August 23rd, 2010 by thetvchick
White Collar continues to be amazing in its sophomore season. The Neal/Peter relationship is developing and twisting in new ways every week, and I love it. I also adore Marsha Thomason and Willie Garson, so I’m very happy to see them both take on bigger roles. Two weeks ago, we were introduced to Sara Ellis, an insurance broker who goes head to head with Neal. I recently had the chance to visit the set of White Collar, where Hilarie Burton (who plays Sara Ellis) talked to us about her new role, life after One Tree Hill and working with Matt Bomer, who she quite aptly dubbed one of the seven wonders of the world.
What is your role [like] in these episodes?
I am playing the part of Sara Ellis. She works for an insurance company, she recovers stolen goods, basically white collar crimes. So if somebody steals a really expensive car, she’s the repo man. So it’s fun to play someone with an edge, someone that’s a tough girl but also is very bejeweled [laughs]. So it’s a different kind of character for me, I’m having a really good time with it.
What’s it like for you post One Tree Hill?
You know, you never think there’s going to be a post One Tree Hill when you leave One Tree Hill. It’s this vortex and it’s such a great place to grow up and to hone your craft. We learned a lot on that show because we had lots of different directors and just because the show was on the air for so long, we ran the gamut. I mean we did comedic stuff and super dramatic stuff and action, you know, anything that you can think of we did on that show. I’ve been shot, I’ve been dumped, my mothers have died, all sorts of stuff. So it’s really fun entering this grown-up very sophisticated clever realm. It’s a really fun transition for me. And it’s a fun evolution for me as a person and as a character.
Is this a Thomas Crown Affair type of thing you’re going to be doing with Sara and Neal?
Kind of, yeah. You know, I’ve been having a lot of fun with the character, this is a very stylized show which is different for me. I’m, you know, I walked in to my first fitting and was terrified because this is a very high-end character. And I’m the girl that’s been living in North Carolina for the last how ever many years. And, you know, I think the last time someone asked me, “What are you wearing?” I said something ridiculous like, “Hot Topic” or “Capezio.” So I’ve called the wardrobe department on this show my fairy godmothers, my fashion fairy godmothers, because I’m learning quite a bit and it’s fun, you know, it’s something that’s very different from me in my person life. And it definitely helps me get into character to put on the suit, put on the little dress, very little dress, and have to go into this very serious woman’s position in life.
Do you get to keep the outfits?
God I wish, right. I don’t know, I’ll see who I can finagle at the end of this shebang and see what I can get out of the deal.
Now Neal and Sara have a past, what’s that about?
You know they have a—I don’t know how much I’m allowed to give away. I’m not going to give anything away. But it seems that Neal has a past with everybody and I feel very fortunate to be one of the woman that he has crossed paths with, whether that’s in a good way or a bad way. Yeah, I mean he certainly has made his mark on the city of Manhattan. And, yeah, I think we come in with a little bit of a history and add some layers to when our characters see each other again.
Has she ever crossed paths with Burke or any of the others?
Oh, I’m sure. Yeah I mean, she works in white collar crime the same as they do, she’s just the woman that goes out and retrieves items and makes a little bit of money off of that. So it might be hard for the boys to handle the fact that they do what she does except she’s making loads of money doing it.
Do you know if this guest spot will result in future appearances?
Well, I certainly hope so, I have a wild crush on the two of those boys. I have never walked into a situation and felt such warmth and generosity as I have the first day I walked on the set with them. They are such a team and they’re so positive with one another and they’re such good leaders on set, they keep the whole crew in good spirits all day. And these guys are learning nine pages of dialog every single night, showing up at work acting like it’s old hat, “Oh yeah, no big deal.” And changing stuff on the fly and they’re just so professional and great. I have to tell you after my first week of shooting with them, it was a Friday night and it was the last scene up and I shot with Tim. And at the end of work Tim was like, “Alright let’s give it up for Hilarie, her first week here.” And I got, like, choked up [laughs] “What the hell was this?” And they’re so sincere in their generosity and their kindness, and so I’d stay forever man.
Did you watch the first season before you came and appeared on the show?
