I was fortunate to participate in a recent conference call with Tiffani Thiessen, to discuss her work on White Collar. She made the call so much fun and is such a nice, pleasant, and patient person…it’s like she IS Elizabeth Burke! Tiffani gave us an inside look at her character, on-screen relationships, and what’s in store for Elizabeth Burke. She also talked about her own family and experiences working on the show. It was a great time—the hour flew by way too fast!
Check out some of the great questions & answers below.
Q: Where does Elizabeth stand on the latest developments in the relationship between Neal and Peter?
Tiffani Thiessen: You know, I always try to think that she really tries to stay right in the middle. I mean, of course her first priority, and she always stands by her husband. But I’ve always thought that Elizabeth really kind of has a soft spot for Neal and sees the good in Neal probably more often than Peter’s character does.
But I think there’s definitely, the questions that are surrounding the whole you know, scenario with the treasure, I think she’s kind of in question as well and you’ll see in the episode in the finale that a lot of those answers get, I love as those questions get answered as well as some new drama unfolds with it.
Jump with us to read more.
Q: Although Elizabeth isn’t part of the FBI or a professional conman herself, what is it about her character that allows her to contribute to certain investigations that help those to?
Tiffani: Well, I’ve always said that Elizabeth kind of is the voice of reason. She’s got the woman’s intuition that I say plays, you know greatly into the show. She is definitely kind of the middle person between Peter and Neal at times when they kind of are butting heads, so I definitely believe that she kind of helps bridge the gap at times between the two of them.
Q: It was great to see Elizabeth take on an integral part in the main caper in “Veiled Threat,” can expect to see this larger role for you in the future?
Tiffani: Yes. It was quite fun as well. It was quite fun.
Yes. I mean there’s two things, I’m definitely you know like liked Willie Garson on the show, we’re definitely more supporting on the show and you won’t see me every episode up front but there are episodes coming as well, coming back in January that you’ll see more of me up front, which has been really fun. I have an episode coming up where I actually come up with a case on my own and crack it myself, which has really been, it was really a fun episode to shoot, we shot that a few weeks ago.
So you will see more of that, and yes, “Veiled Threat” was such a fun episode, I thought it was fun for even Tim to do, it was kind of a, on a really fun side for him. I thought he was great in that episode and it was, it was really super fun to kind of get involved with my husband on a different, you know in a different way. It was great, we had a blast and I loved being, you know, in the episodes a little bit more and having some more kind of activity to do. It was quite fun.
Q: It was really great to see Elizabeth be the hero and save Peter with her catering in “Deadline.” What did you think of the role reversal in that episode?
Tiffani: Well it’s always fun to kind of like have little bits of role reversals, you know, happening on the show, it’s always fun to do stuff like that and especially you know I briefly had said this too, it’s always fun to you know work with some of the other actors on the show too, you know I love working with Willie, it’s always fun to work with Matt you know I don’t always get to work with Matt all the time and you know, even Sharif you know every now and then, which is really fun.
Marsha’s really the only one that I haven’t really gotten to work with yet and Hilarie now that she’s a part of the show, so those are two girls that I’d love to work with a little bit more so hopefully maybe next season.
Q: Where would you like to see Elizabeth go in the next season?
Tiffani: Oh God that’s hard. You know we’ve started to see a little bit of it and you’ll see a little bit more in January, you know when we come back in January but I do like that they’re starting to kind of pull her back into the art world again, which is kind of where she started and where she met her husband, so I’d like to kind of see that go a little bit more, which would be kind of fun, which would help get me more involved possibly with you know some of the other characters in the show.
Q: After the Justin Bieber t-shirt thing has there been any talk of, has there been any talk of getting him to guest star on the show?
Tiffani: You know there actually hasn’t been any talk but actually he would be a great, I think he’d be great on the show. We’d love to have him I’m sure. I can’t imagine we would say no…We’ll have to bring it up to the USA and White Collar peeps so.
Q: What was it like getting to work with your husband on an episode of White Collar?
Tiffani: It was great. Sadly I didn’t get to have one scene with him so I didn’t get to physically work with him but it was great to have him a part of the show for the episode. He had a blast. It was nice for him to come on the show being that he knew everybody ahead of schedule so it was a really comfortable, you know, thought for him and he really did have a blast, he loved working with everybody, it was just one person he didn’t get to work with is his wife.
