White Collar’s Hilarie Burton Interview

January 22, 2011

You knew and loved her as Peyton Sawyer on One Tree Hill but now Hilarie Burton is White Collar’s Sara Ellis, a part that she is truly relishing. Find out more about the lovely Ms. Burton when you read the below interview. There are some amazing pictures and a video for you to enjoy as well.

Hilarie Burton

Recently I had the amazing opportunity to participate in a Q&A interview with White Collar’s Hilarie Burton. I have been a fan of Hilarie’s for years and she was fabulous to talk to. Seriously such a joy it was chatting with her, just like talking a friend.

Q. Based on what we’ve seen so far regarding Sara do you think she is capable of being considerably more ruthless than either Peter or Neal?
A. I think what Sara has going for her is that she’s not confined by the boundaries of working for the government. She gets to be a little bit more creative in her research methods or her repo methods as opposed to the boys who have to answer to Johnny Law. So, yeah, I think she has more freedom and can use that gray area to help these guys that she’s clearly drawn to, whether it’s Peter as a mentor and friend or it’s Neal as an adversary, who is also really attractive. I think she has a lot to offer the FBI team as a whole.

Q. What elements of Sara’s character are the least like you?
A. Oh boy. I’ll tell you what, when you first read for a part they give actresses sides to audition and they rarely give you what will actually be on the show because they don’t want any spoilers put out there. So the part I originally read for was a district attorney that wasn’t making that much money so she was jealous of Neal’s very fancy lifestyle. Then I get the job, I go in and they want to dress me in the fanciest outfits and have me play a very high end character. And that’s a world that is very foreign to me. I was fortunate enough to go in there and have a really wonderful wardrobe department educate me very, very quickly about what is in fashion; what is not in fashion, and help me create that air of bravado and self-importance through one’s physical appearance.

Q. Can you talk about what it’s like working with Matt Bomer?
A. I tell you what, I’ve been very, very lucky. All the boys that I’ve had to kiss during the tenure of my career have been really wonderful and very kind. But when I went in and read for the part of Sara, Matt Bomer is in every scene of this television show and he stopped what he was doing in the middle of his work day; he had one scene off, to come upstairs where I was with the producers to do this little audition. He had already memorized the scene he wasn’t even shooting that day, it was just my audition scene so it was never going to be used on television. He was committed to my audition he made me look so good. Matt was just dazzling, approachable and open right away. I really credit him with me getting this job because the chemistry was there and that was because of the effort on his part. Once I got the job and got to work with him on a regular basis —I’ve yet to see a flaw in the man. He’s so generous, hard working, family oriented and really dedicated to all aspects of his world. He’s sets a very good example for me and I like being around people like him.

Q. What are your thoughts on exploring a romantic relationship between Sara and Neal?
A. It’s so fun. I think that’s always an awkward thing at work when, you don’t know how far to play that card or how much you should give away. And I think as we’re figuring that out as actors, it gives the writers back in L.A. something to play with, you know they see what works between us and what doesn’t. There is an element of discovery with each other, so I don’t want to say that we’re going to rush into falling in love and being together in every single episode right away, but I know that the Sara character is very curious about him, begrudgingly perhaps.

Q. What is it about Sara do you feel people can relate to the most?
A. Sara is not very relatable when you first meet her. I had the same problem on One Tree Hill. When that show first aired people were like this Peyton girl sucks. There’s no such thing as a cheerleader that’s into punk music, so I had to go through the motions there of peeling away layers until they saw the core of the person. I think the core of Sara Ellis is that she is a good person, she believes in right and wrong and she has morals. I think she genuinely cares for the people she cares for and I think you’ll see that in her friendship with Peter. I think she respects him so much. It’s hard to enter her world because she has a lot of defense mechanisms up. But once the audience does enter her world, I think she’ll be a very likable person for them.

Q. What do you think your character brings to the table that’s so different than the other female characters on the show?
A. Well, I tell you what, outside of the female characters just the females on the show are the warmest most graceful inclusive women. Anytime you’re the new kid walking into a situation you have no idea what’s going to happen once you get there and Tiffani, Marsha and Gloria, they were so kind, so warm, so I might be a little bit biased. I think that they can’t do anything wrong. They’re incredible. I think what my character brings that’s a little different is that I don’t have any tie to the FBI. Marsha’s character, Diana, works for the Bureau, Tiffani has to kind of mind her p’s and q’s because she’s an agent’s wife. I can do whatever I want. The difference between Gloria’s character and I is that she’s a criminal and I’m not. I can kind of walk both lines. I can walk into the FBI office, I can also walk into a seedy underworld, so there’s a duality in Sara that I think opens a lot of doors for the characters.

Q. What are your plans for the future with the new baby, you’ve got your own Southern Gothic production company going on, anything big happening in the next six months to a year?
A. I am going through a growing phase in my life. I went through one when I first went down to North Carolina, I went through one a couple of years before my run on One Tree Hill ended and I’m going through one now where I’m starting to look at what do I want out of the next five years of my life? I think I’m really, really happy with my personal life, everything there is sewn up and I’m very happy in that. Now I’ve got a job that works perfect with my personal life. It’s in a place that I love and it’s with people that I really like. So I’m going to ride this train as long as I can. My business partners at Southern Gothic and I still are talking. We took a break for the holidays, so we’re re-exploring things. Definitely the climate in the film industry has changed, so we have to grow with that, but there is a new television network that’s approached us about producing some stuff for them. It’s definitely a ball that’s still rolling, I just have to decide what direction I want it to roll in.

