Willie Garson from “Sex and the City” Interview

Willie Garson was in Naperville, Illinois during the opening weekend of Sex and the City 2 at the Hollywood Palm Theater in Naperville, Illinois. I introduced him during a film screening and conducted the Q&A session. The audience was very responsive to him and someone commented, “Willie, I have to tell you, you are much more handsome in person!” (I agree and he’s very slim!) He was dressed impeccably in Dior!

We had a chance to chat backstage in Ted (the owner’s) office and the interview was taped and aired on the radio show Hollywood 360 on WIND. He was a riot to ‘hang out with’ as he was very easy to talk to and we laughed lots. He and Sarah Jessica are very close friends and text each other constantly. For those of you that don’t know this, Willie has recently adopted an eight year old boy as a single father. He hasn’t met the girl of his dreams yet but is in heaven with his new son! He talked about the beginnings of the TV series and gives us some insight into his take on the central theme of the show.

Sarah Adamson: I’m here tonight with Willie Garson!

Willie Garson: Well, hello it’s a joy to be here!

SA: Willie, the excitement of this weekend with Sex and the City 2…and you are here at the Hollywood Palm this is just amazing!

WG: I am. And it’s an amazing facility. Just to see all the people here…you know…as filmmakers when you’re out making movies you don’t see the people enough. It’s great to come to theatres and see them enjoying what you do and that it means so much to them. It’s great; it’s why you (we) do it!

SA: Do you want to tell us a little bit about the character that you play?

WG: I play Stanford Blatch who has been best friends with the lead character, Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker), forever. We started talking about the pilot for the TV show in 1996. We made the pilot in 1997 and we started airing in 1998. So, we’ve been doing this for a long time. We’re closing in on 15 years. Stanford is a flamboyant but very pure and honest friend. He is gay so there are no sexual barriers between he and Carrie so that’s out of the way. I think the audience really responds to that pure relationship. There is nothing in the way of that relationship. It’s very honest.

He’s very wealthy. He has a dry wit and he is a fashion hound of the highest order. He is very, very fashionable. He’s as fashionable as the women (laughs)…more so than some of them actually!

We’ve been doing it forever. Its like were on ‘Bonanza’ (1959) or something it just goes on and on. People asked Michael Patrick King when he was directing this movie how long they rehearsed these scenes for and he said, “about 14 years” because we don’t have to rehearse at all. We’ve been playing these characters for so long. It’s like a comfortable pair of shoes to step into. It’s wonderful to be with each other. I always say, when we’re together, it’s like Thanksgiving dinner only with a slightly less annoying family. Which is a great way to be together (laughs).

SA: And I understand you and Sarah Jessica Parker are actually very good friends in real life?

WG: Yes, I moved to Los Angeles in December of 1985 and I probably met Sarah around January or February of 1986. We’ve been very, very close ever since. I had no idea she was going to do Sex and the City and she had no idea I was going to do Sex and the City. I heard about it in the waiting room. Some girls were talking and they said, “Did you hear that Sarah Jessica Parker might do this?” I left my meeting at HBO and I called her and she said, “I might do it, I don’t know. Everyone hates you when you’re on TV and they write terrible things about you but its pretty good.” She said, “What do you know about it?” And I said, “I think I’m going to play Stanford” and she said, “That’s awesome!” I’d like to say I made her do it but I probably didn’t (laughs).

SA: Isn’t that something! And it’s been all these years too – that’s amazing!

WG: Yes, it’s been quite the ride that no one imagined. It was our secret little show that we were making in the beginning. HBO wasn’t HBO back then. There were no big shows or anything. They still showed mostly movies. It was like our little secret when we were filming it the first year. Then, by the third season is when it really exploded and became a cultural and iconic thing. That’s when we were all the sudden on the cover of every magazine and on and on and on…

SA: Yes, and Sarah Jessica just catapulted. I had been a fan of hers for a long time…

WG: Yes, she was always great. She was always the greatest thing. When I was 12, my parents took me to see Annie (the play) and Sarah was playing Annie. That’s how long I’ve been conscious of her (laughs).

SA: Wow! Now, you have quite a film career as well; at least 70 films that you’ve been in?

