White Collar – Tiffani Thiessen Set Visit Interview
I have very serious doubts (especially because of a certain moment during this interview, the general air of tension of which will not translate in the telling) that Tiffani Thiessen has any positive thoughts about articles which mention Kelly Kapowski at this point in her career. If you know me at all, you’ll realize that I’m the last guy that would leave someone stuck in a role, generational icon or not. The very idea that Kelly was brought up during this interview made me at least as uncomfortable as it seemed to make Tifanni. I mean, come on… that was decades ago.
Nevertheless, as the time went on with the co-star of USA‘s upcoming White Collar, I couldn’t keep from thinking that there was hardly a better way to describe her than as what you are very likely to imagine as grown-up Kelly. Smart, bubbly, remarkably genuine, and just the cutest thing on Earth, Tiffani was really a lot of fun to talk to.
There’s a very different vibe to these smaller press meetings, especially the ones like this which find a lot of people putting “press” in air quotes. It’s really an intimate affair in a sense that a lot of other formats might claim, but don’t really manage. There are only so many people who can be in attendance, and so many “serious” agencies who can be on board, and however intimate you hope to be, things are rather serious just by pure human nature.
Tiffani really exemplified this difference, and in the end we might as well have been at her house for a dinner party, and by the way, we’re going to talk about your new show. If spouses had been in attendance, it would have sorely taxed my abilities to let her leave without asking when they were going to come to our place.
Before getting to the interview, there are a couple of things to take care of-
First, remember that a comment here is good for an entry in the White Collar Prize Pack Giveaway.
Also, I just got word of an exciting White Collar event.
USA NETWORK PRESENTS THE “WHITE COLLAR SHIRT BAR” OFFERING VISITORS FREE CUSTOM-FITTED SHIRTS COURTESY OF THOMAS PINK
Stars of new original series WHITE COLLAR Matt Bomer, TimDeKay and Tiffani Thiessen to attend first-of-its-kind luxury shirt bar at Rockefeller Center in celebration of show’s premiere.
Adding excitement leading up to the premiere of new original series WHITE COLLAR, USA Network proudly presents the “WHITE COLLAR Shirt Bar,” a pop-up experience offering men and women complimentary custom fitted shirts courtesy of Thomas Pink, open to the public Thursday, October 22 from 10 AM to 6 PM and Friday, October 23 from 8 AM to 6 PM. In addition to custom shirt fittings, the “WHITE COLLAR Shirt Bar” will also feature lounges, free shoeshine and complimentary coffee stations.
On the morning of Friday, October 23, join stars from the cast of WHITE COLLAR – Matt Bomer, Tim DeKay and Tiffani Thiessen – to celebrate the launch of USA’s new series at this extraordinary activity.
Make sure you check out the show this Friday as well!
Here we go!
Panel: Tell us how you got along with [your part of the] audition process. Tim was [indiscernible] an arduous process of auditioning [inaudible].
Tiffani: It’s true. It’s true. [laugh] No, he is very, very right. And I will be totally honest, and it’s so funny. But when I first auditioned for it, they hadn’t cast the role of Peter yet. Tim had not—he had not probably been in or maybe he had been in yet. But they hadn’t cast the role of Peter.
So, they were just loosely looking at possible Elizabeths. And then I was put on what they call a short list, you know, put on the short list, you know. It’s so funny. I’ve been doing this for 26 years. I can’t tell you how many short lists, I have been on. And nothing ever happens. But, you know, it’s just part of being an actor.
And so they said they were going to do the process of finding the role of Peter and cast the role of Peter. So, they were going to wait and hold off on the wife, which makes sense.
So, they finally cast the role of Peter with Tim DeKay, which I was ecstatic about because I have been a fan of Tim’s for a very, very long time. And so I remember calling my agent going, “Okay. So, what’s happening?”
He’s like, “Well, they kind of wanted to go in a different direction. They’re going to start seeing—and these are the people that—the girls that they’re testing for.” And they were literally testing girls five years younger than I was. And I was like, “Okay, this is interesting.” I mean, you know, Tim and I already have a little bit of an age difference, but like you put another five years. And I go, “That seems strange.”
