His character is billed as 'charming, sexy, sophisticated and one of the world's greatest con-artists.' Carnegie Mellon alum Matt Bomer (A'00) stars as Neal Caffrey in 'White Collar,' a new series on USA Network.
Caffrey is on the wrong side of the prison bars until he strikes a bargain with the FBI — agreeing to help them solve some of their toughest cases if only they'll let him out to look for his lost love.
A graduate of the university's School of Drama, Bomer says it was the intelligent writing and complex characters that drew him to the series.
"I love playing the dichotomy of someone who's smooth, graceful and hyper-intelligent on the surface but underneath is really a big kid, and a romantic at heart," Bomer explained. "He's always testing his boundaries."
Playing characters like Caffrey, who operate on the fringes in terms of morals and societal standards, is challenging, Bomer said.
"You have to figure out why they do what they do on an empathic, human level. You can't judge them or you're toast."
What Bomer liked most about his time at Carnegie Mellon — besides the sound of bagpipes at sunset — was the ensemble aspect of growing and developing over the years with a small, select group of peers.
"You're stuck together. You have to fall on your face, and fail, and succeed, and grow, all together," he said. "I don't think I'll ever be closer to a group of people in my life."
Bomer says he's used a lot of the tools he learned at Carnegie Mellon over the years, and he didn't hesitate to call on a former professor's expertise when he learned he would need to employ both an Italian and a French accent in one episode.
"Matt’s character has to get in and out of tense situations using his wit, so he sometimes needs to trick those around him into thinking he’s not Neal Caffrey," explained Don Wadsworth, a professor of drama at Carnegie Mellon whom Bomer brought onto the set briefly as his voice coach. "It was like having him back in school for that short time while he reviewed the accent and a few phrases that would allow his disguise to work."
Bomer believes the School of Drama's Showcase provides the most practical option for breaking into the business, and has sound advice for students.
"Don't worry if people think you're 'good'," he said. "Make this your experience. And find out what makes you unique as an artist. You don't get the opportunity to do that as much in the real world."
Meanwhile, make plans to be in front of a TV on Friday nights at 10 p.m. EST to watch the series.
"It's fun, it doesn't take itself too seriously, and I think people will have a really good time watching it," Bomer said.