EMMYS: Matt Bomer On 'White Collar'

Vlada Gelman is West Coast Reporter for TVLine

Matt Bomer White CollarMatt Bomer has been a very busy man. The White Collar star has a movie opening soon — you may have heard of a little “independent” project called Magic Mike — but he isn’t forgetting his TV roots. In addition to his leading role as con man Neal Caffrey on the dapper USA Network hit, Bomer found time during his hiatus Boardwalk Empireto film a guest spot on a decidedly different show — the musical comedy Glee — giving him two shots at an Emmy nomination. Here, the actor talks to TVLine about the Emmys’ indifference to USA Network shows, his favorite moments from White Collar‘s most recent season and stretching his comedy muscles.

AWARDSLINE: Do you see something like Magic Mike and a growing movie career as a positive or a hindrance to your Emmy chances — as well as to White Collar‘s future?
MATT BOMER: It’s always good to get your face out there, especially if you’re working with somebody like [Magic Mike director] Steven Soderbergh. I don’t think that hurts. I certainly don’t think it’ll hurt the show. The great thing about getting to do a cable series is we’re on for six months and we’re off for six months. I’ve been trying to use my hiatus to work with filmmakers like [In Time director-writer] Andrew Niccol and Steven Soderbergh that I really believe in, in smaller roles, rather than taking a lead in something big and studio and splashy — not that Magic Mike hasn’t become studio and splashy [laughs]. But when I signed on to do it, it was a $5 million independent movie. I don’t think it’s a bad thing to go out there and challenge yourself as an actor.

Related: EMMYS: Basic Cable Dramas’ Basic Problem Is A Lack Of Academy Love

AWARDSLINE: We don’t have to worry about you leaving White Collar any time soon, right?
BOMER: No, I consider White Collar my home base. I’m so lucky to get to play a character that’s very multifaceted and the writers take risks on and never get into a staid process with. They’re always challenging themselves and, thusly, me as an actor. As long as they continue to do that, I’m happy. I love my job on White Collar. I won’t be leaving it any time soon.

AWARDSLINE: USA Network shows tend to be written off when it comes to Emmys, because they’re considered lighter fare. Do you think that’s a fair characterization?
BOMER: I don’t think it’s fair because, to me, they are dramatic shows with elements of humor. As long as that doesn’t get overly quirky or too hokey, that’s the way life is to me. I don’t know anybody who walks through life all the time in the doldrums, constantly serious and morose. But that’s become what we generalize as drama. I’m really lucky to get to work on a show that has elements of humor. But when you’re comparing that to — I won’t list anything specifically — a lot of the shows that are pretty much straight drama the entire time, it runs the risk of being categorized as something else. But I don’t really think it is.

AWARDSLINE: Neal Caffrey has to be one of the funnest characters to play.
BOMER: He is. It’s so rare, especially as a younger actor, to find a role where it’s not just one-dimensional and it’s not just a stock leading man. He is smart, intelligent, slick. He has grace under fire. He’s excellent under pressure. He’s on point. He’s firing on all cylinders. But at the same time, he’s really a 4-year-old. He has terrible impulse control. He makes really irrational decisions, especially when it comes to anything romantically-inclined. He is a hopeless romantic to a fault. … It’s a real dream of a role to get to play. More and more, as I play the role over the years, I come to find so many things in my life that I thought were futile or silly at the time, that I may have studied or read about or practiced, led up to this opportunity for me.

AWARDSLINE: Like what? Is there something specific?
BOMER: Everything from dance classes at conservatory helping me memorize fight choreography to being obsessed with the Rat Pack for a period time to loving the aesthetics of the ’60s suits and European films like La Dolce Vita and [actor] Alain Delon and Le Samouraï. So many little idiosyncratic things prepared me for this part. Playing athletics, playing a lot of different sports, going to drama school…. I was one of those kids who wanted to do everything, so I ended up being pretty average at everything. But for a role like this where they’ll throw the kitchen sink at you in the 25th hour, it helps to have been kind of average, if that makes any sense [laughs].

AWARDSLINE: When you put on those suits and walk the streets of New York, what goes through your head?
BOMER: [Laughs] Whatever I’m playing in the scene. I spent weeks in my backyard before we shot the pilot figuring out what Neal’s walk was. Finally, I got his strut down after a while, which sometimes looks like a borderline pimp limp, I know [laughs]. It’s one of those situations where the wardrobe completely informs the character and how they hold themselves in the world and the parts of society he maneuvers in. He’s a peacock in a way. He’s not afraid to make eye contact with any of the ladies walking by. It’s a modern updating of the swinging ’60s.

AWARDSLINE: Looking back at Season 3, do you have a favorite Neal moment or episode?
BOMER: I have a couple. One was getting to be directed by [co-star] Tim [DeKay], who stepped behind the camera for the first time [for Episode 15, “Stealing Home”]. It was a real dream collaboration to get to work with him in a different way. And I really loved the finale because it was this buildup of so many things; [creator] Jeff Eastin constructed it really well. To have that scene where Neal goes before the committee and testifies about why he should have his freedom was really fun to get to play. And then the long shot that the network very graciously let us have where he’s just sitting on the plane, and there are a thousand things running through his mind, but he doesn’t say anything. He’s just looking out the window. Scenes like that, [which] you’ve built up to for so long and then get to play very simply rather than over-explaining or having to over-act or over-talk it, are really fun to do.

