An Interview with Marsha Thomason of “White Collar”

Marsha Thomason (LostLas Vegas) plays FBI Special Agent Diana Berrigan on White Collar. Last season, Diana got engaged to her oft-mentioned, rarely seen, girlfriend Christie. This season, the team is back together in New York but something isn’t right with Diana. Marsha talked to AfterEllen.com about whether we’re going to see Christie this season, what she thinks Diana would wear to her wedding, and if we’re going to find out why Diana has taken Levi Johnston’s crown as the world’s least excited to be engaged person. Marsha was funny, lovely to talk to, and generous with her time. I only wish there was a way to put her lovely English accent on the page for you all to be able to hear.

Photo credit: Craig Barritt/Getty Images

AfterEllen.com: I’m a really big fan of the show and I’m very thrilled to be able to talk to you about it.
Marsha Thomason: Oh, that’s awesome, thank you.

AE: Everything about the show is really fun and I really like the way that the team has such a great banter…
MT: Yeah.

AE: Of course, a lot of that comes from having crisp and really good writing but some of it has to come from the fact that the actors have really good chemistry.  Did that chemistry come naturally or easily or is it something that you think has developed over the three-plus seasons?
MT: You know, honestly, I feel like we had that chemistry from the get go. To be honest, we really did.  It was easy. Thinking back to the pilot, which was so long ago, my goodness, I can’t believe we’re in our fourth season, we really kind of just clicked all of us together and that’s why… I’m sure all the time. Sharif [Atkins, who plays Agent Clinton Jones] and I were joking today we’re like brother and sister we just pick on each other and you know, take the piss constantly… You know, we just have a good time.

AE: It really comes across on screen.  I think some of that is contained within the script there is some nice stuff on the blooper reel of you guys goofing around. I particularly like the bit of you and Matt [Bomer, who plays Neal Caffrey] bouncing around in the car between takes.
MT: Oh, yeah. [laughs]

AE: Would you say that any of your friendships with the other actors are at all similar to the relationships between the characters you play on screen?
MT: Well, I’m very close to Sharif because we have so much together. I’m close with all the actors but I think our relationship on the show and in real life echo one another. But Diana is very wary of Neal and though she clearly cares for him like everybody she still doesn’t trust him as far as she could throw him and I absolutely don’t feel that way about Matt. I love him. I think Tim [DeKay, who plays Agent Peter Burke] and I kind of have a similar dynamic in real life but he’s not my boss, except actually this week he has been my boss because he’s been directing which has been amazing.  

AE:  Who on the show is most like or most unlike his or her character, do you think?
MT: Oh, oh, interesting. Well, oh my goodness, I don’t know! We’re all a little bit like our characters. It’s funny, now that you say that, we’re all a little bit like our characters. 

AE: So we should look out for Matt [laughs], 
MT: Yeah.

AE: He’s the most likely to pick our pocket?
MT: Well, no, but he’s definitely suave and charismatic and that side [of his character].

AE: White Collar is obviously a drama but has what I would consider a very dry, witty sense of humor, with a lot of deadpan humor.
MT: Yeah.

AE: A lot of sarcasm. You did a guest spot on 2 Broke Girls which obviously has a very different humor sensibility are you drawn to one type of humor over the other?  When you watch television are you drawn to one type over the other?
MT: You know, I watch a lot of television and I like all kinds. I don’t watch that many sitcoms, actually.The comedies that I tend to watch are usually single camera, Louis CK’s show… What else am I watching? I love Modern Family, like everybody else. But I also love drama, I watch everything on HBO. [laughs] I watch a lot of television [laughs], it’s kind of embarrassing.

AE: Along with the sense of humor from the show which, honestly, has me laughing out loud a couple of times each week.
MT: That’s great.

AE: It usually surprises me, it kind of sneaks up. One thing I really enjoy about the show is how we’ve slowly gotten to know the characters, which has given them both a nice mystery and some real dimension.
MT: Yes.

AE: For Diana, we have the fact that she’s sort of a total badass, she does not hesitate to use force when necessary, but last season in what I’m calling the “engagement episode” [Season 3’s “Pulling Strings”] we got to see what was a really sweet and unsure side of her, are we going to get to see any more sides of Diana this season?
MT: We do actually. The next episode is episode four, in episode five I have a great storyline and we see a delicate side to Diana, she becomes much more vulnerable and connects with Neal in a way that she has never done before. I haven’t seen the episode and am really looking forward to it. I think the fans are going to enjoy seeing that side of her.

AE: Great! Definitely something to look forward to. Back to the engagement episode. The way Diana announced her engagement felt very much in keeping with her character and with her relationship with the guys.
MT: Right.

AE: I loved how giddy they got on her behalf. They seemed almost more excited about it than she did.
MT: [laughs]

AE: She was pretty hesitant last season, [in last week’s episode “Diminishing Returns”] I thought she bordered on hostile when talking about ring shopping. Are we going to get a little more information on what is going on there and what he problem is?
MT: We are, absolutely. Actually, that episode five that I was talking about, that’s where we see all of that. This whole engagement story is at the fore.

AE: Great!
MT: Yeah, yeah.

AE: She seems to be the most unhappy engaged person I’ve ever seen and it will be nice to find out what’s going on.
MT: Yeah, absolutely. She isn’t necessarily having the response that we all would imagine you have when you become engaged. [laughs]

AE: No, not at all. 
MT: And particularly after finally being given the right to be engaged and get married. 

AE: Please correct me if I’m wrong, but in the last episode, episode three,  Diana is wearing an engagement ring.
MT: No.

AE: No she’s not. 
MT: No, that was on my right hand.

AE: I was going to ask you about that [the ring being on the right hand rather than the left].  The shots are difficult to catch sight of the ring but I saw and ring and I was going to ask you about why you chose to have it on the right hand.
MT: No, that’s actually a bunch of rings that I’ve always worn rings as Diana on that finger on my right hand and this was just a different set. Early in the season we had some new stuff and we were trying it on.

AE: Are we going to get to see Diana and Christie go ring shopping?
MT: No.

AE: Oh, bummer.
MT: [laughs]

Photo courtesy of USA Network

AE: You spoke about Diana’s relationship with Neal and I thought that they had some really nice moments together in the engagement episode.
MT: Yeah.

AE: How would you describe their relationship and how it has changed from their first meeting, as you said, quite a long time ago in the pilot?
MT: I think that Diana obviously cares about Neal. He’s become a work colleague and a friend though she’s constantly got one eye on him because he’s a friend and colleague but she doesn’t trust him. She thinks that, you know, he’s so smooth and “a guy” and I think sometimes she’s like “oh brother, give it a rest.” She doesn’t fall for his charms in that way. 

AE: Sometimes they come off as having a sibling rivalry with Peter as the dad with both of them vying for his attention.
MT: Yes, I think that’s a really good way to describe them, actually.

AE: Diana thinks that he’s the little brother that gets away with everything.
MT: He does! He does things and he gets away with it all the time. 

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