WG: At least, yes! I’ve been working for a while. I graduated college early at 21…and I’m only 24 now so its amazing all that I’ve accomplished (laughs). (Just kidding) it’s been 25 years that I’ve been working pretty much non-stop so it’s been a nice ride and I hope it continues. It’s a lot easier for character actors, a lot easier for us. Its easier to get work it just gets harder to make it different and make it relevant because you can do the same thing over and over. I tried to make everything different. I’ve been very fortunate on TV. I went straight from ‘NYPD Blue,’ straight to ‘Sex and the City’ then back to ‘NYPD Blue’ and my last show, ‘John From Cincinnati,’ – which was not successful but successful artistically. Now I’m onto my current show, ‘White Collar,’ which is another hit. I’ve been very lucky in that way. Believe me, every morning I click my heals (laughs)!

SA: Well, I would like to talk about the movie for a little bit. I just have to say, I’ve been a fan since the start of the film. As a Mom, being so busy – I couldn’t wait for another episode of ‘Sex and the City.’ It was like my fantasy, getaway time.

WG: Exactly, and kids go to school on Monday so they go to sleep early because it’s a Sunday night and all the grown ups could watch ‘Sex and the City’ at 9:00. It was there for a reason. They knew what they were doing, you know?

SA: Exactly! And for me, it was about the clothes and the glamour and the girls being out at fabulous restaurants in New York and just having a good time. I also really enjoyed the relationship between the girls. And that’s grown so much!

WG: And I don’t think people realize because its subconscious and a little subversive… the undercurrent to ‘Sex and the City’ and what people are responding to, whether they’re aware of it or not, is that it’s about love. Only. That’s all it’s ever been about. Finding love, looking for love, holding onto love, loving the things that are dear to you, keeping the people you should love close to you. That’s all its ever been about and its just one word, love. So, I think whether people realize it or not, all the other stuff – the clothes the restaurants the lifestyle, all of that is just window dressing. What people are responding on a really personal level is something that is primal in all of us. Even a caveman who has never met another human being ever – they’ve studied people who have been so isolated – they’re in love with a rock…with something! And I think that’s what ‘Sex and the City’ tapped into in a subversive way – without people knowing it so they would come back anyway.

SA: Well, the relationships are so wonderful. Particularly, the scene when Miranda loses her mother. That was one of my favorites.

WG: Absolutely. And we always teetered a fine line between absolute hilarity and really deep human moments and human emotion and that’s a really great thing.

SA: So, I have to tell you, when I went to the film with the other Chicago critics, I wore Dolce and Gabbana (laughs) shoes and purse! And another girl critic had a dress on with a martini print. It was just darling. I absolutely loved the movie! I gave it a glowing review. I liked it for so many reasons. But I’d like you to talk a little bit about your character and the wedding because that’s just so amazing in the film.

WG: And that’s the thing. Michael Patrick King is our writer and director in the film and he’s very smart. He had to think of a way to kill a lot of birds with one stone. One being: how do we keep this family together? If you think about it, there are only like ten of us. So, we add a husband for me. We added Anthony the last couple of years of the show. He’s definitely part of the family so how do we keep that in tact? Also, how do we make a comment about ‘Sex and the City’ being about love – that it doesn’t matter who you love and when love presents itself, it might just be standing right there in front of you? These are two characters, who, when first meeting actually despised each other. They were both fluttering around New York like fireflies searching for (they say) for love…or to get laid or whatever. So Michael was making the point that maybe love is standing right in front of you. He was also making a point about all these characters and how they’ve grown up and matured. This very funny movie is actually the most mature we’ve made of all the episodes and the last movie – these characters are adults now. There is something to be said for that because our audience has also grown up with us. It shouldn’t just be for women. Certainly, as a heterosexual male – who doesn’t want to look at these women, who, by the way, are often taking off their tops (laughs)? But its also to understand women and give you a deeper relationship with women. Every guy I know has said, “my girlfriend made me watch it, my wife made me watch it and I loved it!”

SA: Yes, my husband loves the show!

WG: He’s a smart man!

SA: Well, he said he learns a lot more about women, which is interesting.

WG: [On the other hand], I can understand that we certainly had episodes that really only women could understand and feel what was going on. In the last movie, some people thought it was a little dark because Sarah Jessica Parker’s character spent a lot of time depressed because of what had happened to her character and it was sad. In this movie, Michael Patrick really set out to make this a wartime comedy. We’ve had a bad economy; we’re still at war. He set out to make a funny movie. This is what we need right now. We only do these movies and the show for the fans. It’s completely fan driven. So, Michael is thinking, do audiences want to see these wealthy people in New York depressed? No. We want to see them laughing. We want jokes, lets give them jokes. He did something very subversive in this movie, which is – there is no money spent in this movie. She buys one thing in this movie and it’s for $20. And they even write that its only $20. Michael did that on purpose. It’s brilliant and I wish more critics had figured out what is going on in his head. This movie is much more intelligently crafted than most reviewers have given it credit for.

