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White Collar Interviewby Pattye Grippo    

This is an interview with Treat Williams on January 18, 2013 about the show White Collar.

Treat Williams

Question:
In what ways would you say you are most like and least like your character from the show?

Treat Williams:
I watched the episode last night again and I think that one of the things that's very different between he and I is that he is troubled in the sense that he's spending time with this kid who is this love of his life though he was 5-years-old and was torn away from him by circumstances that he started. It was interesting. I said, "This guy's in a lot of pain. This guy's having to keep it a secret that this is his long-lost son. But on the other hand he gets to be with him." But I think that's the greatest difference between us, is that not too much bothers me.

Question:
What challenges you about playing this character?

Treat Williams:
Eight-page monologues explaining my entire history with him. There's a lot of long walks on country roads in Vermont let me tell you. That was challenging. But I think that was about it. Having played Prince of the City it to me was like coming full circle. You have this cop who had done a bad thing and wanted to find his way home and realized he couldn't. He couldn't get out. Once you're in you can't get out.

And that really parallels Prince of the City to a great degree. And I was 30 when I shot that. So it was really kind of lovely to revisit that kind of character again 30 years later.

Question:
Will we see you on more than just the season opener and if so, could you tell me how many episodes?

Treat Williams:
You will see me on more than the season opener. I cannot remember how many I was on. But I signed on for six. And I honestly don't remember how many have been shown and I think there are at least two more before the season ends.

Question:
As you filmed each episode were you aware of what was in store for your character's story line?

Treat Williams:
No I was not. It was frustrating at first and I finally after reading the first deal I said, "Look these guys are such good writers I'm just going to go with the flow on this." I was as excited as anybody to get the next script and find out. I didn't even know until two or three episodes in whether I was going to end up being villainous or a good guy. So it was fun. It was fun to kind of just get a script and go, "Oh okay. This is where we're going this week."

Once I let go of trying to control it, actors really want to know what their background is and where they're heading and what the character's going to do. And I finally just said, "I'm just going to let Jeff write these wonderful scripts and launch as soon as I get them."

Question:
You have a strong background in musical theater. I was wondering if you have any plans to go to Broadway?

Treat Williams:
Very much so. I've actually sort of started the process. I moved back East, living in Vermont now. And this summer I'm going to be doing the Lion in Winter with the Recher Theatre Group. So I'm already sort of starting the process of working my way back into theater. We were out in Park City, Utah. After four years when the show ended we just wanted to continue our kids. They were right in the midst of grade school, middle school. And my daughter was in Kindergarten.

We just thought it was a good idea to stay and we liked it there. And our kids were really settled in school. But now that we're back I've been talking to people and going back and forth in New York starting to think about what I want to do. And the first play I will do is Lion in Winter. So I'm very excited about that.

Question:
What would you still like to achieve in your career?

Treat Williams:
Somebody asked me last year in an interview if I would ever retire. And I said, "I would really like to retire eventually from working for money." And I think that the goal is to really do those things that excite you and you're passionate about. And there's a period in time when your kids are in school and the bills need to be paid.

But I'd like to get to the point where we're heading much more and more in that direction where the work I do is the work I do because out of a great passion for it. And that's where it seems to be heading with this play in the summer.

Question:
What initially drew you to the role of Sam Phelps?

Treat Williams:
When I saw the show I loved it. I thought the show had such a beautiful look. And being a New Yorker for 33 years there's a quality that Jeff Eastin seems to love New York like Woody Allen does. There's so much of the city as a character. It was a variety of things. Tim Dekay and I are old friends. Tim starred with me on Everwood the first season. I thought Matt was astonishingly good in the show. I loved the quality of the work in it.

And I don't think it's too often you get to play a character who is mysterious. And no one seems to know who he is or what's his next move. And that's always fun too. He's not just the dad. We don't even know if he's the dad which is fun. So I think it's mostly the mystery and the quality of the show. And I haven't played a cop in a long time since Prince of the City. And I thought that would be a lot of fun to kind of come full circle.

Question:
What's it like having Matt play your son?

Treat Williams:
Easy. I mean, I adore him. He 's a lot of fun on set. He takes the work very seriously and himself not so seriously. He is honorable and humble and funny and a lot of the attributes that my son has. And I would be proud if he were my son. It's just one of those things where it was very, very easy. You know, I just adore him. I can't speak enough about him. And whatever success he gets during the show and afterwards he deserves whole-heartedly. I don't know an actor who works as hard as Matt does.

Question:
What drives you?

Treat Williams:
I don't work as much as it seems. I mean, even if I'm on a bunch of stuff, like this year I'm on Hawaii Five-0 and I'm on Chicago Fire and I did four movies. But as I get older the parts are less and less dense. So I mean dense in terms of time. So I might do four days here and six days there. And I get bored.

I would assume I average about 15 days a month. Half of my time is off still even though it looks like I'm doing a lot. So most Americans work all year long and get two weeks' vacation. So I feel like I'm one of the lucky ones. But it may seem I'm doing more than I'm doing actually.

Question:
You did something with the Asylum. Can you tell us a little bit about what you have coming out?

Treat Williams:
Yes let's see. I did one with Asylum that was called a gorilla version of a Steven Spielberg film with dinosaurs coming to life and attacking Los Angeles which was really fun and kind of silly. And I did a film with Bruno Baretto called the Art of Losing which is about an American and her fight. I did a film called Barefoot. And that was with Scott Speedman and Evan Rachel Wood, a comedy which should be out this summer. Of course I just mentioned I'm on those other two series. So that's plenty. That's what I can remember.

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