I had the pleasure of sitting in on a conference call with Willie Garson, ‘Mozzie’ from “White Collar”. Not only was he super nice, he was funny and charming – and very quick on his feet. Here are some highlights from the interview for ya!
Question: So can you talk about some of the guest stars we’re going to get to see this season?
Willie Garson: Do they really matter besides me. No, I’m kidding. You know, we have – well right out of the gate we have Mekhi Phifer who’s really amazing. And who we’re working with right now is Treat Williams which is very exciting.
I’m trying to think who’s in this episode, Titus Welliver is in the episode we’re shooting right now. We always have such an embarrassment of riches on this show with our guest stars. Certainly the people we’ve had in the past too like, you know, Beau Bridges and Griffin Dunne, Aidan Quinn.
I mean Andrew McCarthy, I mean it goes on and on. We just – we get really good people want to do the show and that’s a real compliment to us.
Certainly not so much to the show but certainly to the actors because that’s – I know myself, when I’m asked to guest on a show it’s always about well what are the actors on the show that I want to work with. So it’s really – it’s quite a compliment when they come and play with us.
Willie Garson: Well, you know, to be honest we don’t watch any of the episodes until they air.
I can tell you that starting tomorrow I personally am wildly excited to see the first two episodes that are shot outside of New York because the show is going to look really different and weird and be a part of this whole new world which will be really fascinating.
There’s also the emotional stuff that’s coming on later in the season with Neal finding out about his past and his family has been really fun to shoot and really interesting. And I think the fans and we’re fans of the show too, are going to freak out watching on screen.
Question: What have you discovered about Mozzie now that you really didn’t know about him in season one? Do you like him?
Willie Garson: I think I discovered more about the character in terms of how important his connection to people would become. Mozzie seems like someone who didn’t need anyone around or to need to be with people. And Neal has really brought him out of his shell in New York.
And now Mozzie actually has relationships that are actually important to him. And that’s something that I certainly didn’t see on the page when I started the show so that’s been really interesting.
And even more so this year, how much when we’re out of the country and then what brings us back to New York, how important things, you know, human relationships are to Mozzie. So that’s going to be interesting to watch.
Willie Garson: You know, I have no idea. I wish. I’ve had two so far on the show and I’ve liked both of them. So and I thought they were really fun episodes and I think Mozzie in a relationship is a lovely thing. I haven’t see any scripts yet that has Mozzie, you know, getting any action.
Question: Well since Neal and Mozzie are in hiding does Mozzie see it as a good ending point for Neal or a new beginning?
Willie Garson: Interesting. I think Mozzie sees it as the life that he’s always dreamed to have. So I guess an ending but a very comfortable ending. So we’re going to find out – it’s almost that old saying, you know, be careful what you wish for.
That maybe being more involved in life is a better choice than dropping out of life.
Question: Is the pressure harder on Neal to be on the run or on Mozzie to keep him there?
Willie Garson: I never feel like there’s any real pressure on Mozzie. I feel like the pressure is really on Neal to decide what to do. I think Mozzie can find a way to make wherever he is totally doable.
And so I think that’s what we find is that what is the – Mozzie’s pressure more comes about how to stay with Neal rather than any pressure of, you know, making him stay there. It’s just where are we going to be?
Willie Garson: Well this is not the hardest character I have to say, for me to play mainly because he’s the closest to myself with my, you know, my same kind of wit and feelings about a lot of things but also because the writing is so perfectly geared to our characters.
So there’s not a lot of heavy lifting once we actually get there saying it. It was actually just really fun.
You know, this show – the characters are structured so well that on this show we found in the first season, I think it was about episode five where we all called each other up after it aired and we were like you know what?
These characters are so well drawn and so perfectly complementary to each other, we could be solving the case of the missing Scotch tape on the North Pole and we’d be fine. And that’s really – that really came through when we, you know, left the mainland to go shoot this.
It’s like we could shoot anywhere. It doesn’t matter. As long as we are in character talking to each other it’s like it all seems perfectly natural because the characters are so well drawn.
Question: You mentioned a little bit about how Neal’s drawn Mozzie out and has more human relationships. Can you talk a little bit about Mozzie’s relationship with Peter or The Suit as he likes to call him? And does he – is his connection with him just Neal or has there become a grudging admiration and he kind of actually likes the guy?