So, I guess, you know, and Tim can be the person to say this, which I am sure he has told you, I guess they went through a lot of different girls, a lot of young girls. He said like most of these girls, they could’ve been his daughter. Like he was like, he could not believe it.
And so they finally came back. I got a phone call like a couple months later and they were like, “We want you to do a chemistry read with Tim DeKay.” And I was like, “Yes. It’s back on!”
I went in. We had chemistry from day one. He’s an amazing actor, and he’s such a great guy, as you guys, I’m sure, got to see. And I went in, tested for it once. And there’s a very funny story with USA that it takes USA a very long time to make a decision on somebody. And I think I broke the record because I got the call three hours later that I got the job.
Panel: So you know before you read it in one of our articles, Tim said that when you came in, he thought, “Oh, my God! She’s perfect. I hope she’s [cool].”
Tiffani: Oh, I am so sweet. [laugh] Yeah, it was one of those days that when we went in and tested with each other in front—did he tell you what that process is like? It’s very weird.
You walk into like a room like this—I’m not kidding you—with many of the executives and they’re all staring at you. And it’s super quiet. And they have a little video camera on you. And you have to do these scenes, you know. And you have to make it as real as possible with all these little heads literally looking at you. It’s very, very weird.
And then you know like there’s a bunch of different girls behind you doing the exact same thing.
But I went in and we nailed it. It was awesome. Like it was just perfect. It was meant to be. You know you say things like that. And I truly do believe it.
Panel: And how would you say you’re best able to relate to your character?
Tiffani: Well, I think just myself, you know, being married. I’ve been married almost four and a half years now. And it’s a relationship that I know—you know, a lot of times on TV, and even movies, you see these relationships that don’t work. It’s always about the ones that don’t work. And it’s the drama and it’s the this.
It’s nice to see a relationship on TV that does work, and they’ve been together for a long time. And they really do have each other’s best interest at heart.
And I feel like I, you know, my husband and I have that. My husband is my best friend. I tell him everything. And our characters, Elizabeth and Peter, I feel, are kind of the same way. We come from very different worlds on the show. He’s an FBI agent, and here I am doing high profile events, doing like the Vanity Fair parties, couldn’t be more different.
But, for some reason, we’re able—and the scenes that you guys will see at home—at our home and even outside the house, it’s just—you see the like dynamics of how we really just care about each other. It’s not about what we do for a living, it’s about what we do at home and about each other and the priorities that we put for it.
Panel: Well, so, you brought up the event planning business because we did read in the character bio that she is this event planner. They don’t have a whole lot in the pilot–.
Tiffani: No, because at first—yeah, funny enough, I was supposed to be an accountant. [laugh] That’s how it was written. And then what they ended up doing in the pilot is they never mentioned what I did for a living because I think they wanted to kind of explore me in the character. And so, actually, after we knew that the show was getting picked up, I sat down with Jeff Eastin, the creator, and I said, “I have an idea.”
I said, “I want to run it by you and see what you think because you haven’t come up with any ideas yet, right?”
And he was like, “No, we’re really wide open to whatever.”
They didn’t want her to be in an office. And we’re shooting in New York City. It’s like what better way to show even more of the City?
I said, “She’s an event planner.”
He’s like, “Oh, I like that.”
And I was like secretly I’ve always wanted to be one. So, I was like, “Cool and perfect.”
Panel: An event planner gets to wear way better hot clothes than accountants too.
Tiffani: Absolutely! Absolutely! And they’re not having to work in an office all day long. They’re having lunch meetings and dinner meetings. And they’re going out. So, it was kind of a cool way. And he’s like, “You know, that’s actually–.”
And being that I can work with high profile people sometimes, they can weave into some of the storylines. And so they actually loved it. They fell for it line and sinker. My job was done. [laugh]
Panel: But with the event planning, I mean since she does these such high profile events, does that—I mean how does that work with Neal, because it seems like that’s right up his alley?
Tiffani: And it’s true. We’re not even—well, we’re actually just exactly halfway throughout the season. And there’s been some times where you see what I do for a living kind of come in, in an episode. Definitely one episode you see it.
But it’s still new. I mean any new show, you guys know, anytime you see new shows, it’s really about trying to really explain and explore the characters.
