Entertainment » Television

For White Collar’s Marsha Thomason, on-screen girlfriend is no phantom

by Jim Halterman
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Tuesday Jun 21, 2011

Currently in its third season, the USA series "White Collar" is always full of cons, mysteries and the occasional whodunit but there has never been a secret that FBI secret agent Diana Barrigan, played by Marsha Thomason, is a lesbian. However, while Diana has mentioned her lover Christie from time to time, we've never met her. Thomason has even joked in interviews that her on-screen girlfriend is a phantom.

Not anymore.

While there's no shortage of gorgeous talent on "White Collar" with not only Thomason but also resident hunk Matt Bomer starring as con man Neal Caffrey, beautiful actress Moran Atias ("Crash," "Deal Or No Deal") appears as Christie for the first - but hopefully not last - time in this week's episode. EDGE's Jim Halterman jumped on the phone with Thomason late last week to talk about finally meeting Diana's lover and her thoughts on the attention she's received for playing gay on one of cable's hottest television series.

Going undercover

EDGE: Let’s just jump right in. You know, the first two episodes of the season so far have been a little Diana-lite, but I guess that’s changing this next episode?

Marsha Thomason: They were a little Diana-lite, weren’t they? I didn’t notice that was an issue and when I sat at home watching them, I mean, where am I? But the good news is that, yes, this next episode is a pretty big one for me. I go undercover and, yes, I’m in it a lot this one episode.

EDGE: Can you talk a little bit about what the case is or is that kind of hush-hush, or can you talk about it?

MT: I go undercover as an assistant at this magazine called Circumspect. It reports on big money [and] big corporation scandals. The editor of the magazine has received a death threat, but she doesn’t want the FBI to be involved so I go in and interview to be her assistant, get the job and keep my eye on her from within. And I go undercover using my own accent, which is kind of fun.

EDGE: Was it kind of odd for you to actually use your real accent since you’re so used to not using it?

MT: It was really odd. And it was weird because I would do scenes where I would be talking to Jayne Atkinson -- who plays the editor of the magazine -- in my English accent. And then I would pick up the phone within the scene and be speaking to Peter in a whisper in an American accent. And it was just strange because, you know, Diana is American pretending to be English, but I’m English pretending to be American, so it was the opposite to what I was used to. Kind of funny. It was harder than I thought it was going to be.

Story continues on following page.

Watch this interview with Marsha Thomanson about season 3 of "White Collar"

Meeting Christie

EDGE: We’re finally meeting Christie so she’s no longer a phantom!

MT: Right. The infamous Christie shows up! Diana is not a liar with a fantasy life. She really does have a girlfriend. We have a double date at Diana’s house - Neal (Bomer) and Sara (Hilarie Burton), Christie and Diana. Diana shows up from work having been undercover all day, working for this tyrant, and you know, she just wants to get home and put up her feet and she shows up and Neal’s in the house. And, you know, she doesn’t trust Neal as far as she could throw him. She’s in possession of the German U-boat manifest at the time so it’s like she just knows that she has to keep it safe. And she doesn’t necessarily know that that’s why he’s there, but she just doesn’t trust Neal.

EDGE: So tell me a little bit about the Diana/Christie relationship. What’s their relationship like?

MT: Christie and Diana have a really great relationship. They’re both professional. They both support one another in their work. Christie’s a doctor and they seem to really compliment one another. They get on great. I mean there really isn’t much to report on that front.

EDGE: Since Christie is a doctor, how does she take in this whole FBI world, especially having Neal right there and the fact that Diana’s world is infiltrating their home in the episode?

MT: Christie’s complicit because she’s the one that invites him in, opens the door, lets him in the kitchen. So, actually, when Diana gets home and she sees what’s going on, she gives Christie a look like ’What the F*.* is going on?’ But then she just goes with it because what can she do? It’s happening. I would imagine that Christie worries about Diana and her job; it’s a dangerous job. She has to carry a gun. But she knows Diana is really good at her job, too.

EDGE: Talk to me about working with Morin Atias and how did that go? How was it when you were actually working together, because you have to portray a happy couple?

MT: It’s always strange when you meet an actor in the morning at 5:00 in the morning and then by 7:00 you’re onscreen pretending to be in a relationship for however many years. But you know, she’s a great girl. We got on great. She’s so beautiful. We had a good time and she really fit in. I mean "White Collar" is a very welcoming set so everybody made her feel at home and I think she had a good time.

No damsel in distress

EDGE: Okay. Is there a good chance we’ll see her again this season?

MT: I don’t know. We have to have her in more episodes, so I think there is definitely a chance. It would be a shame for them to introduce Christie and then to never see her again. And so I might be working with her again, yes.

EDGE: One of the things I’ve loved is that Diana really holds her own with the guys on the show. She’s definitely not a damsel in distress. Is that important to you as far as playing this character as a strong woman?

MT: Definitely. You know, I love playing strong women. I consider myself one and Diana can hang with the boys and she’s got no problem with that. She can hold her own. I love it when I get to slam somebody down on the trunk or throw someone against the wall. I do enjoy that.

EDGE: What else are we seeing from Diana the rest of the season? I know Eliza Dushku (who has her own gay following from her time on "Buffy The Vampire Slayer" and "Dollhouse") is in an upcoming episode. Can you talk about working with her?

MT: We had a lot of fun and I got to arrest her, which was awesome. But, there’s not really much more that I could say than that, to be honest. She’s a lot smaller than I thought she was going to be because she always plays such strong, badass types.

EDGE: Did you just kind of see all this attention coming just for playing a lesbian on a popular TV show?

MT: Yes, I saw it coming because I know what it’s like to be a minority. We like to see people who represent ourselves on TV and in film. I feel the same way and so I totally get it. And I’m thrilled by it honestly.

"White Collar" airs every Tuesday at 9/8c on the USA Network.

Watch this interview with the cast of "White Collar"

Jim Halterman lives in Los Angeles and also covers the TV/Film/Theater scene for www.FutonCritic.com, AfterElton, Vulture, CBS Watch magazine and, of course, www.jimhalterman.com. He is also a regular Tweeter and has a group site on Facebook.


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