Saying goodbye to favorite TV shows is always hard, but it fantastic when they go out in style. As it is about to airs its final episode, WHITE COLLAR reminds us what we have loved about it is never going to change: it is a show that has always been amazing at delivering fun characters and strong friendships. The cat-and-mouse game of who is conning who may have been a running theme, but ultimately WHITE COLLAR delivered one of the strong examples of friendship seen on television. There was always a bit of the “grass is greener” envy on both sides, whether it was Neal yearning to go straight or Peter yearning to take a walk on the wild side. But, in the end, it was always about the incredible friendship between them.
As the show airs its final swan-song to its fans, co-stars Tim Dekay and Matt Bomer talked about what they will cherish and remember about working on the show for its remarkable six seasons, as well what momentos they managed to take away and what filming that final scene on WHITE COLLAR was like for all of them.
What can you tease about what is coming for the big finale?
TIM: Do not walk away. I know you wouldn’t anyway, but do not walk away until the final second of the episode. We’ve got some great twists and turns, some wonderful moments between everybody. And I think it fits on all the tones that have made WHITE COLLAR what it is. There is a great familial sense to this episode, certainly the caper or the heist I should say in this instance is wonderful. And many questions that people have had throughout the seasons about WHITE COLLAR will be answered.
Was there anything you specifically took home with you from the set that you really wanted to make sure that you had for future?
TIM: Yes. There were two badges that Peter Burke had. I took home one. I took home a number of suits because they were built for me by great different tailors, special tailors. Then there was a painting that was in the hallway. I don’t think anybody has ever seen it. I don’t think it ever aired, a side of the painting maybe. But there was a painting in the hallway, the little vestibule before you entered Neil’s apartment. It’s a great painting of this couple in a horse-drawn sleigh in the snow. Within the first few episodes of the first season I thought, “I’m going to take this home when this show ends because I like it.” So I did.
MATT: I took a painting of a like harem from Neal’s apartment. And what else did I take? I took the bust of Socrates and gave it to Jeff Eastin as a wrap gift. And then I don’t remember what else I took.
TIM: Did you take the preacher skating?
MATT: No, Willie wanted that. So I gave it to him. There was a beautiful picture of this preacher ice skating. It was kind of turn of the century in a top hat just kind of in his own solitary reverie ice skating around a pond by himself. I always very liked that picture. What else did I take? There’s a great antique map of Manhattan that Neal had on his wall and I took that as well. They didn’t give me any suits. I think they auctioned them all off to make a dollar and left me in the cold. (Laughs) But over the years I certainly can’t complain. I definitely mutilated a few out of Neal’s wardrobe. Oh, I took the DaMorcta suit and the Eleonora Duse bill on my wall.
Do you know if there is ever going to be a movie of the show or some sort of like prequel?
TIM: I don’t know. That’s a good question. I think in the past I would have said no I don’t see that being a possibility but VERONICA MARS kind of broke the mold with that. So I’m not going to say that it would be impossible. I certainly would entertain that possibility but right now there aren’t any plans to have a movie. Gosh that would be fun.
MATT: Oh that’s way above my pay grade. I mean honestly if they came to us with the proposition then I would definitely want to do it just to get the chance to work with Tim and Willie and Marsha and Sharif and Tiffany again. But I have no idea.
Did you like the ending or was there anything that you didn’t like about it or are you satisfied with the ending of the series?
TIM: I’m very satisfied with the ending of the series. One can never be satisfied with the ending of a project that they loved, but creatively since we had to end it, I feel that we gave a great exciting twist and ending that will surprise, I believe, everyone.
MATT: That’s a complicated question because you’re wrapping up so many things in such a period of time. So that’s a hard question to answer. I was really satisfied in some ways and in some ways I would have been interested to explore other avenues as well. I mean I think there was still directions to go. But I think the way they wrapped it up was really well done in the sense that they didn’t try to tie everything up into a nice bow. They really left some things open-ended and left a lot up the viewer’s imagination which I always think is more potent than anything you could put down on a piece of paper.
How was shooting the last episode in those last couple of scenes? Was everybody kind of welled up with emotion or how would you describe that last day on set?
