Tim DeKay discusses his role behind the camera as he makes his directorial debut with an upcoming episode of this hit USA Network series.
White Collar continues its Season 3 run with the all-new Episoe 3.12: Upper West Side Story this Tuesday night at 10/9c, on USA. When scholarship funds from a prestigious prep school mysteriously disappear, Neal (Matthew Bomer) poses as a substitute teacher to help Peter (Tim DeKay) and the FBI figure out where the money is really going.
We caught up with Tim DeKay to chat about this upcoming episode, as well as his directorial debut, which he makes with Episode 3.15: Stealing Home on February 21st. To learn more about the second half of White Collar: Season 3, read our conversation below.
Pretty exciting episode last week. How will the events of Checkmate continue to play out through the rest of Season 3, leading into March?
Tim DeKay: That was an exciting episode to shoot, I have to say. At the end of that episode, there is the possibility of Neal being a free man. Thus extends the next five episodes, finding out what could possibly keep him from being a free man, and whether or not he has that decision to make. Does he want to be a free man? Does he want to work for the FBI. What does he want to do? And what does Peter want to do to make sure that Neal is doing the right thing for himself? The two of them have decisions to make. On top of that comes a new element. Beau Bridges comes in, and his character has a lot of information that could effect or alter Neal's fate.
How much fun is it to have Beau Bridges back on the show?
Tim DeKay: Oh, its fantastic. He is such a great actor. He is a wonderful man. He has a great grounding presence on the set. He is a sweet individual. He is funny. You just want to hang out with the guy. Of course, he's got great stories, too, from his decades of being in this crazy business.
It sounds like the next five upcoming episodes will focus more on Neal. Is that because you're making your directorial debut this season? Did they take a bit of pressure off you on the acting side of things?
Tim DeKay: The episode prior to my directing, they did make Peter a little bit lighter, so I could prep. But I think the focus is still equal. It does focus on Neal, and his decision about what he wants to do. But it equally focuses on Peter's decision. Peter has a few decisions to make. One is, Beau Bridges's character comes back into town. It comes down to Peter's recommendation with the board on whether or not Neal should have computation. So Neal has to be on his best behavior in front of Peter, so that Peter will give the board a good recommendation, and tell them that he should be free. Yet, Neal was just instrumental in having Peter's wife kidnapped. Its great. It maintains that tension while they are still able to hang out together, and work together. They both have this decision to make. The directing was an amazing experience, because I got to direct my episode in Yankee Stadium. We were the first production company to shoot at the new Yankee Stadium. It was exciting to direct there, because I am a big fan of baseball.
Were the players on the field while you were shooting?
Tim DeKay: No, I wish. Wouldn't that be great? I kept telling the writers, "Let's get Derek Jeter! Let's do a bunch of cameo appearances!" But they thought it would be rather costly, from what I gathered. But, no, the players weren't on the field. There is a museum down there. Matthew Bomer and I were able to go on the field at one point. We kind of had reign of half the stadium when we were shooting. Other parties were there...It is amazing. You can rent out parts of the stadium during the day if there is not a game going on. You can rent it out for a birthday party. It would cost you an arm and a leg to rent, but you can do it during the day if there is not a game.
Is that something you are planning? Are you going to throw your next birthday party at Yankee Stadium?
Tim DeKay: Can you imagine? No way! (Laughs) The birthday party would be, "Hey, I got some tickets, let's go to a game." I can't imagine...I don't know what the numbers are...Someone from the Yankee organization told me there was a Bar Mitzvah there one time. Maybe they've had more than one...But it costs well into the six figures just to have a party there...
Yeah, I think you're right. It would be funner just to have your party in the stands, watching the game in the cheap seats for $12, drinking beer and eating a hotdog.
Tim DeKay: Exactly! At least you'd get to see the game, and the players, and everything. It is beautiful to see the open field with no one on it. But after awhile, at least for me, you want to get on it. If no one's down there, let's go get on it!
But even for six figures, you rent it out, you can't get on the field...
Tim DeKay: Yeah, the field is off limits. Sometimes, what they will do...Bank of America had some kind of event going on there while we were shooting. It looked like they let twenty...Twenty-five...Bank of America guys down there. They were doing batting practice. But, I mean, what it costs Bank of America to do that? Maybe it was their highest salesmen? Who knows whom it was. But that is a pretty penny. All of the grounds men have to come in. I'm sure they gave those guys all the appropriate shoes to wear. You don't want to dig up the field, or anything.
Sounds fun if you can afford it!
Tim DeKay: Oh, yeah.
