Characters: White Collar

Neal George Caffrey Bennett (Matt Bomer)

For the record, I still maintain that I basically turned myself in.

Neal is a con man, a forger, an artist, a thief, a charmer, a rogue, and a scoundrel. And he's very, very good at all of that.
  • Anti-Hero: Neal Caffrey is a manipulative ex con man who helps the FBI catch white collar criminals in order to avoid a prison sentence. While he does sometimes fall back on his criminal habits, (though at times with good intention) and has a penchant for revenge he displays an altruistic commitment to his work as an FBI agent (mostly due to Everyone Has Standards). He's also a surprisingly Nice Guy, A Friend in Need, a Friend to All Children, a Friend to All Living Things, a Chivalrous Pervert and caring in a relationship.
  • Berserk Button: Slightly lesser example, but if you mess with Neal's clothes, he will be very annoyed with you.
  • Badass Bookworm: His badassery is in his cleverness, because he's all but useless in a fight. But yes, this is a wily con artist who dreams of going to college and whose early forays into forgery included faking a bus pass when he was little so he could get to school on time, because he loved school.
  • Born Lucky: Peter feels Neal was this. Neal's back-story suggests otherwise (maybe). There's merit to Peter's view.
    • Neal's not really all that lucky. Until the age of 18 he had absolutely no idea who he really was or who his father really was. That and while he does have his lucky moments, you take into account that the few people he gets close to end up getting into deadly situations even when it's not his fault, as proved with Ellen.
  • Boxed Crook: He has a two-mile radius, though in a city as dense as New York, it doesn't limit him too much.
  • Broken Ace: Of the criminal variety. On the surface he’s a charming thief who has pulled off some of the best cons the FBI has ever seen. Underneath that though, he is full of doubt and loneliness, just looking for a way out and a place to belong.
  • The Charmer: Neal can talk his way into almost anything. He once talked a cop into breaking into a car for him when the cop showed up unexpectedly as he was trying to do it himself. A few times he has to talk his way into getting the information he needs for a job... then he has to try and get himself back out of it (usually by invoking his tracking anklet). Taken to its apotheosis in the sixth season when he practically makes a girl fall in love with him before the first date, then has to spend that date not letting it get too good to utterly break her heart when the con's over, but not getting so bad that she leaves early.
  • Con Man: Its his criminal niche. He can charm his way into any situation, usually using a combination of flirting and highly convincing acting. He often uses his con man skills to circumnavigate the FBI’s rules when in the field.
  • Con Men Hate Guns: Just because he hates them, doesn't mean he doesn't know how to use them.
  • Daddy Issues: All of them. Like...ALL of them. Pick a subtrope. Father/surrogate conflict, abandonment, idolization, broken idolization, fears that he turned out like him, ALL OF THEM.
    • Some Mommy Issues on top of that, too, because, according to implication, she was nursing a psychological trauma and/or substance addiction and wasn't really on top of it. He doesn't like to talk about it, even to Mozzie.
  • The Dandy: He adores his nice clothes.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: He grew up in Witness Protection. Until he was 18, he didn't even know his real name.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Has his moments.
  • Establishing Character Moment: His first scene in the pilot involves him breaking out of prison dressed as a guard. He shaves his face, fixes his hair, puts on the guard uniform, and casually walks out the door like he owns the place, successfully fooling prisoners and guards alike. Ladies and gentlemen, Neal Caffrey, con artist.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Neal refuses to make untraceable fake identities, since the only way to make them needs a dead infant's birth certificate.
  • Faking the Dead: Successfully, in the series finale.
  • Fool for Love: For Kate.
  • Friend to All Children: He often has to step in when Peter gets flustered by the mere presence of children.
  • Gentleman and a Scholar: Neal knows everything. He even has a fake degree in it!
  • Gentleman Thief: A sleek suited con man, famous for forgery and (supposed) art theft.
  • Good with Numbers: You try calculating sixty years of compound interest in two seconds.
  • Guile Hero: Most of the time he gets out of tight spots using his wits and charm, rather than any physical prowess.