And so it’s going to be an ongoing process, I think, for them to kind of figure that out. I just knew this story—this kind of career would be an easier way to kind of pull things together for them if they had the chance to do that.
Well, we’re still starting out. You’ll definitely see it. I mean the thing about it is, yes, the high profile, the people I might be working with could be an interest for Neal. You just—you never know.
Panel: We know about your directing in Hung but would you be interested in directing an episode for White Collar?
Tiffani: Oh, absolutely! I wouldn’t say no, absolutely not. I mean I would love to. First seasons are always the hardest to kind of get your feet wet with everybody that’s on the show and stuff like that. So, I would love to. They know my interest. I would absolutely love to.
And, yes, Hung, I was actually supposed to shoot the end of this year. But now that I’m shooting this show, it’s got pushed back.
Panel: How has it been working here in New York versus L.A.?
Tiffani: You know, I’m sure a lot of you guys probably have been to Los Angeles. It’s very, very different. But I’ve been coming to New York since I was young. I love New York City. I love that you guys have seasons, just to be able to put a coat on and a scarf. We don’t get to do that in L.A.
But on the ‘but’ side of it, my family is in L.A. So, it’s all of us, actually. All of our families are in L.A. We didn’t make the big, big move just yet. I think for first season, you just never know. But I have a sneaky suspicion this show’s going to go for a while. I usually am not wrong. So, we’ll see.
Panel: [Get your] family, and bring them out here?
Tiffani: Well, funny enough, I wouldn’t make it fulltime. But we would do six months year, six months in L.A. And I’ve always wanted to be bi-coastal. So, I’m kind of getting that dream—that wish granted. So, I’m just having to convince my husband a little bit more. He’s from Texas. New York is a little much for him.
But the more he comes out here, the more he’s actually liking it. And so I just convinced him that we’re going to bring the dogs out for the last month.
Panel: You said that, you know, you’re finally getting to play a grownup on television. And I think people feel like they’ve seen you grow up on television.
Tiffani: So have I, the bad hairdos, the bad makeup, and the bad clothes.
Panel: Your major characters have been so different. I mean there was Kelly who was everybody’s sweetheart. And there was Valerie who was nobody’s sweetheart. And now you’re playing this adult wonderful support. But is that something you purposely tried to not get caught in the stereotype, or–?
Tiffani: Yeah, I mean I think you do no matter what. I think you do no matter what because it’s the business, you know.
I think we all, as actors, fear that. I think there’s always going to be a little bit of that no matter what. But I think, yes, when I read the script, I was automatically like really into the script and the role.
Like I had mentioned, I think one of the first questions was, just being that I’m finally playing somebody more of myself, which I really kind of liked, and kind of honing in on something that was a little more closer to home for me.
Did I answer it at all?
Panel: So, what characteristics did you bring to the character that weren’t originally in the script?
Tiffani: Well, I think because when it was originally written, it was like this kind of more woman who is an accountant, kind of nine to five kind of girl. And I think I definitely brought in that whole new energy. And I think that was the reason why I brought the idea for the event planner and stuff because I don’t see myself as a nine to five girl, which also works well, I think, with Peter because he doesn’t have a nine to five job either.
Some days he does, but a lot of days he’s having to do lots of crazy stuff with Neal. So, I think that was good that I was able to kind of bring that energy with myself just being cast in it, and then also the ideas that I brought to the role to Jeff and everybody involved with the show.
Panel: How do you like being on the USA compared to the other network or cable experiences?
Tiffani: You know, I’ve said this to quite a few people, and a lot of people have asked me, this is the first cable show I’d ever done in the 26 years I’ve been doing this, and I absolutely love it.
And you’re starting to hear this a lot more because there’s a lot more cable out there. But it’s a smaller pool. So, they tend to—they’ve been very, very supportive of our show and us. And that’s a nice feeling because not everybody’s like that. The bigger networks and the bigger studios don’t tend to give you that kind of, special kind of feeling. And we feel very special. This is very nice.
Panel: I’d like to ask—I saw your Funny or Die video, which I thought was really good.
Tiffani: It was great fun to do.
Panel: I wanted to maybe hear a little more about that. And also are you going to bring any of that comedy to this role?
