Six Questions with White Collar's Tiffani Thiessen (Oct 25 2009)
ACED was on the set of White Collar, USA Network's brand new original series. We managed to get all the goods from the cast on the premiere season, which aired it's pilot Friday, October 23, right after Monk.
In the pilot, we got our first glimpse at Tiffani Thiessen as Elizabeth Burke, the loving and very supportive wife of DeKay's vigilant F.B.I agent, Peter. What is apparent to us, as well as the audience (including Miss Thiessen herself), is that this time she actually gets to be a 'grown-up' on screen. She portrays an adult with unwavering devotion to her husband, investment in her marriage and a strong sense of self -- as opposed to a mere love interest or bitter revenge seeker.
Thiessen spent time trudging through those types of roles in her youth, with iconic characters such as Kelly Kapowski (Saved By The Bell), and Valerie Malone (90210), as a testament to her exceptional career in television. No longer filling the shoes of a perky teenager, evil villainess or other woman is refreshing for Thiessen, and her devoted fans. She gives Elizabeth warmth, pretty good comedic timing, and a dose of profound insight when needed.
Speaking exclusively about her involvement in the development of her character and her overall role in the show, Thiessen shared a great deal about herself and her process as an actress. Read on to find out more about her take onElizabeth, and why she has no interest in revisiting her past.
Here are six questions with Tiffani Thiessen:
Tim said that when you came in to read for Elizabeth, he thought, "She's perfect."
Tiffani: Yeah, it was one of those days that when we went in and tested with each other -- did he tell you what that process is like? It's very weird. You walk into a room like this -- I'm not kidding you -- with many of the executives, and they're all staring at you. And it's super quiet. They have a little video camera on you. And you have to do these scenes, you know. And you have to make it as real as possible with all these little heads literally looking at you. It's very, very weird.
And then there's a bunch of different girls behind you doing the exact same thing. But I went in and we nailed it. It was awesome. Like it was just perfect. It was meant to be. You know you say things like that. And I truly do believe it.
We read in the character bio that she is this event planner. They don't have a whole lot in the pilot about Elizabeth's back story. What's your take?
Tiffani: I was supposed to be an accountant. That's how it was written. And then what they ended up doing in the pilot is they never mentioned what I did for a living because I think they wanted to kind of explore me in the character. And so, actually, after we knew that the show was getting picked up, I sat down with Jeff Eastin, the creator, and I said, "I have an idea."
I said, "I want to run it by you and see what you think because you haven't come up with any ideas yet, right?" And he was like, "No, we're really wide open to whatever." They didn't want her to be in an office. And we're shooting in New York City. It's like what better way to show even more of the City? I said, "She's an event planner." He's like, "Oh, I like that." Secretly I've always wanted to be one, so, I was like, "Cool and perfect."
How has it been working here in New York versus L.A.?
Tiffani: You know, it's very, very different, but I've been coming to New York since I was young. I love New York City. I love that you guys have seasons, just to be able to put a coat on and a scarf. We don't get to do that in L.A. On the ‘but' side of it, my family is in L.A. All of our families are in L.A. We didn't make the big, big move just yet. I think for the first season, you just never know, but I have a sneaky suspicion this show's going to go for a while. I usually am not wrong. So, we'll see.
You said that you're finally getting to play a grownup on television. But people also feel as if they've seen you grow up on television.
Tiffani: Yeah, the bad hairdos, the bad makeup, and the bad clothes. When I read the script, I was automatically really into the script and the role. Like I had mentioned, I think one of the first questions was, just being that I'm finally playing somebody more myself, which I really kind of liked, and kind of honing in on something that was a little more close to home for me.
Neal seems so fascinated with Peter's relationship with Elizabeth. Why do you think that is?
Tiffani: Because he doesn't have it. So, you'll see a lot of times, him coming into our home literally unannounced. And it's quite funny. I know that threesome kind of dynamic really works. I know the network really likes it, and it seems the people tend to like it. That's good to know.
So, they will continue that. I always make a joke. I'm like, "I really don't want to be onscreen next to Matt. He's just too pretty." [laugh] But I don't think they heard me. So, I'm going to have to stick to having scenes with that man.
There's a sense of relief that there is no chance of a love triangle between Elizabeth, Peter and Neal.
Tiffani: You've seen it so many times. You've seen it over and over, and I've played it over and over. So, yeah, I'm glad too. Believe me, I'm glad.
And as a bonus: Fun Facts About Tiffani
Tiffani uses her real-life marriage to situate herself in her new role as Elizabeth Burke. Her guilty pleasure TV show is Real Housewives of Orange County, and she has no interest in reprising her role in the new 90210.
Tiffani: Not at all. No. I watched the pilot, and it's very different. It's not even 90210, or the people who have gone back to the show. I've always been someone to never look back just in life in general. It's the same when it comes to my career. I always like to move forward.
And so, to me, it's like I played that character for a long time. I don't need to play that character again. It's retired. And I'm so glad. And I couldn't be more blessed and feel blessed to be on the show that I am now. And I love the people that I'm working with. I couldn't be more ecstatic about it. So, everything happens for a reason.
Catch the next all-new episode of White Collar next Friday on USA, 10/9 central.