AWARDSLINE: Was that an actor’s dream? You got a monologue, basically, and then this lengthy sequence that’s just the camera on your face.
BOMER: It’s intimidating. But you’ve been living in [the character’s] shoes for so long that half of the job is trusting not only that you know exactly what’s going through his mind, but also that part of your job is to get out of the way and let the audience put what they want you to be thinking into your head.

AWARDSLINE: You and Tim DeKay have some of the best chemistry on-screen and off. What’s your secret?
BOMER: I compare it to two kids who just hit it off on the playground and they come over for a play date and you have to call them in five times for dinner because they don’t want to stop playing. Tim has an amazing sense of humor — he makes me laugh a lot — and he understands my sense of humor. From the first time we read together, I completely understood what he was bringing to the character of Peter Burke, and I think he understood what I was bringing to Neal. It was this yin-yang that felt really easy and not forced. For me, that was really important in terms of having a long-term dynamic.

You did a guest spot on
Glee during your hiatus. Was it important to you to do something drastically different from White Collar?
BOMER: Yeah, it was. Cooper Anderson was just such a fun role. [Co-creators] Ryan [Murphy] and Ian [Ian Brennan] and [writer] Michael Hitchcock really gave me a gift of a role. I had Eric Stoltz as a director, who’s all about getting the juice out of every scene and having the most fun possible. It was really important for me to flex different muscles and get to do comedy.

AWARDSLINE: What was the most enjoyable part of the process: the comedy, the dancing or the singing?
BOMER: My master class scene because I understood so much about this guy, who was so desperate for validation from anyone. It was fun to construct this piecemeal identity he had where he parses out the things he wants to hear and believe and then commits to them with absolute conviction. Having the commitment to teach these kids that the best way to pull off a dramatic scene is to “point as much as possible” and then make that truthful was not only challenging, but incredibly fun.

  1. Vlada Gelman of DeadLine Hollywood,

    Stumbled upon you, will be coming back for more. Nice Blog!!! Thanks!!! Professional love it.

    Thanks for your article on a show and actor that for me I only discovered recently. Can’t get enough of this show. Quality, Quality, Quality!!! Watched all 3 seasons. AND HIT REPEAT.
    Just what a girl needs after a long day of running a business, family, etc. We all look forward to some form of quality escapism. I really enjoy the story lines and the cast is spot on. Your all wonderful. Let’s not even get into the homage they so beautifully portray of the best city in the world. New York, New York!!! And I am from Boston… (Don’t tell my family.) But still , If You can make it there, You can make it anywhere…
    Of course we all, men and woman gush on “Matty B”. ( his words… too cute) . I don’t want to go off on a tangent ( but can’t help myself, just a little gushing… she sighs…) about the perfection of this fellow human being Matthew Bomer. What a nice down to earth well adjusted, humble, considerate guy, dad, partner, friend, and son. His parents should be proud they raised a great guy. Simon your one lucky man. Not to mention his love for his children. So sweet. I am very impressed. I never understood all this west coast arrogance, of all the beautiful people. He actually IS beautiful and to be so down to earth is very refreshing. You know, looking out from those eyes, out to the world…It could of been a train wreck. But every time I see an interview or article, he is just cool. Hollywood could learn a lesson from a person of his caliber. He draws you in. He is a class act. 20th Century FOX PLEASE NOTE he’s your money maker. Love you Matty B. Keepin it real.
    The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences might reconsider and award White Collar Cast and Crew alike, Exactly what they are so deserving of. The Writers deserve a BIG Shout Out, as with out them, Matt and Peter and rest of the cast would only be standing there, looking so pretty. It is a team effort!!! I for one am rooting for their team. Looking forward to the New Season, almost as much as Magic Mike…

  2. Bomer’s a very talented guy. He really amazed me on “Glee.” Can’t wait for “Magic Mike.”

  3. No doubt this guy deserves a nod. He has created one of the best characters on television. He was Glee’s best guest to date. His behavior in his personal life is stellar as well, always a complete class act.

  4. Bomer is a very talented actor – with both comedy and drama – but unfortunately he won’t be getting any awards for ‘White Collar’ because the writing of the show just isn’t of the required calibre for Emmy voters. Here’s hoping he gets some consideration for his spot on ‘Glee’ though, which was hilarious.

    And looking forward to Matt getting the movie roles he deserves; he’s talented, classy, intelligent and gorgeous – he has all the attributes needed to be a real movie star.

  5. What a great interview. White Collar is a show that should be more popular. Matt and the rest of the cast are fantastic. The stories are well written and you feel you are in on the fun. Plus I love that is is a show about New York that is actually shot in New York and uses it as another character.

  6. i think matt bomer would make an excellent christian grey for the 50 shades movies.somebody should start a campaign for it to happen!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    1. There is one (or several, really) on Facebook: see “Campaign to get Matt Bomer cast as Christian Grey” and “Christian Grey” (fictional character). Matt’s featured super-prominently on there as well.

      He’s the only one I can see in that role. And I know he could do it.

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