Exclusive: 'White Collar's' Matt Bomer interviews new USA star Piper Perabo of 'Covert Affairs'
Over on the USA Network, a night of crime is a pretty good thing. “White Collar” returned for its second season Tuesday night, and drew 4.3 million viewers, down 20% from its series premiere but still 12% higher than its freshman season average. It seems a bank heist is what the viewers want!
Continuing the evening of good-looking television was the series premiere of “Covert Affairs," starring Piper Perabo ("Beverly Hills Chihuahua"), which brought in 4.9 million viewers and is the highest-rated cable series premiere so far this year.
We’ve got a Q & A with Matt Bomer, who stars as “White Collar's” charming con man Neal Caffrey, and Perabo, the newly minted CIA operative from “Covert Affairs.”
The twist: We’re not asking the questions. In between their hectic schedules — an appearance on the “Today” show (Bomer) and shooting a boat-hopping action sequence (Perabo), the actors wrangled some phone time (very) early Tuesday morning, as in 4:30 a.m. Pacific, to role play. Bomer pretended he's a journalist, Perabo played herself, and we listened in. Time for you to eavesdrop:
Bomer: Let me pull out my copious journalistic notes. Piper, I know you’ve been asked hundreds of questions over the past week, so anything you don’t want to answer, just say ‘get lost’ and I’ll move on to the next one. First of all, you’re really incredible in this pilot. You nail the character, you look incredible and I thought the show was well cast. I’m really proud to have it come out after our show [on Tuesdays]; they complement each other really well. So tell me, how did the role of Annie Walker come your way?
Perabo: I was doing a play in New York and I was reading film script after film script. I couldn’t find anything … you know, I was really looking to play a hero. I read this script and I thought it was so incredible and I auditioned for it. It took a couple of auditions, actually, to get it.
Bomer: Those are the best ones. The ones that don’t just roll your way; you really have to fight for them. Speaking of that play you were doing in New York, I remember seeing a really early off-Broadway performance of “Reasons to Be Pretty” and thinking, "Wow! Here’s this beautiful girl who could be doing anything Hollywood might be throwing her way and she’s doing an off-Broadway show by a great playwright, really honing her craft." What made you want to go the theater route?
Perabo: I’ve always lived in New York because I’ve always wanted to do theater. I moved there originally to be a stage actor. Have you done much theater?
Bomer: Yeah, not in L.A. But I’ve done a lot of stage stuff in New York. It’s definitely the most actor-friendly medium, I’ve found. You have a 3-6 week rehearsal period there where you sort of learn why you pick up a tea cup a certain way. Now you’re on a show that’s been picked up as a series with a crazy schedule. How has it been to adjust?
Perabo: That’s so funny. I was going to ask you that. This is my first season, so trying to keep a handle on how to keep up with the workload … It’s a big switch to go from stage to television. There’s a ton on your plate: the locations, all the action scenes. So, I ask you, how have you been keeping it so well in hand?
Bomer: I’m always so inspired by Jeff Eastin’s writing. My main challenge of the day is how do I really service this material. Fortunately, [my character] Neal’s the type of guy who really likes to have fun no matter what he’s doing. That certainly helps. But, I would say, Sunday morning to Friday night my life is really committed to doing the show, coming home and figuring out the next day’s stuff.
Perabo: It looks like you guys have so much fun. I miss New York so much and when I watch your show, I see … you had a scene where you walked into a restaurant to pick up this redhead and I know that restaurant and I love their salad and I was like “No! No! I’m so jealous!”
Bomer: I smell crossover! Yeah, with New York, I’m still pinching myself that I get to shoot a series here.
Perabo: It’s so fun to watch and recognize all the places. And it’s a beautiful vision of the city. So many shows paint this image of a gritty New York. Your show has the New York we all would like to live in.
Bomer: Right. It’s really optimistically shot. It sort of looks up at that city so you don’t see all the dark corners.... But back to your show. I really enjoyed your chemistry with Christopher Gorham’s character, Auggie. Was that something you had a lot of time to flesh out with the other actors during rehearsal and table reads?