TIM: It was similar to senior week in high school. It’s like senior week, but you had a whole bunch of finals to finish still. You still had to do well in the classroom. And those were the scenes and you wanted to do well. So what was interesting was that every time somebody would finish — let’s say Marsha Thomason-Sykes for example — he finished a couple days before Matt and I did, and the first AD always makes an announcement, “Ladies and gentlemen, that’s an episode wrap (on this person)” and then the whole crew applauds. For every episode it’s a nice tradition that television has. In this instance the first AD would say, “Ladies and gentlemen, that is a series wrap on (Marsha Thomason or Sharif Atkins, whomever).” And then of course the tears would start flow and each actor was aloud as they wanted to somewhat publicly thank the cast and crew and just share what the series meant to them. So that was lovely. They saved the last shot of the series for a scene between Matt and me and we both got to speak and everybody was crying. Then they brought out a cake and it was lovely because the cast and crew became such a family. It was just a joy to go to work.
MATT: It was really emotional. I’m so glad that I think most of us, if not all of us, were able to process a lot of that in the moment as opposed to just finding yourself driving down a street in LA five months later and bursting into tears. But it was great. I’m so grateful. It’s so easy to focus on how much we’ll miss everybody, and I will, but I just feel like we’re all so lucky that we got to do this for six seasons and get to enjoy each other’s company for that time and make a lot of relationships. Business relationships and friendships were created that will last a lifetime. So I think there’s a lot more to be grateful for then there is to be sad about.
Now that WHITE COLLAR is wrapping up, and you’ve already done work on AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. are there any types of roles you’re looking to do? Are you trying to kind of veer away from procedural stuff? Or what’s kind of on your bucket list moving forward?
TIM: I’m doing a holiday movie, a Christmas movie. It’s a movie that I’m trying to get made that I would be directing in it. I’ve also been talking to Fox Studios because they have some projects that they would like me to pursue as well with them for television, which as an actor which are very interesting. So I have those and also there’s a western that I will be shooting this Spring where I play a dark character. I look forward to playing somebody dark — he’s certainly not an FBI agent. Far from it. As an actor, you always look for something where the character is great or the story is great, and some of these projects I’ve got coming up they’re both. So while I will miss playing Peter greatly, I look forward to different kind of roles.
And Matt, what’s kind of on your bucket list moving forward? I know you have a lot of projects kind of up in the air. But what are the things you want to make sure you do in the next few years?
MATT: Oh goodness. There’s so many things I want to do. You know, I’d like to really make the Montgomery Cliff bio pic happen. I’d like to get a chance to wear two different hats in the business. I also think it’d be really great to do an adaptation of a great novel. And those are pretty countless. So any and all of the above.
Congratulations on a great series. It’s something that everybody’s going to miss. Why do you think Neal and Peter were such a successful partnership?
MATT: Tim DeKay. Because of Tim DeKay.
TIM: No because of Matt Bomer. His spirit and his kindness and his grace. I think, honestly, the key to Neal and Peter certainly it started with the writing. Jeff Eastin wrote these great guys and I’ll say that Matt and I work extremely well together. We respect each other and we listen to each other and I think the fun that we have, Matt and Tim have, working together comes across as Peter and Neal having a good time working together as well. It’s all inherent in the writing. It’s very interesting to watch these two guys that you would not think would get along and they do. An unlikely partnership, as has been said before.
MATT: Yes. I agree. I echo everything Tim said. It really did start with the writing and I knew from the first time that Tim and I read together that we had somewhat of an understanding of the yin and yang of these two people. Not only what made them different, but what made them want to be the same in certain ways. And we were lucky enough to have Jeff who was willing to listen to us and we were able to listen to him and just bounce ideas off of each other and get to riff on those things. And then I think we just had a blast doing it together.
Matt, because Neal seemed to do it with such ease, do you really know how to pick locks?
MATT: Yes. I was fortunate enough to have an amazing consultant over the years, named Simon Lovell who was a former con artist and he was really instrumental in teaching me a lot of sleight of hand, whether it was picking a pocket or card tricks or picking a lock. We actually did have a lock pick on set or a lock pick on set with me on set and he did at one point teach me how to pick a lock. Sometimes I was successful and most of the time I wasn’t. But I have, at least one point on the show, legitimately picked a lock on screen.
What are you going to miss the most from the show overall?
MATT: again that’s a really kind of dense question to consolidate into a sound bite, but I would say, personally, I’ll really miss the camaraderie that we all had on set. Professionally, I’ll miss getting to play such a rich character and, selfishly, I’ll miss getting to wear all those great suits.
Jeff Eastin mentioned that you guys actually had a lot of input into the finale. How did that come about? Were you guys just sitting around brainstorming?
TIM: I don’t know. We didn’t really brainstorm. I don’t think the two of us ever sat down and said, “Hey how are we going to end this?” Because, actually, you don’t ever want to think that. So it was just one of these things that came about. We were on set and I don’t remember, to be honest, how it came about specifically, but there were some ideas that were thrown around and Jeff seemed to like this one idea — which reflects something that Matt had said earlier that it needs to be noted again how open Jeff Eastin was throughout the process to our ideas and how well he listened whether he listened to our rhythms through Peter and Neal or listened to Tim and Matt — but Jeff was always open to that and not precious with his words, but open to the ideas and the rhythms that we would suggest for the show. I think that was a key to the show’s success at the beginning.
MATT: Yes I echo those sentiments. We heard a lot of ideas being bandied about and we kind of threw in our two-cents and it ended up becoming kind of a soup that everybody had thrown a few ingredients into. So I don’t think Tim or I could take any personal or professional responsibility for it, but they were definitely open to our input.
Having spent so much time with each other over the past however many years what have you guys learned from each other?
MATT: That I learned from Tim the kind of person I should be on set. I learned how to be a morning person because I never was, thanks to this job. And Tim just is. And I learned a tremendous amount about acting from him. I mean every day I learned something different from him as an actor. But also I think I learned just as much about how to handle yourself on set on a day to day basis.
TIM: learned from Matt. I really did. I learned his work ethic is unmatched. I’ve yet to see anybody who works harder than Matt. So that he looks really easy when it’s aired and he’s never satisfied, which is something none of us are — as artists we are never quite satisfied. There’s always one more take we want — one just, “Oh darn it! One more moment that I’d like to work on again.” And I’m glad that neither one of us ever allowed or accepted it to be satisfactory, never allowed us to be satisfied. The two of us never were. And also I learned another kind of comedy from Matt. I group all these people that I know who have a certain kind of comedy and Matt is so specific and just brilliant and hilarious. So I think we all learn from each other. But that’s the key is to continue to learn and always be open to the next person who comes your way and shares a scene with you.
When you had your last day of shooting was there anything special that you guys did or that they did on the set or on the show?
TIM: They brought out a big cake. They brought out this gorgeous cake — black and white and blue icing — and it was nice because they scheduled it so that the two of us had a final scene together. It wasn’t the last scene of the episode certainly as you will see. But it is actually a scene that’s already aired. It aired Thursday. It was the scene where we’re out on the porch drinking a beer and you you’ve got to join the Panthers. Well, you don’t tell me that.
MATT: Oh yes. Maybe it was an additional scene or something that they’d written.
TIM: It was. It wasn’t actually it wasn’t in the last episode. It was an additional scene that needed to be shot right around that Jeff King shot.
MATT: We also were able to give wrap speeches and express our gratitude to our amazing crew and fellow cast members. And just have some closure there. And then we were able to get our thoughts and thanks all out there.
If you guys could play writer for a second, were there any story arcs or little adventures that you would have loved to have taken your characters on?
MATT: I feel like there are always a lot of directions that your characters could go or would have, should have, could have. But my favorite scenes the writers wrote were typically the walk and talks that Tim and I would have. There’s so much skill involved in a scene like that and the rhythm and being in New York City and filming it on an active street and that’s something that I would be intimidated as a writer to try to even attempt. Our entire staff did such an incredible job of capturing that camaraderie and that dynamic and those were always my favorite. You can always think of things that could have happened or would have happened, but I was always really excited on those days to do those scenes because I knew something fun was going to happen and Tim was going to surprise me with something and that we would both have a smile on our face at the end of the scene.