  • Hidden Depths: You wouldn't really expect a con artist to be particularly religious, but Season 1's "Book of Hours" demonstrates that Neal not only believes in God, but is convinced that a reputed "Healing Bible" has genuine divine healing powers imbued in it.
  • I Am What I Am: The ultimate decision for himself in the end regarding the finale. Neal decides to remain a criminal because it's what he's happy being.
  • I Lied: It's what he does.
    • Except to Peter. He never outright lies to Peter. Although he does engage in"creative truth-telling".
      • He's taken to straight-up lying to Peter as of Brass Tacks, for his own good, after having the fear of Elizabeth put into him.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: At one point he shoots a man in the leg, through Peter's pants, without touching Peter.
  • In Love with the Mark: Well, in love with the girl who worked for the mark anyway. Ultimately the reason he got caught.
  • Indy Ploy: Peter likes a plan. Neal doesn't. Except when he does.
  • Innocent Blue Eyes: And don't he know it!
  • Like Father, Like Son: In some ways. He is NOT happy about this.
  • Living Legend: Alright, class, that's it for today. Next week we'll begin the unit on Neal Caffrey.
  • Loveable Rogue: He’s immensely charming, and constantly walking the fine line between a life of crime, and one on the straight and narrow.
  • Martial Pacifist: He doesn't just hate guns, he's generally not fond of violent solutions and always tries to work around them.
  • Meaningful Name: Caffrey is care-free.
  • Mock Millionaire: Often his cover, and because he is... at heart.
  • Mr. Fanservice: He spends a lot of time shirtless. We all appreciate it.
  • Nice Guy: Against all expectation.
  • Nice Hat: Neal's signature trilby.
  • Nice to the Waiter: One of the many reasons he gets into so many places he shouldn't be in.
  • Non-Action Guy: He doesn't know how to fight. He admits he doesn't know how to fight. Sometimes, if you have hurt one of his loved ones, he will lash out, but he usually very quickly loses the upper hand.
  • Not So Different: Neal and some of the criminals he helps put away. Particularly Keller.
  • Odd Couple: With Peter.
  • One of the Kids: When interacting with marks, Neal is smooth. When among friends (or, you know, feds, same diff at this point), he is the resident playful, exuberant, unruly little brother. Matt Bomer even said that he draws that aspect directly from his son.
  • Or So I Heard: He maintains he didn't actually commit any of his crimes. Also, "I love your alleged work."
  • Parental Abandonment: He never knew his father. Maybe.
    • He's telling the truth on that one—dad was (apparently) a Dirty Cop who murdered another officer, and Neal never had the chance to meet him.
    • From the way he cut Ellen off when she was about to mention his mother, there seems to be some mommy issues going on with him too.
  • Passive-Aggressive Kombat: Neal basically lives this trope
  • Poisonous Friend: In the season 5 premiere, he tries his hand at Framing the Guilty Party to get Peter out of prison. The implications are explored.
  • Real Men Cook: They also brag about it a lot.
  • Refuge in Audacity: Neal's life.
  • Renaissance Man: He cooks, cracks safes, has extensive knowledge of antiquities, can paint, knows multiple languages, and sings old jazz.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: On one occasion. EXTREMELY unlike him.
  • Sharp-Dressed Man: Neal favours 1950’s ‘rat pack’ tailored suits, originals gifted to him by June
  • Shirtless Scene: All the time. It's a good thing.
  • Smart People Play Chess
  • That's What I Would Do: How Neal helps the FBI.
  • Token Evil Teammate: In a sense. Neal is quite moral and charming, but he is the teams criminal consultant.
  • Tranquil Fury: The best way to know if Neal has taken a true dislike to someone, is that he drops all pretence of charm and goes icy cold.
  • Turn Out Like His Father: As a kid, he really wanted to. These days, it scares him to think he will or already has.
  • Urban Legend Love Life: He flirts with every woman, successfully. But he doesn't even kiss a woman until the second season.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Duh.
  • "Well Done, Son!" Guy: Bitterly Lampshaded: when he was younger, he wanted to be a cop like his Disappeared Dad. Said dad was a Dirty Cop, so, yes, he followed in his father's footsteps...being a crook.
    • Working on being so averted it hurts.
  • Wicked Cultured: Though not evil.
  • Wine Is Classy: Neal has an extensive wine collection, and can be quite a snob about it.

