Tim DeKay has guest starred on many recent TV shows, including Chuck, Hot in Cleveland, and an upcoming episode of Body of Proof. And who could forget his infamous turn as “Bizarro Jerry” on Seinfeld. But for the last four years, Tim has been most known for playing mostly steady FBI agent Peter Burke opposite Matt Bomer’s criminal informant/friend, Neal Caffrey, on USA’s White Collar. The relationship between the two men is certainly never boring and lately has been strained as Peter’s wife Elizabeth, played by Tiffani Thiessen, has asked Neal to lie to Peter to protect him from harm. Tim DeKay also took on directing duties for tonight’s episode, “Empire City”. Please read on to see what Tim had to say about his experience directing and some of his insight into his character. Enjoy!
TheTwoCents: Was it difficult for you to direct yourself on screen during this episode?
Tim DeKay: No, it’s not too difficult to be honest with you, because we had the writer, Channing Powell, who wrote the episode. She was there the whole time. And also, I look to my DP a few times. And it’s open enough so that – on our set that I can talk to Channing of whether or not the moment works, I can talk to Matt Bomer or Willie or Tiffani, whomever, and say, “Does that work? What do you guys think?” And then, the other thing is 90% of the time I’ll know whether or not the moment is right for me as far as acting. So, it’s not really difficult, no.
TTC: What were some of the biggest challenges you faced while directing the episode?
TD: I think the biggest challenge for any of these episodes is the clock. 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 want to – you think of all these cool shots, but there just isn’t enough time in the day. So, the biggest challenge is a mixture that you tell the story within those seven days where there is 12 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.
TTC: Having played Peter Burke for four seasons now, is there anything that you’ve learned about Peter or anything that he has done that has most caught you by surprise?
TD: That’s a good question. What has caught me by surprise with Peter? I’d have to say that I’m always surprised and challenged at his ability to balance doing what’s right for Neal and doing what’s right for the FBI. The writers have been able to continue to have Peter walk on that line of being a friend to Neal, and yet having to answer to his job as an FBI agent.
TTC: Bill Bellamy gives a really nice performance. What was it like working with him?
TD: Well, it was wonderful. I’ve known Bill for quite some time, and his name came up. I don’t remember if I brought it up first or the producer did, but either way I thought it was a great role for him. And I thought that he and Marsha Thomason-Sykes had a wonderful chemistry there on screen, and it was also fun to see Marsha in that kind of outfit with that wig, so it was great. I didn’t know they were going to do the wig, but I was just walking down the hall, and this is before we started shooting the episode, and I walk into hair and makeup and there she’s got that blonde wig. And I thought, “Oh, that’s fantastic. You’ve got to wear it.” So that was her idea.
TTC: White Collar is now in it’s fourth season. Why do you think it still so great?
TD: I think because the show is about characters, and the longer we get to know these characters, as an audience, I think whether it’s conscience or unconscious, subconscious, we anticipate and we look forward to the anticipation of Peter’s reaction. We’ll see Neal do something and we know what Peter’s going to say to this, and there’s something fun about that that we get to know these people. I also think though, that the writers continue to do a great job in moving these stories forward and in keeping the stakes high, and keeping the show clever. That’s the thing. It’s – there is certain cleverness to this show that’s – is of its own ilk, and I think is refreshing to see. And it’s – what did Bonnie Hammer call it, intelligent escapism perhaps; something like that.
TTC: How do you define your directing style? And how do you play to that end of it?
TD: Tim DeKay:That’s a good question. I think it’s one of these things that we do as storytellers or even artists that put our vent on it or our style. It’s something that we just have to trust will come out no matter what. I think if you consciously tell yourself, “I’m going to put my mark on this,” it’s too fabricated. If I were to – in retrospect, I think most of my episodes and the stories that I’ve done as a director have to do quite a bit with relationships, because as an actor that’s something that we key into. Also, there are moments that we watch on – in a movie or TV that we really like. So, you know after a movie you say, “Oh, I liked that moment where she turned around told them, you know get out of the house.” Whatever. And I find myself directing those moments or creating those moments in a scene where maybe they weren’t there, but all of a sudden I see them as I read the script. And so I think, “I want to put those in there.” But, at the time I don’t think consciously, “I’m going to put my mark here. This is going to be a Tim DeKay moment.” No, it’s just how we like to decode stories. It usually is how we like to tell them as well.
And we love to see them! Watch Tim’s episode tonight at 10PM ET on USA! Episodes will continue to air Tuesday’s at 10PM ET on USA.
Anne – Assistant TO the Editor-in-Chief