent Peter on the hit USA original series.
When it comes to balancing his commitment off-camera with his on-camera duties, “The writers try to have it so that Peter is a little bit lighter in the episode. Usually Peter is a little bit lighter in the prior episode [as well] so that I have time to prepare,” he added, explaining that contributed to the decision to have his character involved in a car accident during last week’s installment.
“But I also like these kind of episode where everybody is involved. I think it’s rather enjoyable to watch an episode like last week’s, and I think this week’s, where every character has at least one clever moment where they cleverly either divert the bad guy or figure out something that helps move the case along. It’s great fun when everybody on the show has at least a clever moment.”
Peter is not entirely absent from this week’s episode, however, which means that DeKay was in the position of having to critique himself. “It’s not too difficult to be honest with you,” he said, discussing what it’s like to direct his own performance. “Channing Powell, who wrote the episode, she was there the whole time. I look to my DP [director of photography] a few times.
“And it’s open enough on our set that I can talk to Channing on whether or not the moment works. I can talk to Matt Bomer or Willie [Garson] or Tiffani [Thiessen], whomever, and say, ‘Does that work? What do you guys think?’ And then, the other thing is ninety percent of the time, I’ll know whether or not the moment is right for me, as far as acting. So, it wasn’t too difficult.”
“I think the biggest challenge for any of these episodes is the clock,” he continued. “The writers always write a wonderful big episode, so it seems, and you always want to be able to have a lot of coverage. You think of all these cool shots, but there just isn’t enough time in the day. The biggest challenge is that you tell the story within those seven days, where there are twelve hours allotted, 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.”
One of DeKay’s favorite moments from tonight’s White Collar involves recurring guest star Diahann Carroll, who plays Neal’s landlady, June. “Diahann Carroll sang two songs at the Cotton Club, so I got to direct her to sing a couple songs,” he explained. “There was a wonderful moment where we had pre-recorded her singing the song so that she didn’t have to sing it live the day we shot it, and I had musicians there just in case.
“We started rolling for her to sing the song and she had the earpiece on and she started singing. I looked at the sound guy and he brought down the pre-recorded version and the other musicians started playing, and she just sang that whole song live. The whole cast and crew got a mini concert. It was great.”
The actor also addressed one of the most popular topics of conversation when it comes to White Collar: the ever-evolving partnership between Peter and Neal, which has now been tested immensely by Neal having lied to Peter at the behest of Peter’s wife, Elizabeth.
“If you go back, Neal and Peter have never lied to each other to their faces,” he said. “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. But in this particular instance, Neal was given the green light by Peter’s wife to lie.
“I think the writers did a great thing there. I think it’s important, and it’s great, 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.
“I think the trust issue will always be there. It just never is one hundred percent; 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. 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.
Many surprises have come out of Neal’s past, including most recently the reveal of his father, and DeKay said that he’d like to see a reveal or two about Peter as well. “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,” he said, but added that delving into the backstory “would only be so that we could keep the story moving forward.”
“I’m surprised and challenged at his ability to balance doing what’s right for Neal and doing what’s right for the FBI,” he added. “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.”
White Collar is new tonight at 10 PM ET/PT. You can also follow Tim DeKay on Twitter (@TimDeKay).
(c)2013 Brittany Frederick. Appears at Fanbolt with permission. All rights reserved. No reproduction permitted.