9:45am PT by Philiana Ng
'White Collar' Creator on Final Season: "Very Shocking, Very Emotional"
The chapter is about to close on White Collar.
Entering its sixth and final season, the white-collar crime caper introduced audiences to the suave and semi-reformed con man Neal Caffrey (Matt Bomer) and his FBI handler, Peter Burke (Tim DeKay). Their unlikely partnership, borne initially out of duty and responsibility, quickly became the show's shining glory. And when Dec. 18 rolls around, White Collar will be ending on its own terms.
"When I pitched the show to USA a long time ago, we knew the ending of White Collar. I talked to Matt Bomer and Tim DeKay during the process, and they put in a couple of good ideas on their side," White Collar creator Jeff Eastin tells The Hollywood Reporter. "The finale, which I just finished mixing not long ago, I'm very, very happy with."
After eyeing a full sixth season before wrapping up Neal and Peter's story in a seventh, Eastin was forced to shift gears when that possibility failed to come to pass. Instead, USA presented the idea of doing a "limited series" with a final six-episode season-six run to tie everything up. That meant abandoning the "bad guy of the week" formula (the final season revolves around the villainous Pink Panthers) and instead focusing on the core characters.
"Let's make it about our guys. Let's make it about one thing. To that end, it made the process a lot easier, a lot more streamlined, a lot easier to tell that story," Eastin says, adding later, "There really was a nice freedom in [focusing on one villain]. Having done two seasons of Graceland, it was nice to be able to turn it around and say 'OK, let's do this with White Collar.' "
Naturally, there were detours along the way once the series began its run from 2009. As Eastin tells it, the series finale — though in line with his original vision — isn't "100 percent" what he initially mapped out.
"The ultimate idea was very similar," he says. "What really changed was a lot of the character details, just by virtue of us doing the show for five years up until that point. We had so much more ethos, so many more interesting dynamics between the characters."
Eastin isn't shy about voicing his unhappiness, however slight, over the end of White Collar. "We really did have a good run. What I was afraid of was we were going to get a two-hour TV movie to end it," he admits. "I'm really happy that we did get to do what I think is a spectacular finale."
Looking back at the entirety of the show's run, Eastin pointed to Neal, Peter and Mozzie (Willie Garson) as the characters who have grown the most since the beginning.
"Neal and Peter, just in terms of their personal relationship, [has grown the most]. It was a subtle evolution. When we started the series, it was very much two people who didn't understand each other — especially when Peter had his 'cappuccino in the clouds' speech in the pilot, when he said 'Neal is the antithesis of me,' whereas Neal is in a completely different mindset," he says. "Those two have not only grown to understand and respect each other, but have gone to love each other."
And for Mozzie, the evolution of Neal's right-hand man was more of a literal progression. "If you look at the pilot and the first few episodes, Mozzie was much darker and much more paranoid, but Willie turned that character into a much more comedic presence than I realized," he says.
As for the final moment of the series, Eastin warns that it "is very shocking, very emotional, and I hope nobody hates me afterwards," he says with a laugh.
White Collar returns for its final season at 9 p.m. on Thursday on USA Network.
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