2014 will undoubtedly go down as a memorable year for Matt Bomer. In May, he earned some of the best reviews of his career for his haunting and heartbreaking performance as AIDS victim Felix Turner in HBO's acclaimed film The Normal Heart. A month later, he won a Critics' Choice Award, and an Emmy nomination — his first — followed soon after. However, this year is also significant for a more "bittersweet" reason, as Bomer puts it.
"It's closure to the longest gig I've had in my career thus far," Bomer tells TVGuide.com about the final season of White Collar, which kicks off Thursday at 9/8c on USA. "It's really the job that gave me a career as an actor and I'll always be indebted to [creator] Jeff Eastin and the producers at Fox and USA that gave me the vote of confidence to play this role. For me, White Collar will always be a holistic part of my career."
The last time viewers saw Bomer's enigmatic con artist-turned-FBI informant Neal Caffrey, he was being kidnapped against his will — a development that the actor says will be resolved "relatively quickly" in the new batch of episodes. "Thank God, because that would be a really boring six episodes if he was kidnapped the entire time," he adds with a laugh.
Indeed, anyone who saw White Collar's Season 5 finale wouldn't have guessed that the beloved series was nearing its curtain call. But after prolonged negotiations, the show was picked up in March for a shortened six-episode sixth season. "I feel like at a certain point in any series you have to start thinking about, 'What's your main motivation in telling the stories? Do you still have fresh stories to tell? Or are the motives mainly financial?' Those are all questions that are above my pay grade," Bomer says about the decision to end the series.
Regardless of why the show is ending, the actor is optimistic that fans will like what they see in the final episodes. "I think the writers were able to tap into a lot of the dynamics in the show that people have responded to over the years and try to give everybody a little taste of things they liked over the course of the series," he says. "It is kind of difficult to do that in only six episodes, to be honest with you, but I think they did a great job of trying to get it all in there."
White Collar's impending conclusion is a sad blow for fans, but the series' swan song comes right as Bomer's career is heating up. In the wake of his much-buzzed-about performance in The Normal Heart, the actor has a wide array of film projects lined up, including an indie biopic about four-time Oscar nominee Montgomery Clift, in which he plays the lead role, and the period action-drama The Nice Guys, which also stars Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe. And then there's the sequel to the campy 2012 box office hit Magic Mike. "For me, I'm always really aware when I see a sequel [of whether] it was done just to make a paycheck for people," he says. "When I read the script, it was very evident to me early on that [co-writer] Reid Carolin and [director] Gregory Jacobs and [co-writer] Channing [Tatum] really wanted to tell this story for the right reasons. It was new and fresh and unlike anything I had read at a studio in my entire career."
Thanks to his star-making turns on White Collar, Magic Mike and The Normal Heart, the actor can afford to be picky about his roles. "It starts with the character and the script and it's sort of an intuitive process. Sometimes I respond to things and I don't know why, and I have to figure that out. A lot of times the things I end up doing are things that terrify me or challenge me or have a message that I feel like is important to put out into the world," Bomer says about his selection process. "At a certain point you have to take responsibility for the stories you're telling."
That includes White Collar's final arc, which Bomer helped craft. Although Eastin already had an ending in mind for the series when he first sold it to USA, Bomer made his own pitch about how everything should wrap up before the final season began. "I had grown to love this character so much after playing him for six years that it was very important to me that we try not to tie anything up in a bow, that we try to let people's imaginations work a little bit," says Bomer, who is also a producer on White Collar. "I had an idea. I brought it to Tim [DeKay]. He liked it, and then we brought it to Jeff and he liked it. It was very collaborative. It wasn't like, 'Oh, this is my idea.' [Jeff] put his spin on it and did his thing with it. And the rest will be history.
It's this sort of collaborative process that led to Bomer's guest appearance on American Horror Story: Freak Show's Nov. 5 episode. The role marked his fourth time working with Normal Heart director and American Horror Story creator Ryan Murphy, whom he also worked with when he guest-starred on Glee and The New Normal. "For me, collaborating with Ryan has always been an incredible experience," he says.
But are his small-screen days behind him? Bomer is open-minded about the possibility of signing up for another (possibly) long-running series like White Collar. "It just depends on the story and who's involved, who's creating it. If it's the right person, then absolutely," he says. "I do have a family so I have to really consider them and think about how certain jobs fit into the equation of our life, but other than that, my job is hopefully to be an employed actor so if it were the right series I'd be there."
But with that said, it will be tough for any future series to compare to Bomer's first series and breakout role on White Collar. "I had the time of my life on that show," he says. "I know that whatever I'm working on at that time, July of next year will come around and I think I'll feel a little hole in my heart somewhere and then I'll realize: I'm supposed to be wearing a fedora and walking down the street with Tim DeKay right now. ... I'm going to miss it. I'm not going to lie."
White Collar's final season kicks off Thursday at 9/8c on USA. Will you miss it? How do you think you want the series to end?
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