Tiffani Thiessen is certainly no stranger to TV success, with the wildly popular Saved by the Bell under her belt. The actress has found even more success with the brand new hit USA series White Collar, which is in the middle of it's successful first year, airing on Friday nights at 10 PM ET on the USA Network. Thiessen recently held a conference call where she discussed the series, and here's what she had to say.
What made you want to be a part of this show?
Tiffani Thiessen: Ever since I read the script, which has been a little over a year ago now, I fell in love with it. I fell in love with the characters. I fell in love with the show, and more and more, when the cast was brought together, the more excitement I had for the show and wanting to be a part of it. This is really the first time I feel like in my whole entire career which has been over 25, 26 years of doing this that I finally feel like I'm kind of playing a role a little closer to home for me, which is kind of exciting.
Was there instant chemistry when everyone began working together? I know you're very close working together with Tim and Matt as well.
Tiffani Thiessen: We are, from day one. I of course had met Tim through the testing process of us being put on screen and doing our scenes together, and we had chemistry from day one. I absolutely adore that man and then met Matt, actually, after we had already started shooting the pilot. We actually were on the same flight going to New York to shoot the pilot last year. Then Willie Garson I actually had known just being in the business for so long. We had met prior, and I've always really enjoyed him and loved him, so I was really excited to know that it was actually really kind of a special cast that we were putting together. I couldn't be more thrilled with everybody I'm working with. It's really a nice group of people. Being away from home, it makes it so much nicer when you actually like the people you're working with.
It feels like there's more to your character than what we've seen. I almost feel like maybe she's hiding something.
Tiffani Thiessen: Oh gosh, I'm so curious to know what you think I'm hiding.
What sort of background can we expect as we move along?
Tiffani Thiessen: I think you'll start to see background on all of our characters, especially the guys. Surely, this show is definitely the guys' show. It's Matt and Tim's show, and Willie and I definitely play more of a supporting role, but you will definitely see much more of me in the further episodes as you're coming along. Last week or two weeks ago you saw a little bit more of what I really do for a living and kind of my career, which is really nice to kind of see because we really never saw that in the pilot, and it was something that we kind of came up with actually after we shot the pilot. They're definitely putting more of what I do outside of my relationship with Tim into the show a little bit, and that'll continue on even, hopefully, in seasons from here on out, which hopefully there'll be five to ten years of White Collar. In general, I can't give you exact specifics, ideas of what's going to be happening, but I can promise you you'll see a lot more of her.
What about any sort of action scenes. Do you get involved in any of the sort of cops and robbers element of it?
Tiffani Thiessen: I don't think so. It's really not part of my character and my storyline in this show. Again, I'm definitely a supporting role, especially being that I'm the wife of Tim's character, but you will see a lot of a triangle in a sense of what I can do and help with Matt's character as well, especially, I think, when it involves the storyline of Kate. You'll see that a lot as well.
Now, as a first-time mother, how do you think that it will play out balancing your roles and responsibilities of motherhood and your part on White Collar?
Tiffani Thiessen: You know, that's a very good question in the sense that I really don't know being that I am a first-time mom, so it'll be a very different kind of thing for me being that I'll be working and being a mother at the same time. There are millions of people who do it. My mom did it herself, so I know I can handle it, but it'll be a very new experience, so it's hard to say what is going to be like. It'll be all brand new for me.
My second question is the onscreen relationship between you and Tim's character, Peter, seems to be loving, but also a bit strained by his professional commitments. Now, with the charming and charismatic Neal Caffrey entering the picture, how do you think this partnership will affect Elizabeth and Peter's marriage as the show develops?
