Interview: Willie Garson as Stanford Blatch Toasts ‘Sex and the City 2’

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CHICAGO – Willie Garson is one busy actor this week. When you portray Stanford Blatch, Carrie Bradshaw’s gay best friend, then the “Sex and the City 2” release will undoubtedly fill up the schedule, including his introduction of the film May 28-30th at the Hollywood Palms Cinema in Naperville, Illinois.

Garson has appeared on over 50 TV shows, several films and has portrayed famous presidential assassin Lee Harvey Oswald on three different occasions. But he is best known as the funny and breezy friend of Sarah Jessica Parker’s Carrie in the TV and film incarnations of Sex and the City.

Willie Garson in Chicago for ‘Sex and the City 2’
Photo credit: Joe Arce of Starstruck Foto for

HollywoodChicago sat down with Willie Garson this week, and he talked both about his alter ego Stanford and his long career of character parts in TV and film. I loved the marriage ceremony that begins the movie. How important is it for Michael Patrick King, the stars of ‘Sex and the City 2’ and you to make sure that this celebration was appropriately emotional, yet so grandly over the top?

Willie Garson: It’s really important that the Sex and the City ‘family’ kind of grows, so that’s what is happening. We got Mario [Catone, Stanford’s husband] a few years ago, and added him in to the mix. Being that the whole concept of Sex and the City is about love and holding onto each other, how do we keep this family together? This was the next natural step for Michael.

Other than that, it was the perfect opportunity for Michael to have an amazing centerpiece, over-the-top ceremony. Between us all, we’ve done about 500 movies, but no one had been on a set that big. The scale of that scene was ridiculous. What have you learned about yourself playing Stanford Blatch? And what do you give of yourself to make him the way he is?

Garson: What is great about Stanford is that he’s free. He’s a free man. I think that is very attractive to people. He can behave any way he wants, he certainly can dress any way he wants and there is something very pure about Stanford, with no filters in the way. And that has been a great thing for me to try and strive for. Hopefully I bring some of my sense of humor and intelligence, plus Stanford cares about the people he cares for. As bitchy as he can come off, it’s obvious how much he cares about the people around him. How does it feel to play a single character for a long time and be identified with him? Are you happy with your relationship with Stanford and the character you created?

Garson: Stanford was always searching, searching. When love finally hit him, it was very comforting to me that the search finally ended. I think that’s what makes it real. It’s not explosive, it’s not ‘oh my god,’ it was right in front of him. That is somehow deeper and more real.

On being identified with him, it’s a hard thing because people really take these characters to be their friends and they take them into their lives. A common question I get is ‘are you scared of being typecast?’ As an actor you can only do that to yourself. I’ve seen every script for a character similar to Stanford. It’s my choice to do it or not do it. I choose not to do it. Every TV series I’ve had, including my current series [”White Collar”], is a completely different character. We saw the first time Stanford and Anthony kissed in the first film, that magical New’s Year’s Eve sequence. Were you surprised that King was going to bring the character’s together, so much so that they would eventually marry?

Garson: I was a little surprised. I knew that Michael Patrick King was going to bring Stanford together with someone. I don’t know if it was on his mind when we made the first movie. In that New Year’s Eve sequence, it wasn’t any passionate kiss or anything, it was just set up that we were both there, we don’t have anyone to kiss on New Year’s at midnight, so we end up kissing each other. [laughs] It got a great laugh in the film, and that’s what it was played for.

What was very important for this current film with Michael is that it should be funny. He wanted it to be funnier than the first one. But also he wanted it to be more mature, these characters are growing up, we’re not just flitting around like fireflies in New York. We’re mature grown-ups now, so now what? And that is where he went with Stanford.

Willie Garson as Stanford and Mario Catone as Anthony in ‘Sex and the City 2’
Photo credit: New Line Cinema You done so many guess spots on famous sitcoms. Which one had the best atmosphere and why, and was there one you couldn’t wait to get out of?

