[MF] Thanks for taking the time to talk to Men's Fitness.
[HB] Oh, no, thank you. By the way, you don't have to be polite with me. I'm not that girl.

Duly noted! You first broke through on the high school hoops drama One Tree Hill. What was it like growing up on television?
I started at MTV when I was a teenager [as a VJ], and I had just turned 20 when we shot the pilot. So I was stuck in this high school realm for, like, a decade longer than I should have been. But I got to revisit all my past mistakes and do them right. With a better script.

The show was shot in North Carolina. Not too far from where you're from, right?
Yeah, I grew up at the base of a mountain in Virginia, so my comfort zone is that Appalachian area, where all the dudes wear Carhartt and all the women can put on a beautiful sweater with a snowman appliqué and nobody raises an eyebrow.

And now you're on the hit USA Network show White Collar. You and Matt Bomer's lead character get pretty hot and heavy.
Yeah, man! We get sexy. It's a fun day at the office. I think the first couple of times you do make-out scenes, you psych yourself out and it's really nerve racking. There are, like, 40 crew dudes standing around, and in between takes, somebody is usually telling a fart joke. You're not even paying attention to the fact that when the director calls "Action!" you've gotta suck face.

When's a guy at his sexiest?
Being a dad. For sure. [Hilarie has a 1-year-old son with actor Jeffrey Dean Morgan.] I think it's really attractive to watch a guy, when he's tired and has a million other things going on, focus on a kid and get outside of himself. If you don't have kids, be the cool uncle or the cool friend that comes over and plays with the kids. It's just nice to see a guy get outside of himself.

What else do you look for in a partner?
I'm with the most macho dude on the planet right now. I grew up in such a macho family. I had a former Green Beret for a dad, a mom who's really rough-and-tumble, and three very macho brothers. It took a lot for me to find someone who could keep up with what I was accustomed to when I was growing up and still appeal to that artsy, nerdy side of me. Having someone with juxtaposing characteristics is important. I like the guy who reads. Being articulate is something that's very important to me. But you need to know how to chop wood and fix a car and do guy things. I didn't grow up with spectators. Nobody was a spectator. Every weekend was about building shit, hiking, and having adventures.

Anything else?
Being able to hold a conversation about literature or being traveled. A sense of curiosity is the most important thing. Because I think it all harkens back to that sense of "What's gonna happen next?" That's my favorite question.

In that case, what's gonna happen next for you?
I'd love to be a writer! But I'm very insecure about it. Hopefully, one day, if I grow a pair, I'll write something and put it out there.