Willie Garson ('White Collar')
'Manhattan's Most Wanted!'
As the public reels from the white collar crimes of Wall Street, a winsome and debonair criminal is left stalking the streets of Manhattan. With piercing blue eyes and enough charm in his pinky finger to make you forget your own name, Neal Caffrey is armed to the teeth with sophistication and his dangerously polished wits.
We are of course talking about the new USA Network series, 'White Collar.' A smart and engaging comedy-drama that is already receiving rave reviews.
Starring the criminally handsome Matt Bromer as malefactor mastermind cum FBI informant Caffrey and Tim DeKay as his unwilling investigative partner, Agent Peter Burke, the show possesses the plot twists and drama of a spy movie lightened by a decent peppering of clever comedic exchanges.
Supporting the cast is Willie Garson, playing Caffreyís friend, the tight-lipped and elusive man-on-the-street, Mozzie. Any character that is known by a one-name moniker is bound to have more than a few skeletons in his closet; and Mozzie, with his black horned rim glasses has already piqued the interests of the viewing audience.
Accustomed to playing the role of the extravagant sidekick, Willie Garson has already made major waves on the television and silver screen with his bubbly and refreshingly honest portrayal of Stanford Blatch, the queenish confident to every galís favorite writer, Sex and the Cityís Carrie Bradshaw [played by Sarah Jessica Parker].
Exclusive Magazine caught up with Willie between his jam-packed shooting schedule, filming both 'White Collar' and 'Sex and the City 2' in New York City, while commuting from his home in Los Angeles. Just as expected, Willie brought the optimistic personality of his lovable characters in tow, reiterating the fact that sometimes art really does imitate life.
Thanks for talking with us today. I just wanted to ask how you actually first heard about and became involved with 'White Collar' "Itís actually kind of an interesting story. Fox International Television Productions was making an off-market TV show for the international market called Mental, which was shooting in Bogota, Columbia. They asked me to go down and do an episode and I went and did one because Iíd never been to Bogota, Colombia."
"When I got back, I got a call from them and they said you were wonderful. You saved the show. Itís amazing, amazing. Would you like a series? I said yes, I was actually looking for one. I like the stability and the new scripts every week. I love that, so I said sure and they sent over the script and it was fantastic."
"As you all write about television, youíre aware those good scripts are few and far between right now. It was just a wonderful, fresh and energetic setting for a show that Jeff Easton created. Fox had teamed up already with USA on Burn Notice and done very well. And this was their next partnership with them and instead of just doing like a spin-off of Burn Notice or Burn Notice II, they came up with a fresh, unique twist and so I love the script. It always ends up being the script, always, so that attracted me immediately."
Whatís the most challenging aspect of your role? "Thatís an interesting question. The most challenging aspect was for me, my characters have always been very showy. This character kind of operates under the radar and that was an interesting difference in many of the characters Iíve played, certainly from Stanford and certainly from NYPD Blue, certainly a little more behind the scenes kind of guy."
I love the show and I like your character. Heís very interesting and even though you call him under the radar, he kind of has a real dynamic, interesting attitude. How much of that character was your invention? "Well, certainly, the reality is when you buy me, you get what you get, so thatís kind of what theyíre trapped with is that Iím a little bit of a hambone. But I find that heís really only quirky and interesting more so when heís alone with Neal Caffrey played by Matt Bomer. They have a very strong and deep partnership. So I like to say that heís more the people person and Iím more the quiet, I should be able to fade into the background if thereís anyone else around. That was interesting for me to try to play."
In the first episode, you actually tried to meet up with Neal and be very sneaky about it, [in] the whole cigarette scene. The FBI immediately outed you as his contact. Iím curious to know, if Nealís big skill is being sneaky and not being caught, what do you think yours is? "I think mine is how hidden he is. Let them think that Iím no big deal and donít worry about me. Iím just an idiot. I think thatís the way weíre playing it with my relationship with the FBI. Itís like, donít worry about him. Heís just some freak. I think as time goes on, weíll see how my partnership with the FBI develops and how much theyíre allowed to deal with me, certainly legally, how they are allowed to work with this kind of questionably legal operative."
Iím curious what you think you would tell someone who is thinking about watching 'White Collar,' but hasnít actually tuned in yet. What would you tell them the show is all about and what would draw them in? "I think itís interesting take on what people will do to try and scam people, so people can know that there are smart people looking out for all of us and trying to bring these people down. I said this before. Itís amazing to me. I worked as a dishwasher for $4 an hour and I know in these times, there are people who have worked really hard and watched their whole lifeís savings go away. I think itís a great twist on seeing how there are people out there with good intentions trying to make sure that everyone kind of takes care of each other and does the right thing."
