'White Collar's' Matt Bomer and 'Covert Affairs' Piper Perabo spend another summer on USA

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Spies and swindlers are coming back out for the summer.

Two popular USA Network series get the warm-weather restarts that have become their tradition on Tuesday, July 10. "White Collar" opens Season 4 with con man and FBI consultant Neal Caffrey ( Matt Bomer) gone AWOL, and his handler Peter Burke ( Tim DeKay) quite worried about him, Then the third round of "Covert Affairs" begins, with CIA agent Annie Walker (Piper Perabo) tackling new cases with fresh concerns about some of those closest to her.

"It's a familial environment," the pleasant Bomer tells Zap2it in voicing his appreciation of the success "White Collar" has had. "We all enjoy coming to work and doing the best we can on any given day. It's a very rare circumstance to have a group of people all so genuinely focused, and also just good people."

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Among those set as guest stars this season are Treat Williams, Mekhi Phifer and Laura Vandervoort ( "Smallville"), with Hilarie Burton ( "One Tree Hill") and stage veteran Judith Ivey making returns. Viewers also will meet Neal's father, though the role hadn't been cast as of this writing.

While its basic concept is ongoing, "White Collar" is rebooting Neal's story to a degree, since he's far out of pocket and living on his own terms when the new stories begin. "I'm so proud of our writers," Bomer says, "because they took a pretty bold risk in taking a show where New York really is one of the central characters and removing other characters from that kind of kinetic, fast-paced environment and transplanting them to an island." Mozzie ( Willie Garson), Neal's partner in usually condoned crime, also ends up there.

"It's a good chance for Neal to sort of reassess things," Bomer adds. "I think what he realizes is, 'Wow. Here I am in my early 30s, and is this how I really want to spend the rest of my life? What does this hold for me?' He's not somebody who's good at sitting still, so I think he realizes that this life could get pretty old pretty quick, as lavish as it seems."

Following his guest role as Blaine's ( Darren Criss) brother last season on Fox's "Glee," Bomer is having a big summer. Beyond "White Collar," he's getting added exposure - as it were - on movie screens in the male stripper drama "Magic Mike," based on actual experiences of title star Channing Tatum. "I'm really grateful for the career I've had," Bomer says, "and in terms of television, this certainly is one of the coolest roles any young actor could hope for."

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Perabo also remains happy with hers, and she opens Season 3 of "Covert Affairs" with Annie not quite as covert as she once was, since her sister Danielle ( Anne Dudek) now knows her real occupation. Adding more complications are Annie's developing personal feelings for Auggie ( Christopher Gorham), the blind techno-wizard whose immediate priorities likely will spell bad timing.

"We've been doing so much traveling for the beginning of the season, we're still assembling all the bits and pieces," the lively Perabo reports of the itinerary that includes Morocco and Spain. "Another big switch for Annie at the end of Season 2 was that she had used her weapon to kill. We'd specifically kept it out of her hands up to that point, so when we begin Season 3, all of the biggest facets of her life are in upheaval."

Perabo didn't have to wait to get a script to know where Annie would pick up.

"Even though we have the hiatus off," she says, "I'm really in touch with the writers all through it. We do this thing called the Monkey Paw List, where I make a list of things I would like to see Annie do, and I send it to them every now and again. A couple of things made it into Season 2, so I'm always breathless when I get a script, waiting to see if any of my wishes came true."

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However, there's a catch to the Monkey Paw List, as borne out by the short story that inspired it. "This couple is given a monkey paw and gets to use it for five wishes," Perabo explains, "but they have to be careful what they wish for, because they might not come true exactly the way they want it. One of the things I wanted in Season 2 was a romantic horseback ride, but the ride ultimately was with a girl who was in danger. It wasn't exactly what I'd been looking for, but I did get to ride horses."

Previously seen in such movies as "Coyote Ugly" and "Cheaper by the Dozen," with another big-screen role slated this fall opposite Bruce Willis in "Looper," Perabo knows one of the hurdles as "Covert Affairs" proceeds is in keeping Annie a relative novice at spying ... even as she becomes more experienced in the methods of the Central Intelligence Agency, which she must for her continued employment to be credible.

"It's so much clearer to play when the character has no idea what's going on," Perabo allows, "but when it's your second year on the job, the small amount of experience is a little difficult to gauge. Now, in the third season, it's kind of a teenage idea of experience. You think you really know what you're doing, when that actually is the most dangerous place of all, because you really don't know what you're doing. It's a kind of overconfident troublemaker, and it's so fun to play."
Photo/Video credit: USA
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