Tiffani Thiessen: I don't know if I would actually use the word strained. I think in every marriage there's always the challenge of making time and making priorities in their relationship when people have careers, and what you will start to see more and more is my career, being that it takes up a lot of my time as well. I think it's going to give a lot of, not so much looking into Peter's career and how it affects our marriage. There's also my side of it as well. I think she is very understanding to that. She's been living with it for so long and knows what he does for a living, and she knows what she married. I don't think there's a strain to it. I think there's a challenge. I think probably the challenge is the word I could use for that. I think what Neal brings into it is that I think my husband on the show is very kind of black and white in the way he thinks, and I think Neal is definitely much more colorful, and I think he will definitely teach my husband a little more of the colorful side of being romantic and all those things that you do need in a marriage as well.
I know you did a short film a couple years ago that you directed, and I wanted to know is that something you still want to be doing? Is there a chance maybe you could direct an episode of White Collar?
Tiffani Thiessen: I do. You're so sweet. Yes, they definitely know directing is something that's in my thinking of wanting to do more and more, and it all really just depends on time and all that. I wanted to make sure that when we started the show my focus was on my character and what I'm doing as an actress. Now with my new role coming as a mother, it's going to be a little more challenging, but it's definitely something I want to do more of, so yes.
What would you say to those that haven't seen White Collar yet to convince them to watch?
Tiffani Thiessen: Oh gosh, well, besides having really cute guys on the show, it's definitely the type of TV and movies that I like to see. I'm a huge fan of Thomas Crown Affair and those kinds of feels of movies and shows and 48 Hours, which is so interesting, Catch Me if You Can, things like that. If people are really into those kinds of movies and those kind of story-telling, they have to watch this show. It is so absolutely entertaining. The characters are so rich and so fun to watch and follow. As well as you see New York City in a completely different way. It's shot in a beautiful way. It's interesting, a lot of shows that are shot in New York City can be a little more dark and gray, and this show really, I think, kind of captures New York City in a really beautiful light, and it's nice.
You've played a wide variety of characters. How do you think these roles have prepared you to play Elizabeth Burke?
Tiffani Thiessen: It's funny. I think I've made this statement before a few times, but it is really true is that this is the first character in over 25 years of me doing this that I actually feel like it's the closest to me that I've played in all the different shows and movies that I've done in my career. I think it's more about myself and my own experience that I can bring to Elizabeth. She has this really solid wonderful marriage. I feel like I have that with my own husband. She's career-driven, which I feel like I am. It's all those things that you put towards a character like her that I feel that are definitely very much me.
USA Network has some big hits out there right now. How does it feel to be a part of the network?
Tiffani Thiessen: Absolutely exciting. I tell them this all the time that I feel blessed to be on such an amazing network. This is the first time I've ever done a cable show, and I'm utterly thrilled and over-the-moon with the fact that they're so supportive and they're so behind their shows, and they really do give such a great chance of us really trying to make it. It's nice. It's nice to feel like we're really wanted in a sense and really have a lot of passion behind us. It's a lovely, lovely feeling.
For the first one is you mentioned that Elizabeth is the closest to your personality. Do you know if your pregnancy will be incorporated into the show?
Tiffani Thiessen: I don't know. That's actually going to be up to the writers and the executive producers and USA and Fox and everybody involved. I'm going to be still somewhat not too pregnant along when we're finally coming to the end of the season. We really don't have too much more left, so it's really up to them if they want to. I'm open to whatever they feel. We tried to time it to a certain degree so I wouldn't show too, too much.
You've been on a few shows that have been a little short lived in your career. What makes White Collar something you think can surpass a couple of seasons?
Tiffani Thiessen: Well, I think a few reasons. People are already enjoying it. We've had a lot of great feedback and a lot of great critics really loving the characters and the storylines and the show and us on it, which is exciting, the fact that we are on a network like USA. They are so behind us, and they really put us out there, and it's nice to have the passion behind us because I think that helps a lot. These network shows, sometimes they don't give it a chance, and it's nice to know that we have somebody who's really given us a chance. I think we, knock on wood, I think you're going to see us for awhile.
On television, there tends to be a fine line between that perfect supportive spouse that's believable and the one that is so over the top that you're like, no one in this world exists quite like this, and you are actually doing a wonderful job being that supportive spouse that we definitely believe. How do you strike that balance, and how do you plan to keep it going?
