Q: What was your big break?
A: Guiding Light, nine years ago. I played a trust-fund baby who became a male prostitute, killed three people, kidnapped a girl, then killed himself in front of her father and her boyfriend. You know, just your average slice-of-life piece.
Q: Your father played for the Dallas Cowboys. Ever think you'd be a football player?
A: I grew up in Texas, and there's really no other social option on a Friday night. I played through high school and enjoyed it. I was okay—not great. But my senior year I ended up getting cast in A Streetcar Named Desire and left the team for the part. My parents were actually really cool about that decision.
Q: Your character, Neal Caffrey, is a very dapper dresser. Are you?
A: Not at all. I have, like, three suits to my name. But one thing I've learned is that when you dress up in real life, people treat you differently. So I've definitely borrowed a lot of the show's wardrobe.
Q: It looks like they've got you in head-to-toe Thom Browne.
A: Actually, I don't wear a stitch of Thom Browne on the show, but it is all cut and tailored that way. The casting designer and I came up with a look for Neal that's very Rat Pack, so anything Sy Devore-influenced—skinny ties, very fitted suits. I've worn some amazing vintage sharkskin.
Q: After performing in promising shows like Traveller and Tru Calling that failed to take off, did you have high hopes for White Collar?
A: It's funny—you just never know what's gonna hit. We started shooting the pilot for White Collar in late 2008, before Madoff. Then the whole scandal broke. I was like, Wow, this is really out there in the zeitgeist right now.
Q: How true were the rumors that you were going to get the lead in Superman Returns back in 2003?
A: I went through all the screen tests, and it was pretty much understood that [director] Brett Ratner and I would be doing it. It all kind of fell apart.
Q: That must have been devastating.
A: The whole experience was so fast and sudden—it was impossible for me to take in while it was happening. But just being attached to Superman actually gave a great boost to my career.
Q: Does it bother you that so much of what's been written about you is speculation that you're gay?
A: I don't care about that at all. I'm completely happy and fulfilled in my personal life.
Q: But you don't want to talk about it.
A: I have a network and a show riding on my shoulders. I would say a big difference between my character and me is that I can be too trusting. And I've realized in this business, that's not necessarily the smartest thing to be. I definitely have a thing or two to learn from the con artists.