When Emily Procter first showed up on the set of White Collar, she remembers the exact moment she knew she wasn't in
Kansas Miami anymore.
"The set of CSI: Miami just happens to be very filthy in terms of its jokes, and I made a joke and everyone sort of stopped and looked at me," Procter tells TVGuide.com with a laugh. "I was like, 'OK. I'm in a new place. That is not an appropriate joke. I apologize.'"
After 10 years hunting for bad guys as Det. Calleigh Duquesne on CSI: Miami, Procter is back on the small screen on the USA series (Tuesdays at 10/9c) as Neal (Matt Bomer) and Peter's new boss, Assistant Special Agent in Charge Amanda Callaway. Hired to fill the void left by recently ousted leader, Reese Hughes (James Rebhorn), Amanda's introduction will also be a bit awkward. "I think everyone is fairly cautious of her," Procter says. "Amanda gives this speech about joining and wanting to be a part of a team but her ambition shows through."
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Fortunately — or in this case, maybe not — Amanda already knows one member of the team. "The relationship between her and Peter is more complicated because they seem to have a little bit of history," she says. "She has been climbing the ladder very quickly and the last post she was in, she was not in it long. And all her posts were all very similar to what [Peter's] been doing."
Watch an exclusive sneak peek of Peter and Amanda's re-introduction:
Peter (Tim DeKay) may be suspicious of Amanda, but she will be keeping close tabs on him as well. Procter says her character will figure out "a fair amount" of Peter and Neal's recent extracurricular activities trying to help Neal's dad. "Who knows if the information she is getting is accurate as well. I think she runs with whatever ball she's been given, but I don't know if she's been given the right ball for the game that they're playing," she says. "Someone is playing both sides against the middle but we're not sure who yet."
Watch full episodes of White Collar
Could that someone be Amanda? "I don't know exactly how good or how bad she is yet," Procter says. "That was really fun to have that kind of creative freedom because the procedural shows are what they are — you are the people who are going to, at the end of the day, win and it's just set up that way."
Procter has had ample opportunity to break out from the procedural mold since the CBS drama unexpectedly got the axe last May after 10 seasons on the air. "I think that the cancellation was kind of shocking for everyone because they had given an indication that [CSI: NY] might go, so people would have been prepared and we just weren't prepared," she says. "If I had known that was going to be my last episode, I would have worn a different outfit."
The clothes — and specifically the chance to wear a skirt — were part of the appeal for Procter when she signed on for White Collar, her first TV gig since the end of the CBS procedural. "It's kind of a stop-gap in between Callie on the way to being a girl again. Because Callie was so tough and so masculine on CSI: Miami, and I just thought I can gently walk backwards. I could gently walk back into a skirt and possibly even one day into a dress. But Amanda is still very bossy, so I have some comfort zone," she says. "It seemed like a nice way to start dating again."
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After her years on the CSI beat, Procter says the White Collar two-episode arc was also the perfect fit because of another major role in her life — that of mom. Procter gave birth to daughter Pippa during CSI: Miami's penultimate season and has since replaced rehearsals and wardrobe fittings with gymnastics and story time at the public library. "It has been also perfect timing for me because I was able to take pretty much a full year off to be with my daughter," she says. "I thought I need to get more into TV mode, but I'm not fully there yet, and everyone at White Collar was so nice about it."
Now that she's started flirting with working on TV again, Procter says she knows what she's looking for, and more specifically, what she's not. "If CSI: Miami were starting, I don't think I could do the job because the hours would be too long, and the subject matter would be too gruesome. I could never explain to [Pippa] what I was doing if I were preparing at home," she says. "So now I am definitely looking for something that requires a bit less time hours-wise and ... not such a sad subject matter."
So will she book a third date with White Collar beyond the last two episodes of Season 4? "I had a great time. They certainly left it very open," she says. "I think it's just going to depend on if the people respond to having that kind of character in there."
White Collar airs Tuesdays at 10/9c on USA. Are you excited to see Procter back on TV?