Willie Garson: Well I think grudging admiration is a great phrase because it’s almost like they actually need to hate each other. And in that hatred of each other they actually love each other a lot.
It gives Peter a sense of action and danger and it gives Mozzie a sense of safety that this actual government agent who he totally mistrusts everything about, is actually watching over him and that he’s really not going to be in that much trouble.
I guarantee you that if we had a scene of Mozzie sitting alone at a bar drunk he’d be bragging to his friends that he is very good friends with an FBI – a high ranking FBI official. So, you know, I think it’s almost at the point where they kind of need each other.
They need this tension between them and I think they both enjoy it.
Question: Hopefully it’ll be seasons away, but when the end comes how would you like Neal and Mozzie to wind up?
Willie Garson: Well I’d like it – I would like it to be seasons in. I’d like Mozzie to end up very, very wealthy. Oh no, that’s the actor.
Okay, what I would, you know, I’d like Mozzie to end up happy, you know, whatever that means we have to figure out and I think we will in the coming seasons figure out what actually Mozzie wants.
We’re actually joking a lot this episode about Mozzie’s fake baby that he has that maybe Mozzie wants to have a baby and maybe Mozzie wants to fall in love or, you know, I mean you never know what’s going to happen. But I leave that kind of – those kinds of things always to really talented writers.
And I believe when shows end well they should end with characters getting whatever they need to get and that’s really a writer’s decision.
Question: The relationship between Neal and Mozzie has obviously been very stressed lately. Do you think there’s a breaking point or do you think that the relationship can pretty much withstand anything?
Willie Garson: Well I do believe that – I do believe that the relationship can withstand anything even though, you know, because it is a TV show we have to tease every once in a while that, you know, this is it, I’m never talking to you again.
But I think we’ve established now after three seasons that there’s going to be a way for these two guys to always keep an eye on each other and take care of each other.
It comes up again right at the start of Season 4 which you’ll see tomorrow that it’s like well what’s going to happen? I mean are they really this is it? This is it? They’re really going to walk away from each other again? But I think the audience is going to start figuring out that they probably aren’t at least… for a while. At least for three or four more seasons.
Question: I have a question about Mozzie and Elizabeth. I really enjoy those sort of friendships – those sort of unlikely friendships between those two characters. And I was wondering if we could look forward to any scenes with you and Tiffani coming up soon and sort of your thoughts on that, on those characters as friends.
Willie Garson: You know, it’s interesting because you’re not the first person to ask about that. And I guess those scenes are very popular. We do have a – we do – we did shoot a number of scenes already this season that are just me and Tiffani which is great fun.
You know, it’s great. It’s like this is someone who not – I mean both of them are someone who the other one would never be friends with other than because of this situation. And they actually have a mutual like of each other. I think Elizabeth feels kind of protective towards Mozzie.
And Mozzie while finding The Suit, you know, Agent Burke to be kind of boorish he finds Mrs. Suit to be a little elegant and knows about fine wine and art and literature. And so he I think really appreciates her. So I think it’s a great relationship.
And we do explore it more and I hope we get to continue to.
Question: So when he’s not hatching schemes with Neal or drinking Neal’s wine what do you think Mozzie does with all his time?
Willie Garson: I think he probably hustles old ladies at chess games like in Washington Square Park. I think he explores a lot of art and I think just because we never see him getting all the information that he has my guess is that Mozzie spends a lot of time in the New York Public Library in the reading room.
So he – I mean he has an awful lot of information and he has to get it from somewhere.
Question: Do you like the twists that his character has taken? I mean he’s been shot, he took out a contract on a guy, he gave his best friend an ultimatum last season.
Willie Garson: Well I always like it when it’s interesting. You know? I never can guess what’s going to happen. And we don’t get our scripts until like, you know, two days before we start shooting each episode so we never know. And that’s what I like. I like that I don’t know.
A lot of actors like to know so far in advance but, you know, I’m – maybe I’m not that good of an actor or it’s just my style of acting. In life we don’t know what’s coming so I’d like to not know what’s coming. It keeps it interesting for me.
Question: If you had a crossover with any TV show on air or off air now which one would you like to see White Collar crossover with?