Garson: I could never tell you the one that I could wait to get out of. [laughs] I’d say the early ones are always the best, because you’re so excited to be there. I got very lucky out of the gate and I did the top shows at the time when I was a kid, like ‘Family Ties’ and ‘Cheers.’ These were iconic settings and people. It was also when television was still more iconic. There weren’t 500 cable channels, so when I walked on the set of Cheers I thought, these are my best friends and I had grown up with them. So those were great.

As far as the things you want to get off of, as an actor you know it will be over in four or five days. It’s not that big of a deal. It’s not like those old movies about Hollywood where someone calls their agent and screams, ‘get me off of this turkey!’ It doesn’t happen. Every time in my life I’ve even complained to my agent he says, ‘show them how you feel, don’t cash the check. Wage your protest in private.’ [laughs] It’s a good point. You could dish the dirt on ‘Star Trek: Voyager,’ I wouldn’t mind.

Garson: That’s the only job I’ve ever done that I have no idea of what I was talking about. It might as well been written phonetically in Chinese. I was playing a character from another planet that was made out of water. And it was all in Star Trek language, and I had never seen any episode of Star Trek in any incarnation, even the original series. I had never seen a moment of it. I had a line and I’d ask them to explain it to me, and they would start to say…’well, in 1971 this meant…’ and I was like, ‘I can’t’ [laughs]. It’s the only job where I’ve ever been like that. What was the experience like playing Lee Harvey Oswald on three different occasions within six months in 1992 [’Quantum Leap,’ ‘Ruby’ and ‘MadTV’]?

Garson: I had auditioned for Oliver Stone’s ‘JFK’ and I knew I wasn’t going to get it, because they went with a movie star, Gary Oldham. As JFK was finishing shooting, they started production on Ruby. They knew about me, I went in and got it. And we went to Dallas just as JFK was finishing, that’s when we started. Ruby was kind of a unrealized movie. They took a few too many liberties. But my stuff I tried to make as real as possible. So in studying him, did you have a sympathy or dread towards him as a character?

Garson: Well, obviously he’s not a great guy. [laughs] I felt very strongly after I finished the shoot in Dallas that there was no way he did it on his own. This was purely based on an actor thing. When he’s in the police station, after they got him – and when they got him at the movie theater they beat the hell out of him – when he’s walking through the police station the reporters are screaming at him, ‘Lee, Lee, what happened to your eye?’ He turns to the camera and he says, ‘the police hit me.’ Like it was the craziest thing that ever happened.

My feeling was he was told, ‘you go up there, you take the fall, you go to the movie theater, wait there and we’ll have you out of the country in five minutes.’ And I really believe that’s what it was. The look on his face when he said the police had hit him told me it wasn’t what he signed up for. What particular portrayal in your your long roll call of parts in the 1990s do you think got you the role of Stanford?

Garson: I have no idea. I walked in and met Darren Star [the producer] in a tiny office on Olympic Boulevard, just him and I, and did the reading there. As I was walking out and he stopped me with ‘Willie!’ And I turned and he said, ‘that’s a really great suit.’ [laughs] And I thought, I’m in pretty good shape. And they called me and brought me on. What is the weirdest experience you’ve had as a cast member of Sex and the City?

Garson: Oh my, every day is a weird day in the Sex and the City world. In all our lives, now. It’s like being on Bonanza, it goes on and on. Certainly in New York, it’s like being on the Yankees or something, it’s crazy. But I’d say the weirdest thing ever probably was the size of the opening marriage ceremony in the current movie. It probably was the weirdest moment for all of us.

“Sex and the City 2” features Willie Garson, Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall, Cynthia Nixon, Kristin Davis, Chris Noth, Mario Catone and John Corbett. Written and directed by Michael Patrick King. Rated “R” senior staff writer Patrick McDonald

Senior Staff Writer

© 2010 Patrick McDonald,

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