Garson, who played Stanford Blatch, the best friend of Sarah Jessica Parker's Carrie Bradshaw in the HBO series, died Tuesday at age 57 from pancreatic cancer. Prior to his death, he had also already filmed scenes for the show's upcoming revival, And Just Like That….
In an interview with Robin Bronk on the At Home with the Creative Coalition podcast recorded several months before he died, Garson said that he initially passed on SATC when he was offered a role on the pilot episode in the 1990s.
"Sex and the City was not a big deal because it was HBO," he said. "I actually got two pilots on the same day, and I took the other pilot, which was for Fox. And Sex and the City let me guest on the pilot of Sex and the City."
Craig Blankenhorn/Hbo Willie Garson on Sex and the City
The Fox show was picked up but then canceled after 13 episodes, according to Garson. Luckily, however, Sex and the City hadn't begun shooting the first season yet. Garson said at the time, Parker, whom he had become friends with as a young actor in the 1980s, was working on Broadway.
"It was a full year before episodes started shooting," he said. "So we called up Sex and the City and said, 'Hey, listen, uh, we made a mistake and we'd like to come back.'"
"And they said, 'Well, we kind of like it this way, as a recurring character instead of a regular character,'" he continued. "So I stayed a recurring character for, you know, six-and-a-half seasons — a very popular recurring character."
The actor said a recurring role was actually ideal, because he could do other projects while working on the beloved series.
"Now, the bonus of that was that when the show exploded — which was great — I wasn't tied to the show, so I worked a lot outside of the show," Garson said, calling the period his "really good years."
"I had done a couple hundred TV episodes at that point and I decided I wanted to do movies, so I just started doing small parts in movies, and I knocked down a lot of them," he added. "I probably did like, 70 movies during that time."
Later in the interview, Garson, who went on to star in various other TV shows like John from Cincinnati, White Collar, Whole Way Down and Hawaii Five-O, reflected on his many roles and the connections he was able to form with audiences.
"I've been very fortunate, because the shows that I've been on have been impactful and have reached a lot of people," he said. "And that has always interested me. I don't believe in doing something just for me, I believe in doing something with the partnership with the audience."