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Crimes and Misdemeanors

Alumnus Tim DeKay stars as FBI agent Peter Burke on USA’s popular television show White Collar.

Tim DeKay
Tim DeKay is a graduate of the Mason Gross School of the Arts.

While working for a company that made coffins, Tim DeKay couldn’t have anticipated that he would end up being an FBI agent. Back then, his concern was making a few bucks at “the Cadillac of casket makers” while honing his stagecraft in upstate New York community theater. Today, after 15 years of guest appearances on television (he played Bizarro Jerry on Seinfeld), DeKay MGSA’90 stars in White Collar, the hit television drama on the USA Network entering its third season this month.

DeKay is Peter Burke, the upright, hard-working FBI special agent who is willing to rely on the charismatic white-collar criminal Neal Caffrey, whom he has placed, finally, behind bars. Caffrey, played by Matt Bomer, is willing to ply Burke with inside information as an FBI consultant in order to gain his own release from prison as part of a work-release arrangement. Their relationship, a sophisticated game of cat and mouse, is the show’s compelling component, a “bromance,” as television observers have put it.

Still, there is no mistaking that the leading man is DeKay, a business major at Le Moyne College who considered law school before enrolling as a graduate student at Rutgers’ Mason Gross School of the Arts, wondering if he might be too old for a career in acting. DeKay made the transition from guest to series regular in 2005 on HBO’s drama Carnivàle followed by his 2007 appearance in the cable network’s sexually charged Tell Me You Love Me.

“Mason Gross taught me not to think,” says DeKay, married to actress Elisa Taylor MGSA’90, whom he met at Rutgers, and the father of two. “Do what you feel. Be honest, open, truthful. And I love pretending to be someone else. I love being in the moment and telling stories.” And he’s part of a good one.
                                                                                                                                                         — Laurie Granieri