Perabo: It happened really naturally. I got really lucky when Chris came into read. As actors, you have that thing sometimes when you meet someone in an audition room and it's sort of like your humor has the same ratatat with each other. Chris and I really have that. Even now on set, we think the same things are funny. We can be on opposite sides of the set and something can happen, and we’ll just look at each other and we both know we’re thinking the same thing.
Bomer: Another thing I found interesting is this whirlwind relationship with a mystery man abroad now resurfacing in some very interesting ways. Do you think Annie would forgive him for the sudden departure if he came crawling back?
Perabo: He definitely returns. I’m not sure if Annie is ready to forgive him or not. We’re about eight episodes into the season now. His return isn't exactly dreamy and romantic.... The actor who plays him, Eion Bailey, is so fun and game. When we do action sequences, people have to hold Eion back.
Bomer: I’m the same way. I’m jumping right in. Whatever they’ll let me do … strap me in a harness and I’m game.
Perabo: You know, when I was watching your show and saw the FBI offices, I wondered if you guys got to meet FBI agents. Did you have them come in and consult on your show? It feels like that element is taken really seriously.
Bomer: Yeah, we have a fantastic FBI consultant. Last season I was just sort of winging it off my own knowledge and research that I have done. There was a lot of Wikipedia searching done at night by me. This season, I have an amazing former con who advises me. He taught me how to pick locks, how to pick pockets, how to sneak into buildings, how to get into places you don’t have access to — all those kind of fun things that if I ever try to use during the hiatus, I’ll get arrested. What about you, do you guys have an advisor on set?
Perabo: We have a CIA advisor — although, they are really mysterious; they’re not here. We have to call in our questions. When I got the job — one of our producers has a connection with the CIA — I got to go to Langley [CIA's headquarters] during the day and got to meet women CIA agents who are my age and work in the field. That was just wild. It was so amazing. These women speak, like, all these languages and have been to all these faraway countries. Their job is just so incredible.
Bomer: I’m actually looking at your face on the side of a bus as I’m talking to you. It perfectly transitions me into my next question. USA’s marketing department is incredible.
Perabo: Tell me about it. You’re the guy with the blue eyes that was on every corner I walked past.
Bomer: And now it’s you! The torch has been passed. Is it a surreal experience to see yourself on billboards and buses?Perabo: A friend of mine got on a bus that I was on — that my face was on. She called me from the bus and was like, “This is so weird that I can call you and look at you at the same time.”
Bomer: I remember thinking, “Matt, don’t acknowledge it. Just keep your nose to the grindstone. Look down.”
Perabo: Well, the good thing about New York is that New Yorkers pride themselves in being so cool that they don’t bother celebrities.
Bomer: Piper, this role is very physically demanding. Besides the long hours, there are car chases, fights … it’s got to be so much fun for you.Perabo: The training is intense. When they tried to set up this call originally, I was in the middle of a fight scene in a fire with the sprinkler system going off. We were in between shots and they were like, "Do you think you can take this call?"
Bomer: I don’t know why you weren’t just like, "Cut, let me make a phone call." I mean, it was just a blazing fire and tons of water.
Perabo: Right. No big deal. The assassin was beating me up and was like, "Oh, this can wait if you need to go do something." This show is so intense. Doug Liman, our executive producer – he did the “Bourne Identity” and “Mr. & Mrs. Smith” – he’s so into action and he flies up each week to go through all our action sequences with us to ramp them up... I’m like, "Doug, I’m already really tired, what do you mean?"
Bomer: I have one more question for you: What’s the most fun part of your role and what’s the most challenging?
Perabo: The action is the funnest part and the most challenging. The other day, I wore these crazy high-heeled shoes in the show. I have them on as I’m running out of this safe house that I’ve been in and I had to jump down an elevator shaft. First of all, they are Christian Louboutins so I didn’t want to lose them and I didn’t have time to take them off. They were just like, “It’s OK; just jump! Just jump!” I was like, “This is so scary, but soooo awesome.” So I went down the shaft in the shoes.
Photo: (top) Perabo stars as Annie Walker in USA's "Covert Affairs. (Middle) Bomer as Neal Cafferty on "White Collar." (Bottom) Perabo and Christopher Gorham. Credit: USA NetworkRelated: