'White Collar': Tim DeKay Previews Neal/Peter Hardships, Big Changes and Season 5

"Circumstances put [Peter] in quite a quandary, and many of his moral and ethical points of view are put into question," the actor tells THR.
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"White Collar"

[Warning: Spoilers ahead for season five of White Collar.]

Are Peter and Neal in jeopardy?

"We've taken our characters, Peter and Neal [Matt Bomer], and did a bit of a role reversal, where we open with Peter in an orange jumpsuit and Neal's in the suit and tie," star Tim DeKay tells The Hollywood Reporter of the premiere. "This is when some of the big issues start to get addressed."

With Neal doing anything and everything he possibly can to get Peter out of jail for taking the fall for his father's crime (the murder of a high-powered senator), Neal's criminal history factors into how he solves the problem. "How Peter gets out of prison catapults us into the rest of the season," DeKay hints.

STORY: 'White Collar' Postmortem: Boss Answers Finale's Biggest Questions, Previews Season 5

In a chat with THR, the veteran actor previews the new season, including Neal's new handler, Peter's new position and much more.

How does Neal's presumably unethical approach to getting Peter out of jail complicate matters?

It's certainly going to be a spoiler. What I can say is this: No matter what Neal does, Peter will eventually find out about it. So if Neal makes a deal with the devil to get Peter out of jail, eventually Peter will find out about that deal.

What was it like having Peter in an orange jumpsuit?

On a personal note, I was happy to wear that orange jumpsuit because it meant that I didn't have to button up my shirt and wear the 20th tie for the day, so I welcomed it. As Peter says, "The irony of this is not lost on me." It's really interesting to see Peter on that side and Neal on the other. I wish we had more time and story-wise I would've liked to have continued to examine Peter being behind bars, but you can't solve too many crimes or have too many brainstorming sessions during visitation. (Laughs.)

Will the trust issues be even more significant this season?

The trust issues for Neal and Peter are even bigger this year, and what eventually happens is that these two need to have a face to face and have a cathartic scene where they stand with each other. We've never seen these guys talk about how they feel about each other or talk about their relationship, but this season that comes out.

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Peter may also be working his way to Washington, D.C.

Peter takes on the new role of ASAC, which is the assistant special agent in charge [of White Collar division]. He has to give Neal a new handler. Certainly Peter has mixed emotions about that because no matter how much they trust or distrust each other, these two guys have a great time solving cases. They both love the chase and they're good friends. It becomes very complicated. Peter realizes that his career could go a certain way and that doesn't include Neal. Peter has to decide how he wants to play that out.

Is that an internal dilemma for Peter with how far he wants to go for his career trajectory?

That becomes an internal dilemma and it becomes a dilemma for Elizabeth [Tiffani Thiessen] and Peter as well because it means big changes for the Burkes. It means maybe a new place to live. But once Peter realizes what that means to his life, what he likes about his job now, it gives him a lot of conflict.

How does Neal adjust to having a new handler? How differently does FBI Agent David Siegel [Warren Kole] operate than Peter?

Neal adjusts fairly well to the new handler because he has a rather large agenda on his plate that he has to take care with his deal with the devil. Neal also, at first, doesn't like having a new handler. He wishes things were back to Peter and Neal. I think there's a resentment Neal has toward Peter, to a certain degree, because he broke up the partnership for a certain time. All of this, you have to remember, this partnership between Peter and Neal is key. It's critical and the crux of the show. We won't ever stray too far from that.

What was it like having Mark Sheppard, who was last seen in the pilot that aired in 2009, back in the fray as Curtis Hagen?

It was a joy to have him back. It allowed Matt and me a chance to realize how far we've come from the pilot. It was lovely to have him back, and he certainly knows the essence of the show and was able to capture that in a wonderfully villainous way.

Which character changes the most or faces the most challenges this season?

I can only speak for Peter but I believe Peter is faced with the most difficult challenge he's ever had this season. Circumstances put him in quite a quandary, and many of his moral and ethical points of view are put into question. More so than previous seasons.

Can you talk about the episode that you directed?

I directed the penultimate episode. Marsha Thomason was away having a baby. The writers said that Diana's pregnant as well, so the episode I directed was the one where Diana came back. We were able to have scenes with the baby. On the day we had the baby, we had two sets of twins -- we were covering our bases -- and I have to say all four babies were fantastic. (Laughs.) Marsha has the golden touch with babies.

White Collar premieres Oct. 17 at 9 p.m. on USA Network.

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