Peter Burke (Tim DeKay)

I wear a badge; he wears a tracking anklet.

Peter is an FBI agent in the white collar crimes unit. He's a straight arrow, and he's dedicated to his profession. He's as good at his job as Neal. He's dedicated to his wife, like many cops, but he actually manages to make it up to her when the job gets in the way.
  • A Father to His Men: Peter is very close the men and women under his command, and many characters point out that he treats Neal like a surrogate son. This is demonstrated in the series finale, where Peter is more content delivering coffee to his teams on stakeout rather than take a lucrative post in Washington D.C.
  • Adorkable: Peter plays video games (well, Angry Birds at least) and fist bumps (with explosion) with Elizabeth. And you should see him flirt. Well, try to flirt.
  • Always Gets His Man: Peter's the only law-man to catch Neal. Twice. And a half.
  • Berserk Button: Peter loves his wife very much. DO NOT mess with Elizabeth or try to bust up her shop, even if you are an FBI agent. He will punch you in the face. And that's just for starters.
  • By-the-Book Cop: He is a real stickler for the rules.
  • Catch Phrase: "Damn it, Neal!" whenever Neal does something he shouldn't. So, all the time.
  • Crazy-Prepared: When going after the special forces assassin who shot Mozzie, Peter finds himself on the sticky end of a frame job (he's framed for attempting to frame the guy; how recursive). When the guy went into his offices to get Peter's fingerprints, he also went on Peter's computer. Fortunately, Peter keeps a secret key-logger on his computer.
    Neal: I've never appreciated your distrust of me more.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Peter isn't a moron, but he presents himself as a clueless guy... and it works. And sometimes he just kicks ass.
  • Determinator: One of the reasons he Always Gets His Man. Neal uses this to try to convince Robin Hoodie to turn himself in.
  • Expansion Pack Past: Every once in a while, we hear about past career options that were taken away from him or that he chose not to take, among them accountancy (for which see below) and Major League pitcher (for the latter, he actually played AAA minor-league ball until injuries kept it away from him).
  • FBI Agent: Working for the white collar division, heading up his own special task force.
  • Forensic Accounting: His stock in trade.
  • Good with Numbers: He coulda been an accountant. For Warren Buffet.
  • Guile Hero: A Lawful Good version.
  • Happily Married: The worst fight him and Elizabeth ever have is that he feels bad that she isn’t angry that he forgot the dry cleaning. They are sickeningly good together.
  • Has a Type:
    Peter: I felt the same way about ... my algebra teacher.
    Neal: Hence your lifelong fascination with numbers.
    Peter: And smart, leggy brunettes. [just like Elle (and Neal)]
  • Hidden Depths: Peter is shown to have proficiency in a number of fields that even surprises Neal, such as being an experienced horse rider, skilled enough at baseball to have been a potential major-leaguer, and possessing a very prestigious accounting degree.
  • Hypocrite: He repeatedly berates Neal for looking for Kate and assuming she was in danger, and never apologizes to Neal for his part in her death. But when his wife is kidnapped, he loses all composure and immediately blames Neal for the entire ordeal.
    • He also chastises Neal every time he makes a lie of omission or makes morally grey decisions for the greater good. Yet he himself is more than willing to do exactly the same things.
  • Indy Ploy: He likes a plan, but he's willing to run with it.
  • Mock Millionaire: As an undercover accountant.
  • No-Nonsense Nemesis: Why not just shoot? Peter does.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: See Crouching Moron.
  • Odd Couple: With Neal.
  • Official Couple: With his wife.
  • Parental Substitute: He's either Neal's father or his big brother. They even play a game of catchnote .
    • Neal told James that Peter had "been more of a father to him than [James] ever was".
  • Porn Stache: His Old Shame.
  • Reassigned to Antarctica: In Season 4, Episode 3: he's sent to the evidence locker, a.k.a. "the Cave" pending review of his actions in getting Neal back.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure
  • Sympathetic Inspector Antagonist: Peter was this to Neal in the Backstory, except he was actually successful in catching Neal.
  • Tranquil Fury: When he realizes that Fowler and his men have been in his house, he very calmly works out what they've done. His voice doesn't raise up, and the only vocal indicator that he's upset is that he's speaking faster than normal. But his face has pure murder written all over it.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Again with the duh.