Willie Garson: Oh man. I mean personally I would like it to be Friday Night Lights but I can’t imagine that episode. But right now for me it would be Sons of Anarchy which I guess we could find a way to work some kind of caper with that – with them in mind. So those would be my two favorites right now.
KarenL: Hi. First of all, I want to say that – don’t tell anyone, but Mozzie’s my favorite.
Willie Garson: I’m telling everyone.
KarenL: What do you think is the most intriguing bromance on the show?
KarenL: That’s my choice as well.
Willie Garson: You know, I mean Mozzie and Neal is kind of expected, Neal and Peter is kind of expected. So I think Mozzie and Peter – although in the episode we’re shooting right now we have a very funny situation going on with Mozzie and Jones played by Sharif Atkins and that’s really fun too.
So I think it’s a constant – I think it’s the writers’ room constantly trying to play with different combinations to see what can happen.
Question: You guys obviously have a lot of fun on the set. Is there anything specific you can think about like where maybe you guys could[n’t] quit laughing, you know, when you were filming something?
Willie Garson: Oh my god. I mean it happens all the time. There can be some ridiculous line. There’s something in science called a sympathetic stain and literally Matt and I had a scene and – where we say sympathetic stain.
It must have taken us two hours to film the scene because either one or both of us could never stop laughing every time it came time to say sympathetic stain. So I mean it happens all the time but that’s – I have to say that’s something that’s probably true on pretty much any set.
But yeah, we laugh a lot on our show.
Question: I was wondering what you think it is about White Collar that really makes it such a fan favorite show.
Willie Garson: Well I think it all comes from Jeff Eastin. There’s a kind of believable vulnerability about the characters. These characters are not perfect. They’re not superhuman. You know, Peter Burke isn’t the – he isn’t the most heroic FBI agent.
Matt is charming and handsome but has a lot of vulnerability too because of his past and his family. I think these things are very relatable to people rather than like, you know, on a lot of shows like this is the best cop that’s ever existed or, you know, this is the baddest criminal on the planet, you know.
I just think that people can relate to vulnerability and all of these characters have it on some level.
Question: Would you ever be interested in working behind the scenes on the show like writing or directing or something?
Willie Garson: I would. And I will be directing if we get to go on next season. I – if we’re fortunate enough to get picked up I will be directing next year. So that’s something… we’ve been talking about for a long time. And I’ve been preparing so I think I’m ready after – after almost 30 years I think I’m ready to give it a shot.
Question: I’ve got to ask since we all know you’re going to be directing next season because there will be a number 5, what do you bring to the director’s table as an actor?
Willie Garson: Liquor. No, what do I bring? You know, I bring 25 years of standing on sets and story and acting stuff. Our crew is so advanced that the camera stuff, I’m not going to – I’m certainly not going to change the wheel.
But I am going to bring a lot of humanity into the scenes which is something that I know how to do like no problem. So that’s my angle is what I’m going to bring in, performances and humanity.
Question: Is there anything that you feel might challenge you or bring a little bit of trepidation to taking on the reins of directing White Collar or do you think that no, you’ve got this, you can handle it?
Willie Garson: You know, camera and angles and time. You know, we shoot a full episode in seven days and that’s – that can be very quick. Some of our scripts are close to 80 pages long. So we’re talking about 11 pages a day so the time is the only thing I’m afraid of because I don’t know much about technical stuff.
But I’m learning it rapidly about camera. It’s just in terms of can I get everything I need to get in the amount of time I have?
Question: And what would you like to say to everyone who is a fan and supporter of you and the show?
Willie Garson: You know, all we can do is thank them and keep thanking them. I mean this show is driven so much by the people watching it. And to be honest, without sounding like a kiss ass, by the people such as all of the bloggers who write about it.
People have embraced this show and spread the word and all we can say is thank you because you’re basically all of who we make it for. We don’t make it – entertainment is a two-way street. And any actor or writer or producer who tells you differently is completely lying.
So we’re there – we are there to enjoy doing our job and make money and this is what we do for a profession and we love doing it. But the other half of that equation is that we should be – people should be enjoying it and watching it. And we respond as much to you as you guys do to us.
So all we can say is thank you.