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‘White Collar’ scoop from Sharif Atkins!

‘White Collar’ scoop from Sharif Atkins!
July 25, 2011 DAVE Q
Sharif Atkins - White Collar

TelevisionBytes with NineDaves

Last week, I let you all know about my slight obsession over Covert AffairsUSA’s sexy spy dramadey. But Covert Affairs isn’t the only USA show I’ve been hearting this summer. White Collar has pretty much been on constant play in my apartment. Like Cover Affairs, I can’t get enough of the mix of smart storytelling, cool characters, and light-hearted fun. Plus, have you seen Matt Bomer’s eyes? OMFG.

Well as luck would have it, I had the chance to talk with White Collar star Sharif Atkins, who plays Special Agent Clinton Jones. If you’re a White Collar virgin, then you’ll probably recognize Atkins from his five or seasons playing Dr. Michael Gallant on ER. Or some of his guest work on The Good Wife, Numb3rs, or The 4400 (Atkins is oddly one of a handful of actors I know to never play a guest spot on any of the Law & Order shows, which means I couldn’t ask him my “Criminal, witness, or dead body?” question). As Agent Jones on White Collar, Atkins is often stuck playing backup to Peter Burke (Tim DeKay) or babysitting Neil Caffrey (Matt Bomer). But on the upcoming episode titled, “As You Were” (which airs this Tuesday July 26 on USA at 9/8c), Agent Jones gets to move up to the driver’s seat – when we delve a little more into his character’s back-story. Here’s the scoop from Atkins on the episode, his perennial White Collar guest star status, network shows vs. cable shows, and those pesky musical episode rumors:

The action is kicking into high gear, as we meet a whole new side of Agent Jones.
Um. Did you see that cross-bow?!? Shit is going down! As Atkins explained, “The premise of the storyline is [Clinton Jones has] a buddy [played by Mr. Tiffani Thiessen Brady Smith] that [he] knew from the Naval Academy years ago. He’s gone missing. And there’s a bit of a twist in our personal relationship because he marries an old girlfriend of mine… But she’s the one that gives me the heads up that something’s wrong.” Besides the obvious sexual tension that’ll be floating around, Atkins promises an “intensely action packed” episode. “I got a chance to do a couple of fight scenes,” he added. “It’s something you haven’t seen on White Collar yet. I’m getting a little action in! Plus, you get to see Clinton a bit out of his element – taking charge as opposed to just following.” Uh oh. Don’t let Peter hear that!

The musical episode is probably not happening anytime soon.
There’s been rumors swirling for months that White Collar might follow in the paths of Buffy, Scrubs, and most recently Grey’s Anatomy and do a musical episode. But armed with intel from Atkins, I wouldn’t go holding my breath anytime soon. “I don’t know how serious that is,” he let us know. “Maybe around the fifth or sixth season.” Still, the cast is apparently keen to it. “That’d be fun!,” he said (note: I would have given him ten points if he would have sung that response to me).

The Psych crossover on the other hand…
Along with the musical episode rumors, we’ve heard reports of possible USA series crossover episodes with the crew from Psych and Covert Affairs, Well, it looks like Psych might actually happen. When asked what USA series crossover he’d love to see, Atkins leaned heavily towards Psych “I would love to give the young men over at Psych the chance to walk through those FBI doors,” Atkins said. “And the rapport they have with each other? That’d be a nice rival with the rapport that Caffrey and Burke have with each other. So that might be fun.” (whatever – this Covert Affairs fan says Annie Walker would kick all their asses).

Don’t worry – despite being labeled as a “guest star,” Atkins isn’t planning on going anywhere.
He’s been in almost every episode, but like many actors (Cloris Leachman on Raising Hope, for example), Sharif Atkins’ name always appear under the “guest star” title. What’s the deal? Does that mean he might not always be around? Well, like most things in Hollywood, the whole deal can be chalked up to some contractual nonsense. Atkins promises – if he goes anywhere, you’ll hear about it from him directly.

New York obviously rawks …
While White Collar is filmed all over NYC, they seem to be always shooting in Madison Square Park. Since I work directly across the street from the Park, I’ve found myself walking through their set a billion times. Seriously – I wouldn’t be surprised if I start getting my own “Guest Star” credit. Anyway, Atkins was new to shooting in New York City (again – the guy has NEVER BEEN IN AN EPISODE OF LAW & ORDER). But as he learned, he loves the city. “[I] get a chance to visit every part of NYC that’s fathomable when we go on location,” he explained. “Working here on a semi-regular basis is not something I look down upon at all.”

There’s no difference between working on a network show than there is a cable show.
Sharif Atkins worked for a long time on network shows like Hawaii, Eve, and ER. But White Collar brings him to the world of basic cable. Any differences? “I’m sure there are differences. From my perspective though, a working actor is a working actor,” Sharif told me. “[I’m] part of a company of a show that treats you well and is great and expects greatness. And I think that’s similar in terms of my experience.” At the same time, Atkins recognizes that White Collar is a very different experience from ER: “I’m much more seasoned as an actor. [I have] the courage to make choices or talk to writers and producers about the direction the character’s going in.”

Atkins knows why you’re watching
It’s the third season of White Collar. The stories are getting richer. The action, more … packed. I wondered what Atkins thought made the show such a hit with viewers? I even gave him an out: “I won’t judge you if you say Matt Bomer’s good looks,” I promised. But Atkins didn’t need it! “Listen, there’s nothing wrong with having a great-looking leading man.” Damn straight! But ultimately, Atkins tossed it up to a few things, including the “awesome” relationship between leads Tim DeKay and Matt Bomer, the “excellent” humor, and the structure (“The writers craft the season where there’s this overarching storyline that takes you through the season…while at the same time, each episode has it’s own hour-long arch”). Atkins was also quick to point out that the “smart show” has lead to “smart viewers,” explaining that the demographic for viewership is extremely diverse (note: this made me feel way better because I was afraid he was going to tell me that only old men and housewives watched White Collar, and I was going to cry myself to sleep tonight). “It’s cool to see the fan enthusiasm concerning the show, and my particular character,” he said. Glad you like it sir! Now please don’t block me when I start tweeting you every week, eh?

Be sure to check out Sharif Atkins in action tomorrow night on White Collar! Only three more episodes before the summer finale (the show returns in January with its six-episode winter season) – eeek!

Sharif Atkins - White Collar

I have no idea WTF is going on here, but I’m pretty sure that guy’s not messing around.