A Conversation with Tim DeKay
February is here and WHITE COLLAR is back. The upcoming episode, “Empire City”, marks the second directorial outing for its star, Tim DeKay. As a big fan of Tim’s and the show, I was lucky enough to be invited to join in the press call with him to talk about this episode, the show in general, and just how much of a fan I am (getting up at 2.40am Sydney time!). I had such a great time chatting with Tim on the phone – can’t wait to meet him in person!
Here’s a transcript of my Q&A with Tim
Valerie: Good morning Tim!
Tim: Good morning Val, how are you feeling?
VL: I got about four hours’ sleep but I’m very excited to be talking to you.
TDK: Excellent, likewise.
VL: Last season you made your directorial debut filming in Yankee Stadium and this time you were in the Cotton Club. Where would you like to shoot next time around?
TDK: I’m aiming for the White House. We’ll see if that happens…I don’t know, we’ll see…
VL: Oh, that would require you to be out of state, right?
TDK: Yeah it would…so…some other iconic place in New York City…Madison Square Garden! There you go, that would be my aim for next season – Madison Square Garden. [I hope the writers are paying attention to this one for season 5!]
VL: That would be awesome…Having played Peter Burke for four seasons now, is there anything that you have learnt about Peter or anything that he has done that has caught you most by surprise?
TDK: Hmm…that’s a good question…what has caught me by surprise about Peter…I’d have to say I’m always surprised and challenged by his ability to balance between doing what’s right for Neal and doing what’s right for the FBI. The writers have been able to have Peter continue to walk down that line between being a friend to Neal and having to answer to his job as an FBI agent.
VL: This season has been very much about Neal’s back story and I don’t think the writers have reconvened for season 5 yet but are we likely to see more of Peter’s back story? Does he have some dark and seedy past we’re going to discover in season 5?
TDK: I’ve talked to some of the writers about that and I would love to have something uncovered about Peter that would be surprising to the audience. I think we have to be careful with any back story as long as it keeps the action moving forward. I think that’s important. So how we would delve into Peter’s back story would only be so that we could keep the story moving forward.
VL: You’ve done a lot of theatre work. Would you ever consider doing an international tour with a theatre company and bring your performance down to Australia?
TDK: I would. I would love to do that. There was a very famous production of…maybe I’ve told you this before, so forgive me if I have… a very famous production of Our Country’s Good* that was done in Sydney, I think it was near the Opera House, where the back of the stage came up and you could see out into the water. The audience was looking out on to the stage – I think it was in a warehouse or something. I would love to do that play in Australia, although I don’t think that would ever happen but sure, I would love to take any play and tour the world.
VL: Well, it would be a sell-out show for sure if you do come so I hope it does happen! Thanks so much for your time, Tim.
TDK: Sure. You can go back to bed now.
OK, so I managed to contain my giddiness long enough to ask some coherent questions! But here are some highlights from the rest of the interview with other callers:
The ever-present trust issue
There is a wonderful dynamic between Peter and Neal – two best friends who enjoy each other’s company though they would never admit it. Yet there is always a secret, a chess game going on and they’re not revealing everything because often they think that keeping it a secret is for the benefit of the other person. The trust issue is always going to be there. Neal is criminal and Peter is an FBI agent. That is an inherent trust issue. But on other things they trust each other implicitly.
El asking Neal to lie to Peter
There have been many lies of omission but there has never been a time when Peter has asked Neal a point-blank question where Neal has lied to his face. On this occasion, Neal was given the green light to lie to Peter by Elizabeth. We’re going to see the force of El’s request play out to the rest of the season.
Directing Empire City
Tim’s greatest moment from this episode was directing Diahann Carroll singing in the Cotton Club. They had pre-recorded her songs earlier but with live musicians on set, when the cameras started rolling, she sang it live and they didn’t use the pre-recorded version. Also, keep an eye out for the wonderful music selection and transition montages of New York City used in this episode.
Marsha’s blonde wig playing the cigar girl
It was a surprise to Tim until he saw her in the scene with it and it turned out great.
Peter’s take-down of Pratt
Peter is a strong believer in the Bureau and to have someone in position of power tarnish the FBI infuriates Peter, and firing Hughes makes it even more personal for Peter because he is a friend.
Peter in season 5 and beyond
Tim would like to see Peter go undercover more. As much as he loves the suits they make and buy for him, he loves going to work and not having to wear a tie!
Tim would love to see an episode where Neal plays Peter Burke in the FBI office and Peter gets to be Neal in Neal’s apartment. He also loves seeing Neal and Peter work together on their cases but always have that mistrust.
The relationship between Peter and Elizabeth
They have a fantastic relationship but in order to show how truly fantastic this relationship is, they may need to have an arc for a couple of episodes where there is great conflict between them, and Peter goes to Neal for help, and we see how Peter and El handle this conflict.
* Our Country’s Good is a British play, adapted from a novel written by Australian author, Thomas Keneally, set in 18th century Sydney during the First Settlement period.