Tiffani: To this role?
Tiffani: Yeah. I mean—I’ll answer that first and then we’ll go back to the Funny or Die.
I definitely, I mean this show is definitely lighthearted. It’s not a drama and it’s not a comedy. It’s right in between, which is definitely the kind of TV and movies that I like to watch. So, of course, you’ll see a lot of that from me, from Matt, from Peter, and, of course, Willie, which is great because I really do love doing comedy a lot. It’s definitely one of my favorites, so, yes.
And then with the Funny or Die thing, we all know what that was stemmed from. So, I don’t even have to answer that. But it was my way of kind of answering a lot of people’s questions, not even just Fallon because I was getting, everywhere I was going, why I wasn’t going on Fallon, and why I wasn’t doing the reunion. And this was way before anybody knew we were doing People Magazine.
We all knew we were doing People Magazine. That was the reunion that we were doing, end of story, didn’t need to do anymore than that. But I was still having to answer questions because it hadn’t come out yet. So, we kind of approached Funny or Die, and they did it line and sinker as well, and they loved it.
And they came to me with a couple of different ideas. And this one is the one that I really, really liked. And we kind of sat down and just kind of collaborated the whole storyline and the script. And we literally shot it at my house. Everybody you see who’s in it was my husband, my friends, my gardeners. I mean it was everybody that was around. It was awesome. We shot it all in one day. It was great.
Panel: Do you think you’ll do more like web video stuff in the future?
Tiffani: I mean I’d love to. I mean you guys can start something for me. I mean I want Fallon to say something. He hasn’t said a word. I was a little bit disappointed, I have to say. I was a little disappointed. So, we’ll see. We’ll see if he ever says anything. I don’t know.
Panel: Where do you see your character going, or where do you want your character to go over the course of the series?
Tiffani: You know, it’s interesting. I’m not the star of the show. And to be totally honest with you, I’m very happy about that. I mean, I came on the show knowing that it was the two—it’s the two guys. It’s their show. And I and Willie are supporting characters. I’ve been a lead in a show for a long time and, honestly, didn’t want the 17-hour days anymore.
So, for where I want to see the character going, it’s kind of a—I can’t say I want her becoming this huge piece of this show. I want her to still be supporting. She’s this kind of light part of the show that I like. It’s the home piece for Peter’s character, which I like. I think you will see her on her own as well with her career and stuff, which is great. But you’re not going to see a ton of it because the show’s not about—you know, it’s called White Collar. It’s called White Collar for a reason.
It’s hard to answer that question. I love the relationship that they have, Peter and Elizabeth. So, I think it’s more of just about exploring that, and what 10 years of that relationship’s going be maybe for the next 10 years. Kids or whatever that means, I don’t know.
Panel: I think Elizabeth is—I mean she’s, obviously, she is Peter’s wife and that side of the story, but we were talking before how Neal is, obviously, so fascinated with like [inaudible].
Tiffani: Right. It’s a very domesticated—oh, yeah, and you see that a lot in this show.
Panel: [indiscernible] invested in a relationship, you know.
Tiffani: Yes. Well, because he doesn’t have it. So, you’ll see a lot of times him coming into our home literally unannounced. And it’s quite funny. And I know that threesome kind of dynamic really works. And I know the network really likes it, and it seems the people tend to like it when they were—good, that’s good to know.
So, they will continue that. And we have been continuing that a lot. I always make a joke. I’m like, “I really don’t want to be onscreen next to Matt. He’s just too pretty.” [laugh] But I don’t think they heard me. So, I’m going to have to stick having scenes with that man.
Panel: Do you think she’ll have any involvement kind of helping him with his whole missing girlfriend situation?
Tiffani: I think you might possibly see that, yeah. I think being I’m the girl on the show, I’m the female voice in that sense that you’ll see—you know, you see Peter coming to me for that side as well as just another look at things. But certain cases, you’ll find there are scenes with us where I’m like, “Well, did you think about doing this?”
And he’s like, “No, I actually didn’t.”
