In the second to last episode of Season 2 of Max’s “Sex and the City” follow-up series “And Just Like That…” this week, the late actor Willie Garson’s beloved character Stanford Blatch received an extended and unexpected tribute, and its origins come from a bit of a surprising place.
In the episode, titled “The Last Supper, Part I: Appetizer,” Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) invites Stanford’s estranged husband Anthony Marentino (Mario Cantone) over to share an update on her good friend.
Garson, who died in 2021 after a bout with pancreatic cancer, played Carrie’s longtime confidant Blatch throughout the original series as well as three episodes in the first season of “AJLT,” but was too sick to continue and was written off the show with a device involving a sudden business move to Japan. (Max, like CNN, is a subsidiary of Warner Bros. Discovery.)
In the scene in Thursday’s episode, Carrie tells Anthony while Stanford lost his job in Japan, he decided to stay and become a Shinto monk. She reads him a letter from Stanford stating how he is letting go of everything from his previous life, including his marriage to Anthony. The scene ends with Carrie and Anthony toasting Stanford with martinis, made all the most emotional due to Garson’s passing.
On the companion podcast for the show “And Just Like That… The Writers Room” this week, executive producer, writer and director Michael Patrick King discussed the telling moment, and mentioned how the maligned 2010 feature film sequel “Sex and the City 2” factored in as inspiration.
King, who also cowrote and directed the film, said on the podcast, “I went to Kyoto with Sarah Jessica after the second movie, which, spoiler alert, was not received well.”
While he said he had “growth” since the experience, he added “the critics were not nice to that movie. And we were in Japan, and we opened it, and then we went to Kyoto, and I was in some sort of an emotional shock wave, and I was going from temple to temple with Sarah Jessica. I was sitting there trying to release these complicated feelings, and I felt kind of at peace.”
“Sarah Jessica was just sitting there with me, and it was so beautiful,” King also said. “There wasn’t tears, but there wasn’t laughs. It was just feeling the space and these beautiful temples.”
Earlier in the podcast, King acknowledged the way they wrote Stanford off the show in the first season was “a band-aid, a fast fix” because, while Garson was tragically ill, “we didn’t want Stanford to die.”
“When I started thinking about where is Stanford, and what do we do, I somehow tapped into that feeling that Sarah Jessica and I had (in Japan), because I know Carrie and Stanford had a very deep bond, and I’m happy to say Sarah Jessica and I have a very deep personal bond. So I thought, what if he just stayed there in that beautiful blissful temple?”
King also said he wanted to “put Stanford someplace where it was golden and filled with light, because I hope Willie’s someplace that’s golden and filled with light, and it was poetic and it’s very emotional.”
Garson’s death was just one of several extenuating circumstances complicating the show’s first season. The others involved actor Chris Noth’s sexual assault allegations causing him to no longer be part of the show in a flashback scene later in the first season after his character Mr. Big’s shocking death in the series pilot, and the fact Kim Cattrall – one fourth of the quartet of women who made “Sex and the City” so special – was refusing to join the new show.
The last point will be changing, however, as next week’s Season 2 finale of “AJLT” will see a much-hyped cameo from her fan-favorite character Samantha Jones.