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Matt Bomer and Joe Manganiello: From college buddies to costars

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In the Jan. 31 episode of White Collar, Neal Caffrey (Matt Bomer) goes mano a mano with an ex-con played by True Blood‘s Joe Manganiello. We asked these old college pals — Carnegie Mellon, class of 2000 — about working with each other on Collar and on their next big gig: playing strippers in Steven Soderbergh’s upcoming comedy Magic Mike.

How did Joe come to do White Collar?
Matt Bomer I’m always trying to get friends to be part of the show, and Joe is obviously someone I brought up very early on.
Joe Manganiello [My character] has just been released from prison, and I’m toying with going back to my old ways. [To Matt] One of the jokes was, you’re white-collar and I’m blue-collar.
Bomer I even got to go a little blue-collar, because my character goes undercover to get closer to Joe’s character. So I get to wear a ball cap.
Manganiello And we went to a strip club…
Bomer …which is very ironic. We had no idea what the next six months held in store for us.

Do you have scenes together in Magic Mike?
Bomer We’re on stage in a couple of group numbers, but we have a lot of stuff backstage as well. We just had such a great time working on it.
Manganiello I’ve never laughed harder in my life.
Bomer Let me tell you, if you ever want to build an ensemble between a cast of dudes, put them in a thong together and it’s like, instant band of brothers. It was so great to have Joe there, because the whole experience was so surreal — to delve into this world of being a male exotic dancer. Joe and I went to drama school together, which is where you first…
Manganiello …where you first train to be a male stripper. All the Chekhov and George Bernard Shaw came into play.
Bomer If you cannot get your stripper wheels doing a Shaw play, then where can you get them?

When so many of your gigs today require you to take your shirts off, do you wonder why you needed such a highfalutin education?
Manganiello The interesting thing is, we’ve had conversations about the animal projects, which…

Say what?
Manganiello Freshman year we did these projects where you had to go to the zoo. [To Matt] Were you assigned an animal, or did you get to pick yours?
Bomer I picked.
Manganiello I wanted to be a tiger or a lion or something, and they chose a penguin for me. So I had to be a penguin for up to three and a half hours a day for seven weeks, which was ridiculous.
Bomer I was a peacock. You had to physically embody the animal, and then turn it into a character. Then we had this big town meeting where you brought your character to that meeting, and that’s how you were evaluated.
Manganiello I’m sitting there going, ”This is the stupidest thing I have ever done in my life. I’m a fricking penguin, now I have to interact with all of the other animals, and I can’t fight back.”
Bomer But now look how applicable it is to True Blood, where you’re playing a werewolf!

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