It’s a common thing sometimes when you live in a career for so long that sometimes you don’t think about things that other people see on the outside. So, you’ll see a lot of that. But, yes, when it comes to Neal, I think, especially with the Kate storyline—you know, I have a soft spot for that storyline I think, personally, or Elizabeth does. And for Elizabeth to think that Neal can’t be with the one that he loves, I mean that makes her—you know, it makes her sad. So, I think you’ll start to see a lot of that, yes.
Panel: I think what’s good to see is that it’s not a jealousy type of situation.
Panel: It’s definitely more of a fascination that he has [inaudible].
Tiffani: Yes. Oh, very much so. Yeah, there’s no jealousy about it. It’s more of the unknown for him. It’s a very unknown thing. He’s younger. He’s been on the run his whole life. Everything’s very fast for him. And I think this life is very like, “I mean you know she’s going to be home at this time? And you know he’s going to be home at this time? You call each other this much?”
I mean it’s like—he just doesn’t get it. But he’s fascinated by it. I think deep down, I think he thinks he wants it.
Panel: People were saying that they were also glad that it’s not like a whole love triangle thing, whereas like this–.
Tiffani: You’ve seen it so many times. You’ve seen it over and over, and I’ve played it over and over. So, yeah, I’m glad too. Believe me, I’m glad.
Panel: Have you ever worked with Diahann Carroll at all?
Tiffani: I have not personally. But I have got to see her, and she is one beautiful, beautiful woman. Man, I hope I look that good when I’m her age. She’s amazing. She’s striking.
Panel: Do you know if she’s going to be in many episodes?
Tiffani: Mm-hmm, yeah, very much so. Yeah. She’s actually in the episode that we’re shooting right now.
Panel: So, I mean you kind of brought up earlier that you have a little bit of age difference.
Panel: And, you know, how it would’ve been awkward–.
Tiffani: Even more so. Yes. [laugh]
Panel: [indiscernible] or whatever. And I guess when I was watching the pilot, it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that you were his wife and not the girlfriend or something like that.
Panel: You’ve been married for a decade. So, I mean–.
Tiffani: I think people forget how old I am though. I think that’s a really big thing because people don’t realize I’m almost 36. Like I’m not some spring chicken, you know? And you know what’s so funny, and can only relate this to my own personal life, my parents are almost eight years apart, literally.
And Tim and I are literally nine years apart. I think it’s nine.
Panel: Okay. It’s not like an awkward age difference, but I mean it’s–.
Tiffani: Right. No. Absolutely! And I think it’s also because our careers are so different on the show too. Like I’m always dressed a certain way. You didn’t see it so much on the pilot because I’m mostly at home in the pilot. But you’ll see much more that I’m always dressed up. And he’s in this like blue suit, and gray suit, and it’s—you know.
Panel: Because with the age difference and with your vastly different careers, I mean—because we asked Matt and Tim about their back stories for their characters. I mean how do you think that these two people got together?
Tiffani: Well, I mean, again, I can only speak from experience, like it’s my own husband. I mean it’s funny, Tim, weirdly enough, is a lot like my own husband. It’s very strange. I mean they’re both tall, dark haired. They’re kind of—I want to say rough around the edges, but they’re like guys’ guys.
I don’t know. Speaking from my own personal what I love about my husband is I love that he’s a guy. We couldn’t be more different—couldn’t be more different. But I think sometimes that’s what works in relationships is that you balance each other out. And I think that’s what happens with Elizabeth and Peter.
And I look at my parents too. My parents couldn’t be more different. My Dad’s out there in the dirt, and my Mom’s inside. I mean that’s just kind of how–they’re just very different lives. But I think it’s that kind of dance that they do that makes it work.
Panel: Because you’re a supporting character, I’m wondering what kind of like what—is this consuming, all-consuming, time right now, or are you working on other projects in the meantime?
Tiffani: No. Just because I’m here in New York, and the times that I do have off, I go home. I try to go home. I’m hoping to hit a flight tomorrow morning. But now they’re telling me I might have to shoot on Friday. So, we’ll see. But, no, not right—not at the moment. And I’m totally okay with that. Again, like I’m not in my twenties anymore. I don’t need to work every day, 16, 17 hours a day, because it’s grueling.
I mean these guys, I give it to them, because I’ve done it a million times. It’s hard. It’s really hard to get up and work those kind of hours and be on your feet all day and memorize the lines that we’ve memorized. It’s tiring. I’m surprised it hasn’t aged me as much as it has.