With your upcoming directorial debut, you have TV fan favorite Hal Ozsan guest starring. How was that to have such a popular actor come in and help you out with your episode?
Tim DeKay: That was great! Hal Ozsan does have a fan base. But for me, it was wonderful, because I had an actor. I had a wonderful actor. I didn't have anything to do with it, they just went out and hired him. I'd seen some of his work on screen, and I thought he was great. But you never know how a person works. There is always that moment where you hope they are someone that works and plays well with others...And Hal Ozsan was just so great. He was beyond fantastic. I really hope I get a chance to work with him again sometime.
Was it easier to make your directorial debut with this supporting cast you've been working with for three years now? Or is it a little difficult to have your co-workers looking at you, like, "Oh, now he's the boss!"
Tim DeKay: No, not at all. Because we all work so close together to begin with. Once everyone found out I was directing an episode, they couldn't have been more supportive. They kept telling me they were excited to have me directing. They couldn't wait. By the time you are at the end of a third season on any show, its just a matter of telling your actors, "That was such a cool moment, maybe this will make it more cool." Or, "That was so funny...Maybe if you do it like this, it might be funnier." It is such a collaborative effort, it didn't even feel like I was directing, as far as the acting was concerned.
Did you have any insight into which story you would be telling? Are you able to change things about the ongoing story or certain characters that you aren't happy with?
Tim DeKay: There is an element of that with White Collar. It was serendipitous that I was able to direct a baseball episode. They knew I was a baseball fan, and that I played baseball when I was younger. It just worked out that I got to direct the baseball episode, but there may have been a few nuances that I may have given the writers, to help things along a bit. But as far as the story was concerned? They are very opened to suggestions from the actors and the directors. The problem is, you are wrapping your head around it, so that you are filming at present. There isn't a lot of time you can spend thinking about whether or not a scene can be executed differently. Because you are thinking about the one you are shooting during the present. The biggest obstacle that we found...It wasn't until very late in the game that we discovered we'd be able to get Yankee Stadium. So we were looking at three or four different stadiums at the time. We didn't know if a deal could be made. There were a number of factors we had to work out. Maybe we'd have to change it to a different kind of sport. Or a different story. I don't want to give too much away, but that was the biggest obstacle in the operation.
USA is known for its crossovers amongst characters on its shows. Any chance we might see you direct an episode of another USA Network series currently on the air?
Tim DeKay: I would love to go direct a Burn Notice. Yeah, I hope that would be possible. It's a schedule thing. A lot of the times, we are all shooting these episodes during the months when there is a blue sky. Because we do like to introduce crossovers. That is a USA staple. A lot of the time, they are shooting their other shows while we are shooting ours, so I can't get over there. But it would be fantastic. To stay in the USA family, and direct some of the other USA shows? I would love to do that.
How far are you into shooting the second half of Season 3?
Tim DeKay: We completed White Collar Season 3 at the end of August. Of 2011. Its exciting to know we always have these episodes waiting in the future. I come home after six months of shooting, and I am like a zombie for the first month of September. I take the kids to school, I maybe meet a friend for coffee, then I come home and pass out for about two hours. Its incredible how you are always going on this adrenaline. But then usually, something comes up. I went and did a Chuck in September. That got me going again. I love shooting that show with those people. Its always exciting to know that you have episodes that are coming up. You'd like to see some of it in the fall, but you understand that the network has figured out that its best coming up in January.
I like it. For TV fans in general, it gives us something to watch when the last thing goes off the air. There is always something on that we've been waiting to watch. That wasn't always the case. USA has really figured this out...
Tim DeKay: Yeah, they have. I like it. I think USA has a great handle on programming and content. They know their viewers and they know what works...Character driven programming!
White Collar, and pretty much every other USA show, is so popular with the fans...Are you ready for the long haul on this series? Are you ready to be on the air for 10 years?
Tim DeKay: Yes I am. From you lips to God's ears. I am ready for a long haul. It would be fantastic. I would love it if Neal and Peter were in walkers. I can do this puppy for a long time.
On that note, where would you like to see Peter in the year 2019?
Tim DeKay: I'd like to see Peter doing exactly what he is doing. He has a great fortitude, and he couldn't be happier. He loves the chase. He loves the hunt. There is only one other guy that he knows who loves it as much as he does, and that's Neal. In 2019, I don't see it being any different. I'd make sure both Matthew Bomer and I stay in shape. Certainly, Matt will, if he keeps doing those stripper movies.
Are you guys already thinking about Season 4?
Tim DeKay: We start shooting in mid-March. We have talked out the arc for season 4, and it is incredibly exciting.