Hilarie Burton had plenty to cry about on ‘One Tree Hill.’ To name just a few sad ordeals: Her character, Peyton, saw her adoptive and birth mothers die, got shot herself, and endured a harrowing pregnancy.
“We ran the gamut,” Burton says. “Anything that you can think of, we did.”
Burton now is relishing the chance to run the gamut herself, playing a tough-as-nails insurance investigator on the new season of USA Network’s red-hot ‘White Collar‘ (premiering July 13).
“This character doesn’t cry, and I’m really excited about that,” Burton says with a laugh. “As soon as things started going good for Peyton, I left the show. So if you want to see me having a good time and being quick-witted, this is the place to do it.”
Before you read on, watch this preview for ‘White Collar’s Season 2:
Burton describes her ‘White Collar’ alter ego, Sara Ellis, thusly: “If somebody steals a really expensive car, she’s the repo man.” The specific scenario that brings her onto the show’s canvas is unfinished business with renowned con man Neal Caffrey (played by Matt Bomer).
Looking the way she does, and with him looking the way he does, expect sparks to fly, even as Sara tries to pin on her prey a years-old theft. “[Matt] is probably one of the Seven Wonders of the World… beautiful and charming,” Burton notes. “So I wouldn’t be opposed to that!”
Still, Sara has a job to do, and à la ‘The Thomas Crown Affair,’ she perhaps has met her match.
“The one note I keep getting is, ‘Be tougher.’ And I’m just like, ‘Really? Because I’m the goofy girl. But OK, cool,’” the actress relates. “Tough has not really been in my repertoire… So we’ll see how mean I can be.”
“It’s fun to play someone with an edge, someone who is a tough girl but is also very bejeweled,” Burton continues, gesturing to the baubles and barely there designer dress that wardrobe has clad her in for the day. Compared to Peyton and her closet full of “Capezio and Hot Topic” (as Burton puts it), “It’s a different kind of character for me.”
Sara is also different in that she hails from Washington State. As such, Burton must leave her Southern drawl in the dressing room for this six-episode run. “If you hear me slip just don’t say anything, OK?” she asks, laughing. “I’m very self-conscious of it.”
Burton is also self-conscious about discussing her personal life. Though she has not confirmed a report that she and beau Jeffrey Dean Morgan (‘Supernatural’) welcomed a baby in late 2009, Fancast had to ask: “At the time you left ‘One Tree Hill,’ could you ever imagined that a year-and-change later, you’d be a mom and have a role on one of summer’s hottest shows?”
“No. No…,” she nearly interrupts, acknowledging the whirlwind year gone by and its many surprises.
“Not just in the last year, but my life has always been kind of risky,” she shares. “But I’ve always had a really supportive family that made me feel comfortable leaving my comfort zones. And in leaving my comfort zones, I found great rewards. So where I’m at right now in my life… I don’t want to be, you know, braggy about it, but I’m really happy.” A beat later, she smiles and adds: “So there!”