Q. Do you have any desire to get into writing and directing and more of the back end of the entertainment world?
A. Sure as I said I have my production company that I started down in Wilmington while I was still down there full-time and it’s still something I’m committed to. Clearly I’ve had a bunch of life changes in the last couple years that I can’t focus 100% on this production company, but now that I’m getting a little bit more time to myself I’m, focusing a little bit better, we’re getting the ball rolling again. Like I said before my business partner and I have been approached by a television network that would like some original scripted programming from us and we’ve got a couple reality shows that we worked on. I’ve also been taking some meetings and conference calls, so it’s all about finding the right fit. There is so much material out there I just want to make sure that if our name is attached to it, Southern Gothic Productions, that it’s something that we’re really proud of. So if we take our time getting there, and we end up with a product that we’re really proud of, I’m very good with that.

Q. After being on One Tree Hill for years, what has White Collar done for your confidence as an actress?
A. Oh man. I tell you what there is always that stigma of, “You’re never gonna work again”, I was nervous about that. I deliberately took some time off because my identity as Hilarie Burton got so wrapped up in one job. So I had already planned on taking some time off to myself to figure out what I liked to do, and make sure that I can be in a room by myself and like the person I’m sitting there with. When I did start auditioning again, White Collar was like my third or fourth audition and I remember being nervous. I didn’t know what to wear to the audition, so I wore sneakers and a skirt into the building but before I went in to go tape for it I put my high heels on and walked in the room, did the audition and it went great. Then when I left I went back in the lobby and was changing my shoes, the casting director came out and just kind of laughed at me. It was like, what are you doing? Oh, you didn’t think I was going to walk around in those, did you? So, I felt really good about getting a job quickly after I started auditioning and it’s a grown up job. It’s with people who have really figured out how to exist in this industry wholesomely. They do set a very good example for me as to how I can have everything I want, how I can have a great family and also a career that I’m proud of. I feel at home on this show. I like being there.

Q. Any possible return to One Tree Hill?
A. I have such a fondness for that period in my life. I love all the people there, unfortunately it gets to a point where your personal life doesn’t necessarily allow a whole lot of room anymore for just jumping on a plane and going wherever. So while that’s a place that I love and it’s an experience in my life that I really love, I don’t think that it’s going to work out. I still communicate with everybody back there, I love them as a whole, but no I don’t think it’s going to work out. I’m sorry.

Q. If you had to give one bit of advice to actors what would that be?
A. For actors I would say you have to go where the work is. I had a really big scholarship to go to a school in Virginia when I graduated high school and everyone thought I was crazy for not taking it and going to New York. I knew what I really wanted out of my life wasn’t going to happen where I had that scholarship. I probably would have had an awesome career in something else and been very happy, but acting is what I’d wanted to do, I can never remember wanting to do anything else. You have to go where the work is, you have to meet like-minded people and you have to create your own opportunities.

Q. What’s something about you that your fans would be surprised to know?
A. Something about me? Oh, God, I’m such an open book. I guess, I’m always pretty forthcoming because I figure if I laugh at myself first then I kind of beat everybody else to it. Something they’d be surprised about me. I’m, kind of a loner. For as rowdy as I get and as much fun as I have at work, I really appreciate quiet time. There is a very quiet side of Hilarie Burton that not many people see.

It was a pleasure to be apart of an interview with White Collar’s Hilarie Burton. Like I said she was amazing. Make sure you check her out on the USA hit show every Tuesday!

Hilarie Burton 2Hilarie Burton 3Hilarie Burton 4Hilarie Burton 5Hilarie Burton 6

Photos: www.wenn.com/A. Miller/Nikki Nelson/Adrianna M. Barraza

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6 Responses to “White Collar’s Hilarie Burton Interview”

  1. 1
    Rebecca Says:

    I am a HUGE fan of Hilarie’s and I LOVE(D) her character Peyton on One Tree Hill, but I’m really disappointed about this news. I realize she has a new life now and a family, but I would think she’d be a little more appreciative of all the things her fans went through to keep OTH on air for 6 seasons with her. We fought, rallied, petitioned, and she can’t even come back for 1 or 2 episodes? I think that’s really really disrespectful. If there’s bad blood, that would be one thing, but when she’s rightfully saying that she’s fond of OTH, it’s really that she just doesn’t want to come back. I can’t picture this series ending without a Leyton return. And now that Hilarie is refusing, they can’t rightly bring back Lucas alone. Sorry Hil, I love ya, but this really makes me sad…

  2. 2
    Sarah Says:

    Cool to see her in a new role after One Tree Hill.

  3. 3
    Sandy Says:

    Hilarie is amazing, well done!

  4. 4
    Jen Says:

    I love her, but I too am disappointed that she will not return to OTH. However, I too have a new baby and work, and can say, I wouldnt put myself out like that for a few episodes. It is way too much stress!

  5. 5
    Jeanette Says:

    That’s too bad she won’t be returning to One Tree Hill, loved her, but life goes on..

  6. 6
    Miriam Says:

    You Nailed this Girl, Great R!