It’s so funny we got a lot of feedback from our friends and family on how great of a bad guy he was when he truly is such the nicest guy in real life. But he had a blast, he loves being able to play a character that of course is completely different than him, he loved getting to work with, you know, my co-stars which he personally knows very well being that you know, he’s my husband.
[He a fan of the show.] He watches every Tuesday when we’re home we, I mean I have to say if I’m home and I’m not out having to do something or trying to put the baby down to bed we are, we are definitely fans of White Collar.
Q: Do you think Neal will ever get his anklet off?
Tiffani: You know that’s a good question, I’m not sure. You know I think it probably might be a story line down the line maybe in season 5, 6, 7, who knows. I don’t think he’s going to get it off anytime soon especially with all of the suspicion of him taking the treasure right now, I don’t think he’s going to get it off anytime soon, you know it’s like, you know you have to have good behavior before you get, you know, rewarded for the good behavior. So I don’t think he’s going to get it any time soon.
Q: What’s been your favorite scene to shoot with Tim DeKay?
Tiffani: Oh gosh, favorite scene with Tim DeKay. That’s hard. That’s really hard. I think there’s a scene that you guys haven’t seen yet that it’s one of the last scenes in an episode coming in January or February I think it is, and it’s a scene where you kind of see the sexy side of Elizabeth and Peter, which you don’t really see quite often in our relationship, and that was actually kind of fun so.
Q: What is that you feel that Peter brings to Elizabeth that kind of keeps her staying there because he’s gone a lot?
Tiffani: Well I mean I think they’ve got, they have a relationship that is very understood, I mean I think Elizabeth knew what she was marrying and, you know a long time ago and vice versa with Peter. I think they’re both very career driven people.
I think you know her career’s extremely important to her as well as his and it’s just kind of understood the relationship besides, you know marriage I think they’re very much, they consider each other their best friends and they, and they really can turn to each other in times where, when they need it. So when they have that kind of basis I think there’s a lot of understanding between the two of them.
Q: What originally attracted you to the role?
Tiffani: There was a few things that attracted me to the role and the project in general. I thought the writing was extremely strong, I thought the characters were really thought out, I thought they were really relatable. I thought the show was fun. I just, it’s the kind of TV and it’s like the type of story telling that I like to watch myself so I definitely, you know, gravitated towards the script when I first read it.
And for a little bit it was kind of the first role that spoke to me in a personal way because I think she’s very close to my true self or a lot of the other characters I’ve played in the past have been very different from myself. And I also loved that it was a relationship on TV, a marriage that actually works.
You see a lot of times on TV and movies the relationships of especially you know, people who are married that it’s the drama of it all, it’s the stuff that doesn’t work and this is one relationship that actually does work on camera and I like that, I like that it’s a positive, you know putting marriage in a positive light.
Q: What’s something that you’ve learned about yourself since you started on the show?
Tiffani: That I’ve learned about myself. Well I’ve learned that after, and especially in the last, you know, year I’ve learned that I can still tend to have 4:00 a.m. call times and not have any sleep after having a child. My body has been put through a lot, so has my head and I can still continue to go.
But it’s, you know I have to say it’s one of the funnest shows I’ve been and I’ve been on and worked on I’ve been doing this for almost 30 years next year and which is a long time and I’ve done a lot of, you know a lot of different shows and a lot of different projects but this is one project that I’d say that I really enjoy going to work on the days that I go to work. I enjoy working with the people that I’ve been working with and I haven’t been able to say that about every job that I’ve had.
Q: What is one character trait that you admire about Elizabeth that you don’t have in real life but that you wish you had?
I think you know at times she probably has a little more patience and understanding than I do. I think sometimes that I am quick to make decisions because I’m a very fast-paced person in real life. I’m kind of a go, go, go kind of girl and so I think that also kind of goes into my mind in making up, you know my mind in certain ways and decisions and I think she’s a little more takes it all in, digests this a little more, makes the decision based on you know how she feels about it after awhile, which is probably the smarter way to go.
