'White Collar': Tiffani Thiessen on Elizabeth's 'soft spot' for Neal
As wife to Peter Burke (Tim DeKay) on USA’s White Collar, Tiffani Thiessen’s character, Elizabeth, is no stranger to being part of the boys club that dominates the show. But that’s the way the actress likes it.
“To play a little more with the guys — as I say — has been quite fun this season,” she says. And it’s easier to be part of the action these days — last season she spent most of her time pregnant and in front of a green screen pre-filming scenes. Not fun, she says.
But as the show’s third season rolls on, Thiessen stopped by EW HQ this week to preview the action on the way for her character and talk about what the future holds for the Burkes. Oh, and Saved By the Bell. (You know we couldn’t just let that slip by.)
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You’ve been in the action a little more this season. Have you had a favorite moment so far?
TIFFANI THIESSEN: It’s hard to say. I love all the episodes, but definitely the ones where I get to play a little bit more are a lot of fun. There’s a great one that just aired a few weeks ago. It’s the one where Peter goes undercover and does speed dating — “Veiled Threat.” It was great.
Is that the one with the second wedding at the end? I loved that!
I know. It was a really great episode. And the one I just finished that I’m in a lot was super fun. It was fun to break the case. But I have fun every week. It’s a great show. We have a blast. It’s called “Neighborhood Watch.” That won’t be until January or February.
One thing I love about the show is not only the relationship between Peter and Neal (Matt Bomer), but also the one Peter shares with Elizabeth. What do you like about their bond?
It’s probably the same reason I fell in love with the show. A lot of times on TV and even in film, a lot of the marriages that are portrayed tend to be the ones that don’t work well. It’s the drama of it all [that you often see], but this one works. They’ve been married for more than 10 years and they really, truly are each other’s best friend. They know how to talk to each other. I also like how they’re a bit of a modern family. They don’t have kids. It’s just the two of them and their dog. And you don’t see that often, especially in a marriage that’s been around a while. I like that.
Do you see kids in their future at all?
I don’t actually. Tim and I have talked about this — and we’ve talked to the writers about it and Jeff Eastin, our creator. We like that it’s just the two of them. We like that their dog is their kid. It’s just their life. My aunt and uncle don’t have children, and I have a lot of friends who don’t have kids. Their priorities are themselves and their careers — and that’s okay.
What’s Elizabeth’s take on all the Peter/Neal drama this season?
I’ve always said that Elizabeth is the voice of reason. The women tend to take those types of roles — she helps them see each other’s side and points of view when they’re too [concerned] with their own feelings. I think she helps Peter try to see the bigger picture of it all with Neal. I think sometimes he gets very into seeing the wrong things Neal is doing instead of seeing the right things. She tries to give him both sides.
I like that she comes to Neal’s defense in those situations.
Yeah. And not that she’s not on her husband’s side, but she tries to show him both sides. I think she has a soft spot for Neal. She sees the things that Neal wants but doesn’t know how to get himself. I think there’s a part of Neal that admires and secretly wants that white picket fence. He just doesn’t know how to get that, and [Elizabeth] knows that.
Will she help him get that this season?
He has a relationship on the show with Sara, which you’re seeing, but that plays out for a while.
But I heard there might be rocky times ahead for them…
Yup. I actually don’t know how that plays out, so we’ll see what happens.
Now, your real-life husband, Brady Smith, is guesting on the show airing tonight. Tell me about that.
He is! He plays great role. He works with everybody but me, which is hilarious. He does a great job. He plays an ex-Navy SEAL. He had a blast. What was fun for him was that he knew everybody already. So for him to come on the show was really comfortable and fun for him.
Were you nervous about him coming into your domain?
I wasn’t nervous at all because he’s such a good guy. But it was really funny. Afterward, everybody kept coming up to me saying, “Oh, your husband is so nice. We had a great time.” And I said, “You’re allowed to love him, but you’re not allowed to love him more than me.” [Laughs] So the crew said they didn’t. So I was okay with that.
What’s his role?
He plays a bad guy. He actually goes after Matt and has a fist fight with Sharif [Atkins] on the show. I haven’t gotten to see any of it. So I’ll be watching with everyone else.
You all have had a great guest star slate. Who would you like to see?
They always bring in some really great people. I’m always open to the choices they make. It’ll be nice to see if they bring on some people I’ve worked with in the past. Maybe I need to make a little list.
Who would be your No. 1 pick?
It would be really fun to have Mark-Paul [Gosselaar] on the show, but that would be really hard because he’s working on his show [Franklin & Bash]. But it would be fun. He’s a great guy, and he would blend very well with the rest of the guys on the show.
That would be a lot of eye candy in one episode of TV.
Oh, I know. It would be. So we’ll see.
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