‘White Collar’ Interview: Treat Williams on Playing Neal’s Father

Tonight White Collar fans finally got acquainted with Neal Caffrey’s enigmatic father, James Bennett, played by Treat Williams. The actor knows a thing or two about playing TV dads, after taking on parental roles in projects like the WB series Everwood and the Hallmark Hall of Fame movie Front of the Class. He recently joined BFTV to talk about embodying Neal’s long-lost parent.

He’s no newcomer to the series – his first appearance on the show was in the season’s seventh episode, “Compromising Positions,” which aired in August. Tonight’s episode was his fourth guest-star credit, and he spoke about how much he’s enjoyed the recurring role.

“When I saw the show I loved it,” Williams said of what brought him aboard the series. “I thought the show had such a beautiful look. And Jeff Eastin seems to love New York like Woody Allen does. There’s so much of the city as a character.

“But it was a variety of things. Tim DeKay and I are old friends. Tim starred with me on Everwood the first season. I thought Matt [Bomer] was astonishingly good in the show. I loved the quality of the work in it.

“And I don’t think it’s too often you get to play a character who is mysterious, and no one seems to know who he is or what’s his next move. And that’s always fun too. He’s not just the dad. We don’t even know if he’s the dad, which is fun. So I think it’s mostly the mystery and the quality of the show. And I haven’t played a cop in a long time, since [the 1981 film] Prince of the City. And I thought that would be a lot of fun, to kind of come full circle.”

In addition to enjoying his reunion with DeKay, Williams also had high praise for his TV son. “I adore him,” he said of Bomer. “He’s a lot of fun on set. He takes the work very seriously and himself not so seriously. He is honorable and humble and funny and a lot of the attributes that my son has. And I would be proud if he were my son.

“I just adore him. I can’t speak enough about him. And whatever success he gets during the show and afterwards he deserves whole-heartedly. I don’t know an actor who works as hard as Matt does.”

The actor admitted one challenge of the role: that it was different for him not to know what was in store for his character. “It was frustrating at first,” he explained, “and I finally, after reading the first [script] I said, ‘Look, these guys are such good writers, I’m just going to go with the flow on this.’

“I was as excited as anybody to get the next script and find out. I didn’t even know until two or three episodes in whether I was going to end up being villainous or a good guy. It was fun to kind of just get a script and go, ‘Oh, okay. This is where we’re going this week.'”

Although Neal told him to head for Mozzie’s safe house at the end of tonight’s midseason premiere, James isn’t leaving the White Collar world just yet. “You will see me on more than the season opener,” Williams revealed. “I cannot remember how many [episodes] I was on, but I signed on for six.” It sounds like family business is definitely not resolved.

White Collar continues its run Tuesday nights at 10 PM ET/PT on USA.

For more from Brittany Frederick, visit my official website and follow me on Twitter (@tvbrittanyf).

(c)2013 Brittany Frederick. Appears at Fanbolt with permission. All rights reserved. No reproduction permitted.


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