He’s spent the last five seasons as Mozzie, sidekick supreme to slick conman Neal (Matt Bomer), but for Thursday’s White Collar (9/8c, USA), Willie Garson stepped behind the camera for the first time to fulfill a lifelong dream. “Directing is something I’ve always wanted to do,” Garson says. “This show is so collaborative, this is where it was going to happen.” The episode brings in Kim Dickens (Sons of Anarchy, Friday Night Lights) as Peter’s (Tim DeKay) ex-girlfriend from his Quantico days, and sees Rebecca (Bridget Regan) getting closer to Neal.
TV Guide Magazine: Why’s it taken so long for you to get in the director’s chair?
Willie Garson: Not to put down my work with David Milch [on NYPD Blue] or Sex and the City, but those shows were not as collaborative. The way [executive producer] Jeff Eastin set up this show, we’re very involved in the story and the script and all of it, that’s just the way we do things here. Literally, we talked about an episode for three years that I was going to direct, and it had started to be written and everything, we were moving full steam ahead, and then it just couldn’t happen. [Laughs] So I directed some other episode.
TV Guide Magazine: You’re not the only one who’s been itching to direct.
Garson: Certainly Tim DeKay blazed that trail by directing already last season, and then he does it again this season. I took his cue, it is a team effort, and we’re all just trying to make the best episode we can make. It’s a lot of work.
TV Guide Magazine: Did Tim give you specific pointers?
Garson: Well, we’ve known each other for a very long time, so we’re very dear friends. And he said, “The thing that’s going to surprise you the most is how much the clock is not your friend.” The other thing that Tim really impressed upon me — and I knew it, obviously, I’ve been standing on a set for 30 years — but I was really fully aware of it here, it’s not like, “Oh, I’m directing a student film, where do I go get the lights? I have to get the lights and pick up the props and costumes and all that.” What you really learn to appreciate is that everyone there really does do this for a living. And they’ve been doing it forever. So the director of photography is fantastic, makeup knows what they’re doing, wardrobe knows what they’re doing, so let them do their jobs. All you have to do is direct, and that ends up being a pretty easy job when you get down to it. Mike Nichols, just to be a horrible name-dropper, told me that directing is like throwing the right cocktail party. If you do it right, all that’s left for you to do is pour the drinks. And that’s exactly what I did, I just had to show up.
TV Guide Magazine: What was the most enjoyable part for you?
Garson: Well, another one of the directors told me if you can keep the crew laughing the whole time, you’re in good shape, and I really did. We laughed the whole time. Here’s the thing: I was insanely well-prepared. I was staying up until like 2 or 3 in the morning every night, prepping, so that by the time I got there, the comfort of being somewhat in control was a great thing.
Actor Willie Garson, who plays Mozzie in USA Network’s “White Collar” and starred as Stanford in “Sex and the City”, is a big fan of New Orleans and the Saints.
Garson spoke with Rob Nice on Friday’s Black and Blue Report.
Below are some highlights from the interview:
When’s the last time you’ve been to New Orleans?
About two months ago and I’ll be coming for Thanksgiving.
How are you liking “White Collar” so far and your character Mozzie?“I love it. Mozzie has been a lot of fun. It’s actually the closest I’ve been to myself that I’ve ever played, which is really great. The writing is great. I have some amazing partners to act with. Matt Bomer is just an absolute delight and a huge football fan. We have a great time. We shoot the hell out of New York City, which is great so it looks amazing. I just love it. I could go on for twenty years.”
Now it’s in its fifth season any twists we should expect this season?
“Well this season, we just premiered last week. What they did change this season is that we’re kind of being blackmailed by another criminal so Matt Bomer’s character and myself and kind of under the gun, which is a new feeling for us. It’s very interesting how we react to that. We’re usually the ones calling all of the shots.”
Do you have a favorite Saints player?
“I love Jimmy Graham. You can teach anyone to catch a football but you can’t teach 6’7. That makes a big difference and his basketball background. I’m excited about Kenny Stills. He’s fantastic. Just the heart of the team is so important to me. Drew Brees is obviously an amazing leader, on and off the field with the Drew Brees Foundation. Also, Sean Payton’s Foundation, the Play It Forward Foundation, is very inspiring to me. The staff also. There is not a single defensive player who has not improved under Rob Ryan. It’s a team with a lot of heart, in a city with a lot of heart. The two are completely connected with which is a great thing.”
If Willie Garson can play a position on an NFL team, what position would it me?
“I would be the punt holder. That’s about as close as I could get to a football field. I could maybe catch the ball and tee it up for the kicker. That’s my job.”
You can listen the interview here