Panel: On an character-related note—this is something we asked the guys before, what’s something about you that, like we wouldn’t know? I mean you’ve done a lot of projects [indiscernible] to the hilt. But what can we find out about you that you don’t—I’ll tell you what they said to give you an–.
Tiffani: Just like career-wise you mean?
Panel: No, no, just something about you that people don’t know. Like Tim said that he learns his daughter’s ballet choreography for her recitals. And Matt said that he DVRs Dateline and he did a Keith Morrison impression.
Tiffani: Oh, that’s hilarious. My, God, those boys are hilarious. Mine are probably going to be so boring. I don’t even know. I mean I’m a definite homebody because when I’m working the only thing I want to do is spend time with my husband and my dogs. I’m a huge—my dogs are like my kids, since I don’t have kids, and my cats.
But I’m a huge runner. I mean some people may not know that. But I’m a huge runner and cyclist. So, I’ve been loving the City for that—very different scenery, which has been great. I attend two marathons and half marathons and stuff like that.
Panel: Well, we’re all TV writers. So, what’s on your DVR?
Tiffani: What’s on my—well, at home home? Because I can’t seem to figure out this DVR [here]. I’m settling into an apartment right now, and it’s a totally different system. And I’m like, “Ah.”
My favorite thing is CBS Sunday Morning News, not to say–I’m sorry about NBC. But CBS Sunday Morning News is my favorite news program. It’s the only thing I watch. And I will watch Dateline and things like that every now and then. But CBS Sunday Morning News, the reason why I love it is it’s all good positive news. It’s an hour and a half. It comes on at nine o’clock here in New York. And they give you the real news for about the first three minutes, and then it’s all about music, arts, people in small little towns, and what they do, and storyline.
And I mean in the very end—have you ever seen this show? It’s going to change your life. It’s going to change your life. It’s amazing. So, at the very end—Laurie have you seen the show?
Tiffani: The very end of show, they show some live shots of wherever they were that week, or last week, you know, like ducks flying in Canada, or like bears in the wild. And I’m just like, “Oh.” I just feel at peace. I love it. I get some of my best music from that program. It’s definitely my favorite program.
Panel: What’s your guilty pleasure show, the one that you–?
Tiffani: I can’t even believe I’m going to say this. My really bad guilty pleasure show is any of those Housewives shows. But the only time I watch it—and I hope this doesn’t come off badly, so please type it the correct way—is when I’m really sick and on the couch, [laugh] because I just watch it because it doesn’t make me think.
Panel: Which cast did you like?
Tiffani: Well, I liked Orange County the best because I’m from—I’m literally from Long Beach, which is right butt up against the Orange County. So, I know those kind of girls. Like I grew up with girls like that. It’s hilarious.
Panel: That’s geographic because I think around here it’s like New York, New Jersey.
Tiffani: Well, and that makes sense. But that’s so much more of an—like I’d watched them quite a few times. But the OC one, I think it’s because it’s one of the original ones and it’s just what I know.
Panel: Guys, we need to wrap it up. Do you want to do one or two more questions real quick?
Panel: Did you really like your room makeover?
Tiffani: I did. I was actually—my husband and I both were a little disappointed that she was taken out, and I think a lot of people were. And nothing against—because I know he won all in all, but I thought that week, I didn’t think Kathy’s [ph] office was that great. I thought [our] room was much better. And so, yes, I love that room. It’s still looks exactly the same, and the office probably doesn’t look the same as it was.
Panel: Any interest on making an appearance on the new 90210? Did they approach you?
Tiffani: Not at all. No. I watched the pilot, and it’s very different. It’s not even 90210 or the people who have gone back to the show. I’ve always been someone to never look back. I’ve always been someone just in life in general, and that always makes the same when it comes to my career. I always like to move forward.
And so, to me, it’s like I played that character for a long time. I don’t need to play that character again. It’s retired. And I’m so glad. And I couldn’t be more blessed and feel blessed to be on the show that I am now. And I love—I love the people that I’m working with. I couldn’t be more ecstatic about it. So, everything happens for a reason.
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