Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Willie Garson Interview: All About Mozzie and White Collar

 Photo by: Eric Ogden/USA Network

For Sex and the City fans, Willie Garson will always be Carrie Bradshaw’s best gay friend, Stanford Blatch. But the blushing broom (that’s bride/groom for those who missed it) of Sex and the City 2, has taken on a new, lovable BFF role on White Collar.

The series kicks-off its second season tonight at 9:00 PM on USA Network and devotees of Garson’s character, Mozzie, will be happy to know they’ll be seeing a lot more of him in episodes to come. In a recent conference call interview, Willie talked about Mozzie, White Collar, and whether SITC groupies can expect to see Sarah Jessica Parker on his new show any time soon.

QUESTION: What can you tell us about where Mozzie is going in Season 2?

WILLIE: One of the biggest challenges that the show had was, in Season 1, how much the FBI was allowed to be aware of Mozzie… and the way he operates, within and about the law, is available for use by the FBI. They solved that early on that this is Peter’s party, and he can run it as he likes. What we find at the beginning of Season 2 is that now Peter can actually use Mozzie in moderation, more at his discretion as to how much he can get away with using him. So, we’ll be playing a lot more with that and how much I can be involved actually with the FBI.

QUESTION: What, as an actor, excites you the most about playing the character like Mozzie? How is he different from some of the characters you’ve played in the past?

WILLIE: I love that he gets to play act all the time. So, Mozzie gets to play around as being different people, different characters, which is awesome. Probably, with his, I don’t want to say “intelligence,” because that sounds egotistical, but I mean, he definitely has a lot of my cynicism. He’s very well read, which I like to do. He definitely has his strong opinions, which is probably one of the closest roles to myself that I’ve played.

QUESTION: Jeff Eastin mentioned, last year, that he might be writing more this season about Mozzie’s other life, off screen. Are we going to get to see more of that this year?

WILLIE: We are. We’re slowly seeing every episode, a little bit more of what Mozzie’s about, what makes him tick, how he got this way. We’re going to see where he even stays in this episode that we’re shooting right now, which is very intriguing, so yes.

QUESTION: Could you give us three words to describe Mozzie as a character?

WILLIE: Complicated, trustworthy, and educated.

QUESTION: What gets Mozzie out of bed in the morning?

WILLIE: Oh, the chance for a new experience, always, and possibly a good meal. A good meal and a glass of wine… lust for life, which is a great thing.

QUESTION: You mentioned that there’s a lot of yourself in Mozzie. Is he also based on anyone else, or primarily yourself?

WILLIE: He’s definitely not based on anyone else. I would say I am a lame enough actor that I generally work from the outside in. My initial thoughts about Mozzie [were] those guys like playing chess in Tompkins Square Park. They look like they’re homeless, but they’re obviously not homeless. They’re obviously wildly intelligent because chess is a difficult game. They must live somewhere. They must have some source of income. So, that’s how I started the character. Then, I fill it in myself on the inside.

QUESTION: Mozzie’s look is just fantastic on the show obviously. Do you have any input, any say into how the character is done on the show?

WILLIE: We definitely talk about wardrobe a lot. [Costume designer] Stephanie [Maslansky]’s amazing. She got what we were going for. She had her ideas; I had my ideas. We did have to fight the issue that it is me playing it. And me playing it is loaded with some baggage. So, people do expect me to be dressed. That’s a thing that just—Whatever. I have some kind of fashion, iconography—so, I can’t be just some shlumpy guy. So, while Mozzie is definitely interesting and studied and can never look homeless, we call it homeless chic. His stuff—He could have found it in a dumpster or he could have bought it—for $5000 a shirt. So, we do work very carefully and closely to the other. She picks out items. I generally know what looks best on me. We do it together, but she’s wonderful. She’s… done a great job. So, I’m always amazed that another shirt, she comes up with. Then, for her, sadly, because she then has to take everything that Mozzie wears and then has to be washed about 700 hundred times to get it look like that homeless chic look that we’re going for.

QUESTION: Will we see more of Neal and Mozzie’s past in Season 2?

WILLIE: Our show doesn’t do a lot of flashback situations, but we definitely, in these scripts that we’re shooting now, are getting more information about past things in their lives and individually also: where they come from, how they got to be this way, and also, very deeply, what’s important to them, which is a great thing. So, it’s not that this show is especially about that. It is truly the glory of a show having some level of success. It just gets to go on longer. As time goes on, it’s like peeling the levels of an onion. You’re just getting more and more information as you get to know these characters for a longer amount of time. So, we got lucky. So now, we get to see more.