Tiffani Thiessen: Thank you so much first of all. That's very sweet of you to say. That means a lot to me because I really try, and Tim and I both have long talks about this as well as our creator, Jeff, that we really wanted this to be a relationship that does work on TV, not one that has a lot of problems, not one that you constantly see drama, which you see a lot on TV. Funny enough, Tim and I come from marriages that work, that really do work like that, so I think we really take it from just our own experiences. Tim's been married for quite some time to a wonderful woman and has two great kids. My husband and I have this wonderful relationship and humor has a lot to do with it, communication, all those things I feel that are so, so important. I take those just being from my parents who've been married for over 45 years. My grandparents were married for 67 years. It's important, so I feel like I take from my own life and really try to bring what I can to the relationship and the characters.
What is it like to work on such a male-dominated cast?
Tiffani Thiessen: It's great, actually. It's not my first time, so I feel like I'm definitely, I have the experience. With past shows, I did a show called Fastlane that was literally me and two guys. It's funny. I don't know why, but I tend to gravitate to shows that have a lot of male co-stars. I grew up with two brothers, so I guess it's just normal for me to be around guys. It's fun. It's where I feel comfortable, I have to say.
Then, being over 30 in Hollywood-
Tiffani Thiessen: You can say it, over 35.
What kind of pressures do you think that women or you, yourself, still face as far as looks and beauty pressures and things like that?
Tiffani Thiessen: You're right. It's all there. It will never go away. I don't think our business and the entertainment business in general will ever just be okay with how people are. I think we're in a business that critiques everything we do, and you kind of just take it with a grain of salt. I look at my grandmother, and I think she's aged beautifully, so I hope that I could be a smidgen of how she's aged. There's nothing you can do. All you can do is take of yourself and do the things that make you feel good and make you healthy and age appropriately, but there's always going to be people out there are going to say something, and there's nothing you can do about it. Like I said, you have to take it with a grain of salt.
You mentioned that you had some influence on the career of your character. That being said, are you going to be able to also provide future input into shaping and developing her as well? I know that the producers and writers have the job of carrying that out, but would you have a chance to put some input into that?
Tiffani Thiessen: It's interesting. We are very lucky to be on a show (and that's all of us across the board) that our executive producers and writers are very open to anything we have to say, which is so nice because not a lot of shows are like that. They believe a collaboration always works best, and not that we are there writing the show, nor is that what we're supposed to be doing, but they're always very open to any time we have a question or concern or have an idea, they're always open. It's nice to be able to get on the phone or sit down with them and talk with them about it, and we all feel that way, which is really great.
I realize that you've been working a lot with Tim and Matt, obviously, because they're the leads, but have you gotten to work a lot with Willie and Natalie who just joined the cast?
Tiffani Thiessen: I haven't. I got to work with Natalie once or twice, I think, a few weeks ago, which was fun, very briefly, though. Willie, I still have not worked with and I don't know if we'll ever see the two of them in the same scene together because their story lines are so separated, but it would be fun because I love Willie, and I've know Willie for years. On our off days, we spend a lot of time together. We're actually quite good friends. It's just funny how we don't actually work together on the show.
Can you tell us maybe a funny or interesting story that has happened behind the scenes of White Collar.
Tiffani Thiessen: I can't even mention one. That's hard. It's so hard to mention even one because the guys, Tim and Matt are two goofballs. I can't even tell you, and Willie, too, but I just don't get to work with Willie as much. I get to see Willie's humor off set when we're just hanging the two of us, but Matt and Tim, it's always a singing-fest, dancing-fest, a joke-fest when we're not literally in the scene working. It's quite enjoyable, it really is. I feel very blessed and very lucky to be working with the people that I'm working with.
You can watch Tiffani Thiessen on White Collar, which airs on Friday nights at 10 PM ET on the USA Network.