But I think mine comes from a passion and not that hers isn’t either I just think that she’s much more, I think also, you know I think it also has to do with the fact that Elizabeth’s been married longer than I have and has been you know kind of in a long, very serious relationship for quite some time, I just celebrated my six years and she’s over ten years so she’s got a little more experience than I do.
But you know I like I said we do have a lot of similarities and I, there’s a part of me that strives to be like her every day because I think she is a great woman, I really do.
Q: With White Collar in its third season how would say that Elizabeth has evolved or changed as a woman and as a wife to Peter?
Tiffani: I think, how has she changed? I think every season and every year I think she becomes more and more understanding. I think she becomes, I think there’s also I think she finds a way to reinvent and kind of fall, you know fall in love with her husband all over again, which I love that about her.
I do think that she right now in this season in particular I think she’s trying to figure out some possible changes in her career which is kind of fun, the fact that she’s kind of going back into the art world again, which is exciting, so I think that’s been kind of fun to kind of see some changes in her and her career, which is you know a lot of us women go through and men too, we kind of get to that age where we’re trying okay is this what I want to do the rest of my life. And I think she’s kind of there as well.
There’s, you know there’s a lot of things I think she, I think she’s really found a great relationship with Mozzie, which has been really fun as well, the fact that she’s kind of grown very close to him you know always working with Willie is quite, you know it really quite fun and so it’s been great to actually explore that relationship more and more this season with him.
Q: Were you surprised by all the backlash that came with the changing of the opening title sequence?
I was, yes, I was surprised because I didn’t realize a lot of people were so invested in the opening credits, but I have to agree I wasn’t crazy at all about the new credits. I was actually kind of disappointed because I liked the old ones better so I was really happy to see that the fans spoke and they got what they wanted.
Q: You invest a lot in Elizabeth’s character because you’re the actress playing her but what does Elizabeth give back to you?
Oh wow, you know I think I kind of sort of answered this possibly in some of, one of the other questions but you know I love the patience that Elizabeth has. I think she’s one of the most you know, patient people I’ve definitely played in my career for sure.
I also love that she really has her priorities really I think intact, the fact that she’s definitely very passionate about her career and but she’s extremely passionate about her home life and her husband and I think she’s really got the balance thing going. I think you know I’m constantly striving for that in my real life now having the kid added to the mix. I just love that she always seems to have her ducks in a row per say, so that’s definitely one of the bigger things that I love about her.
…Very easy going and kind of just almost worldly in the sense that she just kind of knows, knows what’s happening, I mean I think she has this intuition about here that I think all of us have, I just think she’s got more experience with it lately especially you know just with the whole like you know back again you know with the whole Peter and Neal relationship, I think she really I think she kind of understands it sometimes better than they do and they’re the ones involved.
But I think sometimes because she’s not involved completely, she’s kind of just outside of the box of it she can look at it a little clearer than the boys can.
Q: Now that you have a kid, does this change up your own personal dynamic?
Tiffani: Yes it does. Very much so, it’s you know going from work and the kid and, which you know she usually comes with me most of the time even though now she’s starting you know, to be a little more independent these days. But yes you know it’s I’m a busy girl and that’s why I love it, I love my job so much, I love being a mother it’s what I wanted for a long time and it’s been quite fun.
And you know I started another venture, a company called PetitNest where I’m designing you know furniture and bedding for children, so that’s been another adventure and yes I’ve got a lot of stuff cooking and I love doing this and I love being busy, I’m a multitasker for sure.
Q: Do you think that Elizabeth might want to have children in the future and how soon?
Tiffani: Ever since I of course personally had a child last year I’ve gotten that question quite often and I really do believe that Peter and Elizabeth are a couple and I call them a modern couple, that they for whatever reason, and I’ve come up with my own possible decisions of why they don’t have children, but who knows, I’m not the writer of the show so I’m not going to, you know not going to say and put it out there but I just don’t believe that they will have kids. I don’t think that’s part of their future.
I think they’re extremely career driven, I think they’re very much a relationship where it’s about the two of them and their dog and they’re completely happy with that and I love that about them, I love that they’re that kind of couple. I have quite a few friends that you know have been married for years and don’t have kids and they, you know and they have a lot of godchildren and nieces and nephews and they’re extremely happy with that kind of scenario in their life.