Elizabeth Burke (Tiffani Thiessen)

Or maybe you've been chasing him so long you don't know how to stop?

Elizabeth is Peter's wife. Like the typical "cop's wife", she has to suffer her husband's dedication to his job: frequent absences and missing important occasions. Unlike the typical cop wife, she puts up with this with good grace.
  • Action Girl: Elizabeth gets her moments. For starters, she once threw a chair through shatterproof glass.
  • Always Save the Girl: Since she's the only one who isn't a trained cop or a professional crook, she's seen as the one usually most in need of protection, which means that on the few occasions she's pulled into the conflict, everything stops to help her.
  • Damsel out of Distress: As of the season three mid-season premiere. She concocts a brilliant escape plan with nothing but a dog bite, thermostat, diamond ring, and some crazy chair swinging skills.
  • Happily Married: Peter and Elizabeth have been held up as one of, if not the healthiest relationships on television.
  • Hide Your Pregnancy: Season two.
  • No Sympathy: Averted with Elizabeth, who never seems to mind (too much) when Peter's work gets in the way of their personal life. When a fugitive FBI agent inadvertently hijacks Peter and Elizabeth's date night, she acts more like he's stuck in traffic than anything. She asks Mozzie for Peter's safe word to make sure he's okay first.
  • Odd Friendship: With Mozzie.
  • Official Couple: With her husband.
  • Took a Level in Badass: When kidnapped, she rescues herself. Not by resorting to typical seduction tricks, but by manipulating her guard (by telling him he'll start sweating if the dog bite he got was infected, then turning up the heat). While he was out looking for bandages, she then figures out a way to throw a chair through shatterproof glass.
  • Understanding Boyfriend : She, resignedly, accepts the problems of Peter's job and Neal's lifestyle and Mozzie's quirks. She's the living poof of, "You're just plain okay."

Mozzie (Willie Garson)

It's about doing what we want to do. Who cares about nine-to-five's and 401-Ks. Playing by the rules only makes...borders. They just...take away everything that's good about living life.

Mozzie has a criminal mind, but not a criminal soul. You can trust him with your life, but you'd be daft to trust him with a dollar. (Thank you, Sir Pterry.)
  • Adorkable: It really helps that he's played by Willie Garza. But then they give him lines like "Mi casa es suit casa", followed by a dorky little grin.
  • Bad Bad Acting: Averted, he is the worst "actor" in the main cast, yet tends to be only a little hammy.
  • Berserk Button: Mozzie gets riled up in "In the Red" when he finds out that the perp Neal and Peter are going after is running an extortion scam involving adopted kids. This is because Mozzie was raised under foster care and understands the hardships adopted children must go through.
  • Conspiracy Theorist: That's just what they want you to think.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Mozzie is in no way a moron, but he's generally not a physical presence. Then, in a tense moment he disarms a bad guy and holds him at gun point without flinching. That he nearly collapses afterward just shows how cool he was during the moment.
    • He knows his appearance gives people a certain impression and uses that to get them to underestimate how quickly and creatively he thinks.
  • Everything Sounds Sexier in French: Has a habit of peppering his lines with French expressions.
  • Flanderization: Mozzie's interest in conspiracy theories and distrust of the FBI are exaggerated midway through the second season. Which could be intentional on Mozzie's part.
    • It's revealed to have been part of his coping mechanism; as a child he fantasized his parents were spies.
  • Parental Abandonment: He was left at an orphanage as an infant.
  • Poisonous Friend: Not an outright malicious example, but he was the one who was constantly prodding Neal to just take the Nazi treasure and run.