QUESTION: What’s the glue in Mozzie and Neal’s friendship? Why do you think it works so well?

WILLIE: There is that thing about how opposites attract. Both of the characters give each other street cred in a way. Obviously, socially, Neal gives Mozzie a lot of street... He’s not really a people person. Mozzie has a very, very good, criminal mind. He is an amazing technician in terms of getting things done. Neal really appreciates that about him. So, it ends up being a perfect partnership. There’s definitely certain dirty work that Mozzie takes care of that Neal would not even go near. So, that’s important to his character. So, it ends up being a nearly perfect arrangement between the two of them.

QUESTION: If you could envision a secret that Mozzie’s been withholding from everyone, and it has yet to be revealed, what would it be?

WILLIE: Well, I can’t really tell you that, can I?

QUESTION: You can make one up.

WILLIE: I could make one up, but… Mozzie is actually married with four kids and living in Long Island.

QUESTION: How do you feel Mozzie will develop as the series continues? Will he be even more involved this season?

WILLIE: So far, he certainly is in what we’ve shot so far. We’ll see. We get the scripts, not very long in advance of shooting them. So, I always feel like, whatever they write, there’s a reason. We’re all working for the common good. So, it’s never about, “Oh, you have more this episode. You don’t have anything this episode.” It’s never about that, but Mozzie is now able to work a little closer with the FBI. So, yes, we’ll be seeing him working more intrinsically with the cases. We also have all the stuff with Kate to deal with – how we ended last season. So, there’ll be plenty of Mozzie this year.

QUESTION: Now that Mozzie and Elizabeth know each other and seem to click, will they be spending more time together this season?

WILLIE: Well, we’re dating. No. Yes, there’s actually some stuff in the script that we’re doing right now where Mozzie and Elizabeth work quite closely together. So yes, there is some stuff. It’s great. I’ve been friends with Tiffani for a long time. So, this is fun that we get to do this together. So yes, absolutely.

QUESTION: Matt and Tim have such great chemistry. We’re wondering what it’s like working in a scene with them.

WILLIE: With Tim, it’s terrible. They’re hammy; they’re horrible people. No, it’s always great. I have become very close, obviously, to Matt. We do most of our stuff together. I’ve been friends with Tim for 20 years, so we have an awful lot of fun on this show. We’re very musical. A lot of singing on this show, which I’m sure people would be shocked. We’re doing a crime version of Glee, but you’re not going to see all that on screen.

QUESTION: That’s a shame. We would love to see that on screen.

WILLIE: It is a shame, for us, not for you. But it’s a shame for us.

QUESTION: You had mentioned that you and Tim have been friends for years and years. Can you talk a little bit about your relationship?

WILLIE: I’ve been friends with Tim for many years. And with Tiffani for many years. I had never met Matt before the pilot.

QUESTION: Can you talk about how you met Tim and Tiffani?

WILLIE: I met Tiffani just around campus, like in L.A., at events and things. We have always been working around the same time because we’re both very, very old. Then, Tim, I had a show before Sex and the City called, Ask Harriet, on FOX. Tim guested for us and was just amazing. So, that’s how I met Tim.

QUESTION: In your mind, does Mozzie still understand Neal’s desire to walk that line between black and white? Or does he want to see him keep away from that life of crime?

WILLIE: I don’t think it matters. It's more about he doesn’t want him to have to go away. So, he would love for us to continue to work together. So, whatever that takes. It doesn’t matter to Mozzie if we’re doing good or evil. All that matters to Mozzie is that we get to keep doing capers.

So, that would have to be up to the interpreter. I mean, if doing good means that we’re going to get to do more, then yes. If we can do better capers and not get caught and still continue, then that would also be great. So, it’s a double answer.

QUESTION: Would you like to see Mozzie have some more serious moments, or do you prefer the fact that he is just this light character?

WILLIE: Well, the thing is, I love both. In your saying that, you just have paid me a wonderful compliment because there are very serious moments in Season 1. What’s great is that we get the chance to bop back and forth seamlessly. The whole point is that Mozzie does have a lust for life. He’s a fun guy.

However, he can very easily be serious when things need to be serious. So, he’s not an idiot. That is important to the scripts and how they’re structured. So, I like to be both. Luckily, I guess I am somewhat of a funny guy, so it comes easy, but comedy can be hard. Drama, for me, comes actually easier. So, I love what I felt about the show is that it can switch gears. Obviously, we don’t shoot the show in order, but we shoot the locations in order. So, we can be doing a very funny scene, completely written around a joke. Then, the next scene, we shoot five minutes later is a very serious scene. We get to shift gears all the time. That’s glorious. That’s what I love doing. So, this show gives us that opportunity.