Q: Will we see Elizabeth getting back into the con anytime soon?
Tiffani: You definitely see me for sure…in the season finale, something very big happens in the season finale and I hope you guys will like it, it’s definitely one of our better episodes, it’s pretty exciting.
And then you definitely see it unfold of course next January when we come back and I’m very much involved in that as well as another episode that comes after that, but I get very involved with it, I spoke with briefly about where it’s an episode that I kind of come up with a case and crack the case myself. So you’ll definitely see a lot more of Elizabeth, which is quite fun.
Q: Is there any cameos for your daughter coming up on White Collar, are you going to sneak her in in the future?
Tiffani: My daughter on the show? No. We’re going to try and keep her behind the camera as long as possible. No. I don’t see her, first of all I can’t even understand, I wouldn’t understand how we would actually integrate her into the show first of all, and then secondly I’m not pushing her to really get involved into the acting world until she’s old enough to make that decision on her own so.
Q: What is your role in the season file?
Tiffani: I’m not going to spoil it too much but I definitely involved in the summer, you know finale, you will definitely see a big piece of me that the cliffhanger involves myself. And then when we come back in January I definitely come back as well as a very big episode that kind of sort of you know, what’s the word I’m looking for, picks up where we leave off in the summary and you’ll see me again in the next episode right after that.
And then I have another episode that I’m very big in as well, except even closer, you know even after that after the season finale, or the season premiere in January so I have a lot, I have a lot more involvement coming up.
Q: How do you find the online interaction with fans and getting the comments and being able to kind of get their feedback? How much do you like getting involved with that?
Tiffani: You know it’s been really fun. I’m still, I feel like I’m still kind of new at the whole Facebook Twitter thing but I’m definitely gotten much more involved in it and it was actually, I don’t know if you guys saw Sharif did this great little video that he did a, like I want to say last week or the week before that was quite funny and he’s, you know, he’s such a great guy he’s so talented and so funny.
But I’m definitely involved I just don’t, I’m not as involved as a lot of people but I’m definitely getting much more into it and it is fun to kind of see what people are responding to with your life and your career and the things that you’re, you know you’re doing at the moment. So it’s, you know the whole social media aspect of it is it’s pretty amazing where it’s kind of taking us. But again I’m like I said I’m still kind of new at it so I’m still kind of getting the hang of it.
Q: What do you think would have happened if Elizabeth had been the one to find out Neal’s secret instead of Sara?
Tiffani: That’s hard, that’s a great question. Wow. You know I would think that she’d have a very hard time with it. I think there would be a lot of stewing of trying to figure out what’s best, on a how best to approach Peter about it but I do believe that she’s always behind her husband. I believe that she would have to go to him because I just think that’s part of being honest and being in a marriage and also knowing right from wrong, she is married to an FBI agent, you know of course, but she always tries to see the good in Neal and so I think she would definitely explore the possibilities of what exactly went on and what exactly all of that what’s happening and I think she would figure out that maybe he was having second thoughts about it and doubts about it. I think she would see that. But I think ultimately she would definitely, she would have gone to her husband no matter what.
I think she probably would have gone to Neal first possibly before her husband, before Peter but I definitely no matter what she would definitely go to her husband in the end.
Q: Tell us about working with Joe Manganiello on his episode.
Tiffani: He comes in and actually moves like three doors down from us, from the Burke’s and he’s our new neighbor and he’s not so, he’s not so nice.
It was definitely not a hard episode to work on, he’s quite a nice looking gentleman, and he was great, he’s actually, he has a past with Matt, he actually he and Matt went to school together so they were very close and good friends. But funny enough I actually worked with him more than Matt did on the show and he was great, he was so fun to have on the show, he was very gung ho about the part and we had a blast all of us did.
Q: What is it like for you as an actress to work on a show with smart, capable women who have fully developed personalities and motivations?
Tiffani: Well it’s great, it’s one of the things that you know definitely I was attracted to when I read the pilot. I loved that you know Elizabeth herself was in a marriage that was healthy and you know it was a marriage that you don’t really see quite often on TV. It works, that’s what’s so nice about it and I loved the honestly, I loved the connection that Peter and Elizabeth have.