Diana Barrigan (Marsha Thomason)

Agent Diana Barrigan, FBI. Damn right I'm overqualified.

One of Peter's subordinates.
  • Action Girl: She likes to remind people she carries a gun.
  • Badass Gay: Awesome FBI agent with a lovely girlfriend waiting at home
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Occasionally. Justified by her childhood in England.
  • Sarcastic Devotee: Emphasis on the devoted part, to Peter. She reserves the sarcastic part for Neal, but she takes good care of him too.
  • Secret Keeper: Is this towards Mozzie. She, he, and Neal are the only people who know that Teddy Winters faked his death and that Teddy Winters is Mozzie's real name.
  • Twofer Token Minority: Both African American, a woman in a predominantly male workplace, and a lesbian.
  • Those Two Guys: With Jones.

Clinton Jones (Sharif Atkins)

Another one on Peter's team.

  • Deadpan Snarker: In a big way.
    Mozzie: I saw a dead mouse on the bathroom radiator!
    Jones: Little bastard got out while he could.
  • Embarrassing Nickname: His ex-fiance calls him C.J.

Sara Ellis (Hilarie Burton)

Everything you say can and will be used to nail your ass to the wall and recover my painting.

Neal's friendly ex-girlfriend, and formerly someone who attempted to hunt him down and testified against him in her capacity as an insurance investigator.

June Ellington (Diahann Carroll)

Peter: That's not jewelry on his ankle, you know. He's a felon.
June: So was Byron.

Neal's landlady. Her husband was a Con Man. She appreciates Neal's...joie de vivre.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: She and her husband ran an illegal casino. He ran a number of other cons as well. This is what she loves about Neal and Mozzie, too.
  • The Cast Showoff: In "Countermeasures", Diahann Carroll and Matt Bomer doing a lovely rendition of "One for My Baby (and One More for the Road)", accompanied by Billy Dee Williams on the piano.
  • Cool Old Lady
  • Hidden Depths: June shows herself to be an excellent actress during Neal's commutation hearing.
  • Like a Son to Me: June says these exact words about Neal during his commutation hearing, complete with tears. It's not clear whether she truly meant it though, since she was putting on her best act to help Neal go free. It's probably true to some extent.
  • Widow Woman

Reese Hughes (James Rebhorn)

ASAC of the White Collar unit, and Peter, Diana, and Jones' boss.
  • Gray and Gray Morality: Apparently he only kept to the rules when he was in charge and working for the FBI. Once he was forced out by a crooked senator? All bets were off.

Alexandra Hunter (Gloria Vostis)

Fellow thief and Neal's ex-friend-with-benefits.

Kate Moreau (Alexandra Daddario)

Neal's girlfriend, who he breaks out of prison to find.

Garret Fowler (Noah Emmerich)

Well, aren't you clever, Agent Burke.

He's a dirty cop! Or...

Vincent Adler (Andrew McCarthy)

Nice try, Neal.

Okay. This guy's just dirty. A corporate sleaze.

Matthew Keller (Ross McCall)

Neal's Blue Collar counterpart.

Curtis Hagen (Mark Sheppard)

Known as the Dutchman, and working publicly as an art restorer, Hagen was the first criminal Neal and Peter caught, way back in the pilot. He's since returned to become the Big Bad for Season 5. Or so we think. Actually, he's the Disc One Final Boss of the season.

Rebecca Lowe Rachel Turner (Bridget Regan)

The sweet, geekily-charming woman who Neal unintentionally got fired during a con and who falls for him in season 5. At least, that's the role she plays. Really a ruthless con artist, the equal of Neal's but much more violent.