SA:The production notes were very comprehensive about what he was trying to do. I read them and understood what he was trying to do.

WG: He really was trying to make a Preston Sturges 1940s, at-war movie so people can go out and really enjoy themselves and check in with people they really care about. People really care about these characters! All you want to do is laugh with them and you laugh like hell in this movie, its great!

SA: Yes! We do! And what I’m finding interesting about the movie is – that my daughter who is 21, loves the movie too! You have this whole new generation that is coming up. These college girls, they just love it!

WG: Well, again, I think it’s because the heart and the base of it is about love. I think people will always respond to it. The episodes are going to end up being like, ‘I Love Lucy.’ In twenty or thirty years people are going to say, “Have you ever heard of this thing, ‘Sex and the City?’ You have to watch it from beginning to end.” Hopefully, we don’t become a society that doesn’t care about passion and love and what is important to us. That it’s not all about snarky jokes and gun chases and whatever. Hopefully, we still have room for romance and what love means to us.

SA: I agree! Thank you so much for telling us about that. That gives me a different perspective of the film.

WG: See, you appreciate it even more! Also, as a sidebar, my character does get married in the movie. I’ve been getting a lot of questions on whether this is part of the gay marriage debate. In the world of ‘Sex and the City,’ it doesn’t matter who marries who…if a character was in love with a sheep. In our world, it would be completely normal. He even writes to it in the movie, “don’t call it a gay wedding, it doesn’t matter, it’s just a wedding.” Of course, then, we are a comedy so then Liza Minnelli walks out and then its like ok, it’s a little gay (laughs).

SA: She looked so great!

WG: Living legend. Legendary is thrown around a little too much but she is a deserved legend.

SA: It’s unbelievable, do you have any stories about her that you can talk about?

WG: You know I was pinching myself the whole time. People were asking, “Is she always on?” No, she’s not always on but she’s also never off. That’s her. The Liza Minnelli that we know, on screen, Cabaret, and in her concerts and movies – that’s her! That’s Liza Minnelli. I’m young enough that I didn’t meet a lot of the old, real showbiz-y people. She’s that person. Warm, professional. She’s alive, all the time. They used to say, the old joke is, Sammy Davis Junior, he would open his refrigerator, the light would go on and he would do 5 minutes. You feel that energy around Liza; she just loves people so much.

SA: Well she’s great in it. I loved seeing her in it. And the audiences responded to it too. They’re like, “Whoa, this is great!”

I know you weren’t in the filming of those Arabian-night scenes. I really enjoyed those a lot – when the girls come out in those bold color palates – they’re gorgeous.

WG: This was Pat Fields (wardrobe designer) fantasy to be in a part of the world where color is certainly used more to indicate things. She had an open palate. But, it was hard. It was hard for them to shoot over there. They are New Yorkers and that becomes a theme of the movie that there really is no place like home –let’s go back to New York! It’s something that comes up in the film and came up during shooting. Women running around in their society acting like men, but in our society acting like strong women. It’s something that took years to happen here and I’m sure it will take many more years to happen to the rest of the world.

SA: I enjoyed all those scenes. I especially liked the scene too where the girls took off their garb and had the Chanel on underneath. And it is true because my husband and I travel to London often and my girlfriends say the clothes underneath are totally designer.

WG: Well, I have many friends in the Persian community in London and besides being ‘Sex and the City’ fanatics; they do walk around completely covered up with designer everything on underneath.

SA: I thought that was a positive part. I liked that. Anything else you’d like to say about Sex and the City 2?

WG: I just think it’s really funny. We’re glad that people are enjoying it. We make it for the fans and the reaction from the fans has been amazing. We’re blessed by their enjoyment of it as well.

SA: Well, I’m bringing over 100 girls on Tuesday night. We’re all going to dress up!

WG: That’s great! And look, the reality is, will a bunch of straight men go together to see Sex and the City? Probably not. But, a single guy who is looking for women…there is no better place to go! They’re dressed up, looking their best…they’re drunk (laughs) there is no better place for a single guy who wants to meet ladies!

SA: I couldn’t agree more (laughs). I just want to thank you so much for chatting with me!

WG: Thank you! And I thank all your listeners. I hope they enjoy the picture!

Sarah Adamson © June 2010