Willie Garson has earned quite a solid following as a character actor, thanks to his roles as Henry Coffield on NYPD Blue and as Stanford Blatch on Sex and the City. At present, he stars as Mozzie, an eccentric conman and Neal's most trusted confidante on USA Network's White Collar. Garson, whose character was unexpectedly shot in the mid-season finale, has a lot to reveal about the coming episodes, his aspirations for Mozzie and his plans for the future. Check out Garson's Q-and-A from a recent conference call, which included BuddyTV's Carey Proctor.
Are we going to learn more about Mozzie's past as the season goes on?
Willie: Yes. In the upcoming episode, we do find out how we all actually meet each other. Most exciting to me, an earlier partner of mine, we will find, is actually my real life son, Nathan. But, yes, as the season goes on, they just give out little tidbits, slowly but surely. We found out last season just in the line that Mozzie was a foster child. So slowly, things will come up as we go along, as usual.
How do you see the relationship between Neal and Mozzie evolve as time goes on?
Willie: I think it's more for the audience to catch up to the evolution of the relationship. Our relationship is pretty solid. We'll see in this upcoming episode how we meet and what bonds us, what brings us together. Then we can just assume as our closeness and certainly through the shooting and everything that we really, really need each other. So I think, as far as we evolve, we've been doing crimes together for as long as we've been doing them. We just now are doing them for the good guys. It's not really that different. So I think we're just lifelong partners, crime partners from the day we met, and we'll see how that develops at the beginning in this upcoming episode.
What was your reaction when you found out that your character was going to be shot?
Willie: Oddly enough I was not in fear for my job. I thought it was going to be very exciting. I knew it was going to be really exciting for the fans and that's, again, I said this before, that is who we make it for. I knew it was going to be a big deal. Luckily, Mozzie has become a very beloved popular character, and I knew that was going to really freak our audience out, which is great and it really did.
What excites you about playing a character like Mozzie?
Willie: What's great about me playing Mozzie, for me, is that it's the closest to myself that I've ever played. His world views and his wry sense of humor are very in tuned with my own. So that's been really just a treat to play. And the collaborative effort of the show where they let us bring a lot of ourselves to our characters makes it really fun and very personal to us when we're playing it. So it has a little more depth for us when we're playing it. It's not just this other guy. It actually comes from inside our hearts, and that's what I'm finding is great to play Mozzie.
Why do you think so many people like Mozzie?
Willie: I think there's a lot of heart by Mozzie. Also just, in general, in the world of theater and drama, Mozzie's a vulnerable character. Those are the kinds of characters that audiences throughout time have been drawn to. There's a vulnerability, a sweetness to that Mozzie that people find very attractive, and lucky me, I get to play it. So, I think those are the things that draw people to Mozzie.
What's something that you would like to see happen to Mozzie?
Willie: I would always want Mozzie to get married and have children. But that's not going to happen probably on this show. Other than that, I would love to see Mozzie date about a million hot, hot girls, but that also is probably not going to happen on this show. So, it's basically what I want, really, has no purpose.
Will there be Mozzie-centered episodes in the future?
Willie: Yes. Absolutely, Mozzie has turned out to be a very popular character with the audience and also with the world of the show. There's something about Mozzie that Peter responds to as well. So, I think Peter's going to find ways to use Mozzie more and certainly the show writers are going to find ways to center things around Mozzie and possibly where Mozzie will need some help again. I think those ideas work really well in the world of the show and we're certainly very aware of it, so, yes.
Is there some hidden talent that you have that you would love Mozzie to reveal that he's also an expert at?
Willie: We haven't found Mozzie's secret talent yet because Mozzie is so good at everything that he does. So we haven't found it yet. I hope in the episodes that we will be shooting, but I don't think that I do anything wildly shocking skill-wise in the upcoming episodes. I don't really remember, but stayed tuned is all I can say.
What has been your favorite character to play for the last 10 years?
Willie: I'd say Mozzie is definitely up there even in the last 25 years. A real favorite -- every character, obviously, has benefits to it. You love every character you play, for something. I would say Henry on the NYPD Blue was a very, very special time for me, certainly Stanford, mostly because it was the time spent with my dear friend Sara Jessica. I love playing Lee Harvey Oswald, which I did a number of times because I love playing real people, is a real gift to actors cause there's so much research you can do, and it's interesting just to delve into that. It's really hard to pick them out. Generally, for actors -- at least for this actor -- it's the one you're playing at the time because that becomes a part of your life. So, right now it's Mozzie.
What is your dream role?
Willie: There's a great play called The Entertainer, which is about an old English music hall entertainer. And it's kind of my goal role for when I'm 80. That's what I'm shooting for to play at the end of the day is a guy who lived his life entertaining thousands and thousands of people. And that's the role. So, I'll get there some day.
What's something that fans would be surprised to know about you?
Willie: Probably that I'm more athletic than I seem. I'm a boxer. On the flip side of that of that I eat like a pig 24 hours a day. So the people will think that I'm heavy and overweight will be surprised that I'm an athlete. And the people who think I'm skinny will be surprised at the amount of food I eat.
What can you say to people who have not watched White Collar to draw them in?
Willie: I think anyone could jump in. Obviously, it's a new caper pretty much every week. So while there is an on-going story line we don't hit the audience over the head with it. Each episode has a standalone really, really great, deep caper, a la Colombo or Mission Impossible, and then you could easily catch up with the rest of the on-going story line. And I just think the writing is fantastic especially considering what else is on TV right now.
What show that's on the air now would you really love to take part in, besides White Collar?
Willie: Well it's ending now but I love Friday Night Lights, but I think that ship has sailed for me. I would love to do Modern Family. I have a lot of friends on the show. And I'd love to do so many other USA shows. My dear friends show just got picked up yesterday by USA called Necessary Roughness. I'd love to see some kind cross over with Burn Notice. We're very close to the guys on Psych.
Do you have any interest in doing any work behind the scenes in writing or developing shows?
Willie: Yes, I do. I actually developed shows with my -- I have two partners and we developed and sell -- we've sold a couple of reality shows, and we have some scripted stuff that we're working on. And I also am starting to explore directing, maybe in the future in the world of White Collar.
White Collar airs Tuesday at 10/9c on USA Network.
(Image courtesy of USA)