TIM: While they were the most challenging, they were the most satisfying once you finished them because there were a lot of factors, one of which was space. The writers always wrote much more than what was allowed for the dolly track, which holds the camera to allow on a block. So it would be a dance of figuring out when can we stop. What then starts us walking again? And can we turn a corner? Would it be great to turn a corner or not? All these just great things. And, of course decisions having to made within a matter of what seemed like seconds because we were always up against the clock.
In all of the episodes that you guys shot, do you have one that stands out as a favorite?
TIM: I’d have to say the pilot. But I don’t know. that almost seems separate. I can’t think of any. There are some moments, funny enough that I did not think would be my favorite. But there are some moments during the Nazi sub episode that I enjoyed. The Burke’s Seven that was fun. I don’t know. They were all my favorite. They’re like children to me. I love them each and every one of them.
MATT: It’s like asking me which is my favorite finger. We had six years of compiled memories. I mean it’s tough to pick one thing. I would say if I had to encapsulate one experience it would probably be the pilot because you have a lot more time and you’re establishing all these relationships and everything is so fresh and new. So that was definitely a really magical time. This was just one of those rare jobs where there wasn’t a single day that went by that I wasn’t enjoying myself. If not the entire day, than most of it. So it’s impossible to really boil it down to just one episode or one moment.
Did you guys had any like hopes for what your characters would do after the series ended?
TIM: I certainly don’t want to give you any spoilers, but I will say this: I know exactly what my character would do right as soon as the episode goes to black. I know exactly what happens the next day for Peter Burke.
MATT: I can’t really answer that one either because it will kind of give it away in what happens in the end. I’ll tell you I think the writers did an incredible job creating somewhat of a cliffhanger. But also giving well. Also giving the audience a little bit to chew on. A nice balance.
What what your favorite thing about Peter and Neal’s relationship?
MATT: My favorite thing was that, as different as they were, there was a mutual respect between them and there was always something that the other person had that the other wanters — there’s always something that Peter had that Neal wanted. So as different as they were, they kind of stretched each other’s boundaries and also respected certain aspects of the other person’s life.
TIM: I don’t if I’ve ever said this but it just hit me now listening to Matt, and I don’t mean this in a certainly a romantic sense. but the two of them were very attracted to each other’s lives. They both found each other extremely interesting. I wouldn’t say infatuated but I would say, they were very interested and attracted to what they were doing.
Matt, what would you say is your favorite Neal bromance moment with Peter?
MATT: There’s the one moment that really sticks out to me is the finale of the first season and I always thought that the strongest the bromance got when Neal’s about to leave and go off with Kate in the airplane, and he’s basically saying goodbye to Peter. In that moment I think he realized that for the first time in his life he had a friendship with someone who was actually remotely stable and had a healthy sense of boundaries and someone who he knew he could learn a lot about being a good human being from. And which is an experience I don’t think he got with a lot of people in the world. So that moment was probably my favorite bromance moment to play.
Do you have any final words for your fans or any kind of message for the fans of WHITE COLLAR?
MATT: We have the most incredible fans for the show. We really do. I mean we probably had 42 different time slots over the course of six seasons and this incredible group of people stood by us and supported and followed us wherever the network put us on and after they put us on. And their outpourings and expressions of support over the years have really for me bolstered me during difficult times or when the workload was really intense. I just want them to know that this entire season was for them and I just hope that they were able to have some kind of closure with the series and to enjoy these final six episodes and get to spend a little last six hours — to get to spend another six hours with these characters — and I just hope that they’re happy with the way things turned out.
TIM: I share those sentiments as well. What a great group. It’s just such a wonderful feeling I get from many of the fans who have tweeted or Instagrammed or been on the set and shouted out something across the street. They’ve been incredible and certainly have been a big part of this wonderful journey that we’ve been on for the last six seasons.
To see where the show leaves these delightful characters as they close their chapter for now, be sure to tune in for the final episode of WHITE COLLAR on Thursday, December 18th at 9:00 p.m. on USA Network.