And as well I love the fact that Elizabeth is a smart woman, she’s extremely passionate, she like I you know mentioned prior I think she’s got her priorities straight, she just seems to kind of have it all together, a really nice package and I really strive to be like that every day.
Q: Do you think Elizabeth would be a better FBI agent or a better con artist?
Tiffani: Wow. Well, oh that’s hard. I always believe that women are better actors in their real life because I think we have an edge over men sometimes. But so that’s hard to say but at the same time she’s been married to an FBI agent for over ten years so she kind of knows that world really, really well. I would say probably a better FBI agent only because she’s extremely close to her husband.
But not that she couldn’t be a good con artist too.
Q: Peter and Elizabeth are a great couple, but would you like to see a rift between them that they must overcome?
Tiffani: Yes. I, well yes I think they’ve touched on it lightly every now and then and you probably don’t see it quite often. I agree with that and yes I think it, I think you know any sort of true, trueness that we can put into our relationship I think is amazing, I think that’s great. So I do believe, you know that it would be nice to see that a little bit more and I think we’ve heard from more people that they would like to see that as well.
So it’s definitely something we could explore. I do think though even though there might be at times they might have a little friction between then they’re always so good about communication between the two of them and really making sure that in the end they’re in the same place, they love each over, they may not see eye-to-eye all the time but that’s with every relationship.
I mean you can see the same thing where, you know Peter and Neal don’t see eye-to-eye all the time as well. But in the end they try to always come together.
Q: Well what can you tell us about Satchmo and what’s it like getting to work alongside him, is he a diva?
Tiffani: Well this season his real name is Jackson, we’ve actually had crazy enough we’ve had a different dog every season, I don’t know if you guys have realized that. I think the first season he was a little chunkier, in the second season he was a little younger and this season he’s right in the middle. This year he’s a great dog named Jackson.
Is he a diva? No he’s actually quite sweet, he’s very, he’s a dog that definitely wants to impress. He’s still got a little puppy in him so he’s still got a little bit of you know, of child like behavior which is kind of funny but he’s all in all he’s a very sweet dog and he loves to be petted and he’s a big licker as well so you got to be careful.
Q: How does it feel to have played three very different iconic roles in Saved By the Bell, 90210 and now White Collar.
Tiffani: They’re all extremely different. It’s great I mean I think you know an actor’s dream is to play different roles all the time so the fact that again you know I’ve been doing this for a really long time and I’ve been able to play very different roles not in just those shows but other shows as well and movies and things, that just fulfills, you know the creativity that I constantly strive for in my business.
Q: So when you go out are you now recognized more for White Collar?
Tiffani: Yes it’s funny it’s I always know when a new show of mine is doing well when they not that they stop talking about my other shows because that of course you know I was on two very popular shows way back when, and that’s hard to you know get people to not talk about.
But they also bring up the show that I’m doing now and White Collar has been definitely the show that lately in the last couple years has been really more and more the more I’m out the more people are talking about it, which is exciting because I love to know that people are watching current work and really falling in love with the show that I’m doing now.
And it’s becoming a kind of a really big, you know we’re getting a really big following especially here in New York City when we’re shooting we get people stopping us all the time … because they see that we’re shooting all over the city.
Q: Did you like shooting in New York?
Tiffani: I do like shooting in New York. It’s a great city. I would, the only thing I would say that I don’t like about New York City is the humidity but that’s just because I’m not used to it but I love the beauty of the city, I love the fact that you know it’s such an energetic city, that you walk everywhere, I mean it’s just, it’s such a fun city, you’ve got beautiful restaurants, amazing restaurants, the you know amazing park.
I mean it’s just, it’s a great, it’s a fun place and if I had to pick some place to live you know half the year because of work it would be New York City. So I love that I get to have that.
Q: What’s something your fans would be surprised to know about you?
Tiffani: You know what’s so funny I just did in Us Weekly last week I did 25 things you don’t know about me and it’s actually a really fun article that I did, it was great actually to have to sit down and think of 25 things that possibly people didn’t know about me and it’s really quite fun if anybody can check it out. I’ll try and post it on my Twitter page so people can see it.
