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White Collar Preview: Tim DeKay Talks Directing “Empire City” [INTERVIEW/VIDEO] 

Photo Credit: Nigel Parry/USA Network
Photo Credit: Nigel Parry/USA Network

[Warning: Spoilers for Tonight’s Episode “Empire City”]

White Collar’s Tim DeKay pulls double duty tonight – as actor and director. After calling the shots in a season 3 episode (“Stealing Home”), DeKay does it again with another love letter to the Big Apple called “Empire City.”

Much like the first White Collar DeKay directed, New York City plays a huge part of “Empire City.” Not only does some of the action take place in and around one of Manhattan’s most iconic symbols — the taxicab — the case of the week also hits one of the city’s most storied venues: the Cotton Club. This created the perfect opportunity to showcase Diahann Carroll’s underutilized character, June, and her powerhouse pipes.

In a press call with reporters, DeKay admitted one of his favorite moments of season 4 was getting the chance to direct Carroll’s scenes when she’s singing at the club. “It was such a hoot to direct Diahann Carroll at the Cotton Club,” he said. “There was a wonderful moment where we had pre-recorded her singing the song so that she didn’t have to sing it live the day we shot it.”

But that didn’t stop DeKay from making sure musicians were there just in case. After the cameras started rolling, a magical moment happened. “I looked at the sound guy and he brought down the pre-recorded version and the other musicians started playing,” the actor/director raved. “[Carroll] just sang that whole song live and the whole cast and crew got a mini-concert. It was great.”

Speaking of the whole cast, look for each one of them to get a chance to shine in “Empire City.” “It’s great to work with them because they’re incredibly supportive,” said DeKay. “Everybody’s rooting for you and you’re rooting for them.”

In addition to Neal’s quest to unlock the secrets of Ellen’s key, Mozzie’s storyline has a lot to do with the New York City cabs; Elizabeth’s event planning skills and love of jazz are spotlighted; Jones has a wonderful moment near the end of the hour; and Diana logs time undercover as a cigar girl at the Cotton Club. “Every character has at least one clever moment where they cleverly either divert the bad guy or figure out something that helps move the case along,” DeKay explained. “It’s great fun when everybody on the show has a clever moment.”

The increased quality time with the entire cast also served another purpose. “The writers try to have it so Peter is a little bit lighter in this episode,” the actor/director continued. “Usually Peter is a little bit lighter in the prior episode, so I have a little time to prepare.” If you recall, in last week’s “Brass Tacks,” the brakes on Peter’s car suddenly stopped working and he was injured in a car accident. “Let’s put Peter in a hospital so Tim can go and scout locations,” DeKay laughed.

Whenever the actor steps behind the camera, the biggest challenge is managing the clock. “You think of all these cool shots, but there just isn’t enough time in the day,” DeKay said. “So the biggest challenge is a mixture — that you tell the story within those seven days  where there [are] 12 hours allotted. And you tell the story in the White Collar fashion, and make sure it’s snappy, it’s fun, it’s clever, and all those other adjectives we can think of for the show.”

White Collar “Empire City” also features guest star Bill Bellamy (who co-starred with WC‘s Tiffani Thiessen in the short-lived series Fastlane) and premieres tonight at 10/9c on USA Network.


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