QUESTION: I’ve heard that Diane Farr is going to be guest starring as a romantic interest for Mozzie. What was that like?  

WILLIE: Well, it was only one episode so far, which is odd because her name is Diane Farr, but we’ve shot already. I don’t know if there will be more, but it was great. I’ve known her for a while. We did a pilot together many years ago. So, we are friends. It was great. We had a great time. She was fabulous in it; she is a great actress. So, it was lovely to have her.

QUESTION: If Mozzie could lead an operation, what would he do? How would he go about doing that?

WILLIE: If he would lead a caper?

QUESTION: Yes, a caper. That’s a better word. Yes, a caper.

WILLIE: It’s a great word. Oh, who knows? What we’re finding out this season is that it would probably have to do with wine. So, there’d be wine involved. It would be more elegant than you would think Mozzie would be. So, Mozzie considers himself to be more of a dandy than maybe the audience considers him to be. So, it’s be a higher end caper, definitely.

QUESTION: Okay, so he’s not about at all trying to get dirty at all.

WILLIE: No, no, no.

QUESTION: Mozzie seems to be a jack-of-all-trades. Is there anything Mozzie cannot do? Is there a weakness that he has?

WILLIE: We don’t really know yet. We don’t know. We will have to find out. I don’t know.

QUESTION: What do you like the most about White Collar and working with Jeff Eastin?

WILLIE: I have to say, one of my favorite things about the show is that it doesn’t assume that the audience is stupid. While that sounds like a big statement, it does make a difference. The show really is as smart as the audience is. That’s a great thing. I don’t like to knock other things on television, but it’s a rarer thing on television than it used to be. So, for that, I am forever grateful for Jeff, for just not assuming that the audience is stupid.

QUESTION: What’s the most interesting thing you’ve learned about con men or criminals?

WILLIE: It’s interesting. I can’t say for all criminals, but for these criminals, what is interesting to me is how much they do it for the act of doing it rather than, “Oh, I love her new car,” or “Boy, I wish I had some more jewels lying around.” It doesn’t really matter. I mean, we’ve addressed that a couple of times on the show that it doesn’t matter what the crime is. It’s actually the act of doing it is what’s exciting to them. That is interesting. I guess it makes sense. I guess you could say that about captains of industry and whatever. It’s an ongoing discussion I have with my brother. If I had $10 million in the bank, good luck remaking the second $10 million because… So, that’s what I’m learning about these kind of criminals.

QUESTION: Has there been a favorite episode that you’ve had so far, either favorite to view or favorite in filming, and why?

WILLIE: Wow, that’s hard.

They all have been great. We just got an e-mail this morning from USA. They just watched… Episode 5 or something from this [season]…. They just got the cut. They wrote to us this morning, “Well, that’s five for five so far.” That’s how I feel. Each one has certain, great things to recommend.

In the first season, I would say, it was probably that first meeting with Neal and Peter and I when we were drunk in Neal’s apartment. I just thought a lot of information came out. It was, “This is who we are. We’re going to be honest with each other and say why we’re all here.” I just thought that was a great scene. So, there’s always great scenes, there’s great scenes in every episode. So, it’s hard for me to say.

QUESTION: How does your experience on Sex and the City compare to working on White Collar?

WILLIE: Oh, it's apples and oranges. I mean, very different, but on the other hand, it's also similar in that the city is such a strong character and that we get to shoot in these amazing locations. New Yorkers are New Yorkers. So, that’s exciting, but 180 degree difference. Our show is not strictly a comedy whereas Sex and the City, at its heart, let’s not forget, was an absolute comedy. So, this is just a whole different ballgame, which is great. To be honest, I would have it no other way. It’s exactly how I like things to always be completely different.

QUESTION: With Sarah Jessica Parker being such a close friend of yours, is there any chance of seeing her guest star on White Collar?

WILLIE: I would say probably when pigs fly. My friendship with SJ goes very deep, so deep that we wouldn’t even consider asking each other something like that.

That’s how you protect those kinds of relationships is by not asking for things like that. We have talked about it many times in terms of, “Isn’t it sad that we can never” – it’s a real decision. If we ever were to appear on camera together again… would take you out of the scene. “Oh, look who it is, standing next to each other.” So, that’s something you have to think about. It's sad because I would love to work with her every day of my life, but I just don’t know if we can get away with it.

QUESTION: Oh, well, you’ll forever be Stanford and Carrie to us then.

WILLIE: I guess, for better or worse, that might be true.

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