Of White Collar? Oh certainly. In fact, the only episode I haven’t seen is the finale. Because you know when you love something like a book or a television show, you want to stretch it out. So you get through the first three quarters really, really, really fast, and then you hit that last little bit and you’re like, “I don’t want it to end.” So, I’ve been waiting on it and, you know, it’s such a quick, fast paced clever show. And I’ve always been addicted to the, I guess the procedural shows you know, I love Criminal Minds and all the Law and Orders. And I went to Fordham up here at Lincoln Center and, you know, was focusing on psychological forensics. I was taking, you know, my psychology courses and my criminology courses and I was going to catch some killers. And then [laughs] I started working at MTV which was a total, total wrong turn that turned out to be the best thing ever for me because it opened up a lot of doors.
Could you have ever predicted a year and change ago –that, you know, you’d been a mom now and be doing six episodes on one of the hottest shows on TV?
You know, I took a lot of risks, and not as of just in the last year but my life has always been kind of risky. I was the only kid from my high school that came up to school in New York City. You know, and I’ve always had a really supportive family that made me feel comfortable leaving my comfort zones. And so in leaving my comfort zones in my life, I found great rewards. So, you know, where I’m at right now in my life—I don’t want to be, you know, braggy about it but I’m really happy. So all the people that have been supportive of that I’m appreciative. So there [laughs].
Were you nervous at all coming into this set, I mean they did a season already?
Oh yeah, well because they’re so damn smart, they’re so talented and they’re so smart. And I was wildly intimidated, because the first day I had a very action heavy scene and it was just right out of the gates, “Yeah, yeah go do that four page scene real fast little girl.” And the boys are just, you know, my thing is I always want to be the least talented person in the room, because it means that I’m going to learn something and other people are going to make me look better then I am. And I feel like that’s the situation I’m in here, you know, I’m surrounded by people who are amazing. Whether it’s the DP, the camera department, you know the wardrobe department, the actors. Marsha and Sharif are awesome, and everyone’s just kind on top of that. So, yeah, I mean I was definitely intimidated but that faded very quickly, because everyone’s wonderful. And that’s not just me kissing ass either, you know, I mean I’ve always been pretty blunt about what I think [laughs]. So I mean, they really are. It’s baffling how good these people are.
Are there going to be some romantic sparks between Sara and –?
And Neal? Well God I hope so, that’s a good looking man [laughs]. I mean, I think anybody regardless of gender, race, creed, wherever you’re from, can admit that he is probably one of the Seven Wonders of the World. That man is beautiful and charming, so I wouldn’t be opposed to that, that’s ridiculous.
You get all the best looking guys…
Yeah, I don’t know I won the lottery at some point. Yeah I mean, I get these tall dashing good looking men so, you know, yeah I want to keep working [laughs]. My track record so far is pretty good, so I’d like to see where it takes me.
Now you were talking about Sara being a professional, is she as smart and fast paced as everyone else on the show?
That’s, you know, that was when I was intimidated, am I going to be able to keep up with these guys because they are sharp. And the dialog that’s been written for this character is very different from anything I’ve ever done, and I’m having a lot of fun playing that brisk character. You know, she’s a little frigid, she’s tough, she’s not going to cry, she’s not going to moan, she’s not going to want anybody, you know. It’s so far from what I was on One Tree Hill that I’m nervous about how people will receive it, but God I’m having a great time doing it.
Was your nervousness kind of [gone] by the time you got to see your wardrobe, because all of a sudden you knew your character?
Listen, I knew the character, but normally the characters that I’ve played I’ve had a reference point. I’ve had another female in my life that I could draw from and say, “Okay that’s who I’m going for.” With this it was much harder, and the person that I think I’m basing the character on, the person that keeps coming to me is Katharine Hepburn in Philadelphia Story, who is that statue. You know, in fact one of the boys says to her in that movie they’re like, “You’re beautiful, you’re a statue, you have no heart, no feeling.” You know they give her this speech. It’s her father that gives her that speech. And, you know, it really affects her, and I think that’s where Sara is right now, she’s just got this pose this statuesque pose and she’s not going to break it. And I think if anybody can break it, it’s probably Neal Caffrey.