The White Collar season finale flipped the script, quite literally, by turning Peter into the prisoner and leaving Neal on the outside looking in. Tonight's premiere episode picks up with our smooth criminal feeling incredibly guilty for his role placing Burke behind bars, and desperately seeking a way to free his framed friend.
When and if Peter is freed remains to be seen, but as Matt Bomer told me, this year will be fraught with tension as a result of Neal's actions. In addition to teasing tough times ahead for TV's most dapper two-some, Bomer opened up about Neal's evolution and the end of his family tree when ETonline recently caught up with the actor in NYC!
ETonline: When we return, how bad does Neal feel for the role he played in Peter getting framed for Pratt's murder?
Matt Bomer: Oh man, he feels incredibly guilty. He knows that Peter is in this position because of his choices, and his father's choices. So Neal will do whatever he has to in order to get Peter out of prison -- even if it's illegal. And as someone who's been where Peter is, I think seeing him in prison makes Neal dig deeper into his bag of tricks to figure out how to fix it. He wants to fix everything -- but might make things worse in doing so.
ETonline: The season began with Neal in prison and Peter on the outside, what was it like filming scenes with Tim DeKay in orange and you in the suit?
Bomer: Kind of surreal because, first of all, everyone will see this, but Tim looks great in orange. It's a wonderful color on him [laughs]. But it was a trip. And seeing how he handled it was so impressive for me, as an actor. From a character perspective, I found it really interesting; Neal can relate to his predicament in so many ways, so there's a real sense of responsibility about how everything has transpired, even though his father was largely responsible. He's certainly feeling the weight of that as well.
ETonline: Have we seen the last of Neal's dad for the time being?
Bomer: I think so. There's still so much to tell with that story, so I feel like we'll return to it at some point because with a TV show that's been on for this long you get to really go deep into people's backstories, but in a weird way, I feel like you don't want to know everything there is to know about Neal. He's a fantastical character in a lot of ways, and Jeff [Eastin, creator] and I have often said that if you make a character like Neal too human, it can lessen his effect. I had so much fun with that storyline, but this year really gets back to themes we explored in the first season of White Collar: good versus evil and how much can someone like Neal be trusted. But I will say that the sins of the father weigh very heavily into all the decisions Neal makes this season. In a way, you feel that relationship even though it's not there.
ETonline: Even though Neal isn't directly responsible, Peter has to hold him somewhat accountable for his predicament. How does their relationship change as a result?
Bomer: Oh, it changes a lot. Peter is really the roots of the show and Tim, along with the writers, has found a great way to have him still respect and value Neal in spite of all the grief he's caused everyone. So while their dynamic is different, Neal has learned how to work within those confines, a bit, over the last four years. He knows there's a kind of a mathematical formula with Peter. If he does X, then he will get Y. And to me that's sort of like family, because you can, you know, go out into the world and make mistakes and grow or change and you come back and family is still there with dinner on the table. And to me, Neal and Peter are, and will always be, family. Peter is the source of stability in Neal's life in a strange way.
ETonline: How did this experience with his dad change Neal?
Bomer: It's made Neal less inclined to live in the grey and look at the black and white of a situation a little bit more. I think this taught him a lot about boundaries, and about managing his ID. If you look at Neal's intentions, from the very beginning, his motives are pure. It's the execution that gets him into trouble.
ETonline: What are you excited for the fnas to see this season?
Bomer: This season is all about Neal's best intentions going awry. He's doing his usual Neal thing while trying to make reparations for what was, ultimately, his fault in terms of jeopardizing Peter's future with the FBI. So Neal spends a lot of this season trying to make things right and doing everything he can to fix his mistakes, but to Neal, that's not really being appreciated by Peter. I'm excited for the audience to see this slow, building resentment that plays out over the entire season.
White Collar premieres tonight at 9 p.m. on USA.