"I think thatís a really good message for right now. And the show is really energetic and fun and fast paced. Itís really unfortunate how horrifying the people are on the show to look at. Tiffani Theissen is just so hideous and Matt Bomer is so unfortunately unattractive, [laughs] so I think people once they tune in, theyíre hooked once you give it a shot."
'White Collar' is shot on location in Manhattan, in Sex and the City, New York itself was as important to the script as any other character on the show. Do you expect that the 'White Collar' script will treat the city in the same sort of Manhattan-centric kind of way? "Well, I do feel already right out of the gate, thatís what Iím hearing from people, certainly, is that we are shooting the city. Which is, I find a lot of shows shoot in New York and they might as well be shooting on a sound stage. Our show if Iím talking in a scene, we really make a strong effort to have basically like the Empire State Building sticking out of my head."
"Thereís such an energy and thereís much architecture and people and vibe on the street, that we try to grab all of that as much as we possibly can. It does provide an energy and just kind of a sea of humanity that really helps us in terms of telling the stories. We so far already just so early on, weíve shot right at the Central Park fountain. We shot in Grand Central Station, like crazy massive backdrops that really inform how big it is behind all of us."
Speaking of New York, youíve recently relocated to the city to shoot both 'White Collar' and your new movie, 'Sex and the City 2,' to which I think I speak for a lot of people when I say Iím really excited about! So tell me, are you excited about your cross country move and what do you like about living in New York City or dislike about living in New York City? "Well, I will burst that bubble and tell you that I donít live here. I am from here and I just commute back and forth. So for some reason, I live in Los Angeles and have lived there for quite a while. However, for some reason, nothing I shoot ever shoots there. So people just assume that I live in New York and that Iíve moved back to New York. I actually live in seat 2A in the airplane that I travel on."
"So itís a wonderful place. I think itís a hard city to live in and itís hard city to raise a child in, so I have decided to stay in Los Angeles, but thatís also a lie, because Iím here every five minutes, so I love it here. I love it here. I love the energy and the food and the culture and so Iíll always be a New Yorker, but for right now, I actually still live in Los Angeles."
So a New Yorker at heart! When you were on 'Sex and the City' you worked with mostly a female cast and now youíve gone to working with a big male cast. I wanted to know what the differences were and which do you prefer? "Thatís a funky question. You know, itís a different energy, but actors are strange animals. We all try and take care of each other the same way. I think itís no secret that women in the entertainment business certainly who have pursued for years a career in acting and theatre are no shrinking violets. So theyíre not like the obvious stereotype of a quiet girl, so thereís really not that much difference."
"Also the men working in theatre are not kind of macho, macho guys. We have to be really in touch with our emotions and very sensitive, sometimes almost in a softer way we have to be able to tap into our emotions as well, so the same for men. So I find actors to be wonderful, interesting, worldly people, whether theyíre male or female. So it really doesnít make that much of a difference to me."
Youíve mentioned [in media reports] that you were in the process of finalizing your adoption. And as soon as that was finalized, youíd be able to show us your lovely son. Have you been able to finalize that yet? "Not yet, but weíre inching closer, hopefully by the end of the year, so a bunch of things happened last week. And weíre getting closer and closer and then it will be done. I will be done with the adoption process, which I highly recommend to everyone whoís thinking about it. I say just jump right in and do it. Thereís a lot of kids who need a home."
As we know, Mozzie is a career criminal and I would just like to know what is the worst crime that youíve ever committed? "Oh, wow! Well, okay, I stole $50 million, noóletís see, the worst crime Iíve ever committed. I used to definitely borrow things, like I would say, cash from bars where I worked as a bartender. I donít think thatís any secret. Bartenders give away drinks, etc., to get some extra tips. Certainly, at a bar I worked at in London, they were on to every bartender trick. So they would measure the bottles every night and I certainly have put water into a liquor bottle to top it off to the level that would make sense with what was keyed into the register at the end of the night. Itís a pretty good scam."
Thatís certainly not the worst thing that you could have done "I canít think of anything more horrible. I grew up well taken care of with a strong work ethic. Iím not really a criminal guy myself."
Catch 'White Collar' on the USA network, airing Fridays at 10 PM.
Read Exclusive Magazineís article with ĎWhite Collarís Tiffani Thiessen (Elizabeth Burke) here!
Interviewed by: Erin M. Stranyak
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