But it was fun to kind of like come up with different things that people may not know and 25 is a lot, but like there’s things like you know when I was young. But when I was young I wanted to be a dancer. I always said that if I wasn’t an actor I’d be an event planner, hence the reason why you know I was with as an event planner on the show. There’s like things like that, so there’s lots of different things, you guys can check it out.
Q: Is there any particular scene that you’ve shot this season that really stands out in your memory?
Tiffani: It’s hard because it’s been, I’ve actually had a lot more to do in the last few weeks so it’s been really fun with a lot of these things that I’ve done. I’ll have to tweet this one picture but I’m going to wait and do it until it gets closer to our series premiere in January.
But I did an episode, it’s the episode that actually is the first episode that brings us back in January and I have this kind of stunt that I do that’s really funny and I actually, I wrecked a chair in the middle of it and I’ll show you guys a picture of it, like I said it’s really quite funny and that was actually a really fun scene to do.
Q: What do you think it is about Elizabeth’s character that she’s able to see the good in people or what do you think it is about Neal that she sees that Peter doesn’t?
Tiffani: I think, you know, I think she sees that there’s a part of Neal that really kind of envies and has a feeling of desire wanting what possibly Elizabeth and Peter have. You know he plays this kind of guy that you know, loves the ladies and likes to be moving and grooving and out and about and you know, his con guy.
But I think there’s a part of him that desires to be a little more grounded and desires to kind of have a little bit of the white picket fence and the wife and the dog and all that. And I think she sees that more than I think even he sees it.
Q: What’s your favorite thing about working on White Collar?
Tiffani: Oh gosh I mean like I said it’s one of the nicest casts and crew I have ever worked in the almost 30 years I’ve been doing this and we laugh constantly when we’re working, I mean between Tim and Willie of course, who’s a total, you know loves to make people laugh I mean it’s just such a fun set to work on. I wish everybody could come and visit for you know, even five minutes they could see how much fun we’re having and hopefully it translates on screen with the fun that we’re having in real life.
It’s funny, yes we even see each other on our off time, I mean we’re, we actually do send time together when we’re not shooting, which is rare.
Q: Could you talk about how Matt always tries to get a song stuck in everybody’s head when he’s working on set?
Tiffani: Oh yes. That’s, it’s very big, that’s very big of Matt to do that, he constantly is doing that which is quite funny and it kills me because I’ll leave on Friday night with like three different songs that he’s of course stuck into our heads and I’ll have it all weekend long and I can’t get rid of it until Monday when he comes up with a new song, so it’s quite funny.
I actually haven’t worked with Matt in a little while so I don’t have anything recent for him but you know one song that constantly happens when, there’s a term when you turn around a camera and do a different shot you say turning around and so of course one of the ones that they always do is like is it, turn around, every now and then, you know that song. That one’s the one that constantly happens almost every day.
And I just want to say that I apologize everybody right now for singing because I don’t have a singing voice so I apologize if I ruined anybody’s ears.
Q: Has Elizabeth let down her guard completely for Neal or is there still a part of her that’s suspicious?
Tiffani: I think she definitely always has suspicion, I just don’t think she lets it rule her. I don’t think she lets it guide her through her you know ultimate decisions I think she, I think she comes more from the heart where Peter comes more from what he sees on paper if that makes sense.
But I think they both have a little bit, you know Peter definitely will make some decisions more with his heart and she will do make more decisions on what she’s been seeing or what’s been put in front of her so because you know again she’s married to an FBI agent, she knows how that works so.
Q: In the recent episode where he was, where Neal was searching the house I kind of wondered if Elizabeth really noticed him doing that and just played it cool or whether he got away with it.
Tiffani: I don’t think she knew that was happening at all, no. I actually think she was extremely into the fact that she was there with Willie, you know with Mozzie and was having a night with Mozzie. I don’t think she would ever think that you know that Neal would do that. So I didn’t play it at that and I don’t think she knew that no.
Q: If you could describe mid-season finale in three words what would it be?
Tiffani: Okay. Riveting, surprising, and hold on, shocking. How’s that?
Thanks again to Tiffani for taking the time to speak with us. Be sure to watch the “riveting, surprising, and shocking” mid-season finale this Tuesday, August 9, at 9/8c on USA Network. I know it will have me on the edge of my seat awaiting White Collar’s return in January with the remaining six episodes of the third season!