Helping a friend. Hilarie Burton promised White Collar costar Willie Garson that she’d help his book get published, and his death has only made her more determined to get his story on shelves.
Garson’s passing was confirmed by his son, Nathen, on Tuesday, September 21. The One Tree Hill alum, 39, mourned the 57-year-old actor in a social media post where she said she and husband Jeffrey Dean Morgan were “devastated,” emphasizing how close they were outside of work.
“Willie was a romantic friend. Deeply thoughtful. Intentional with his effort and attention and devotion,” Burton wrote via Instagram. “Social media is ablaze right now with evidence of that…..each person in his life felt special. Spoiled, even. Willie most definitely spoiled me.”
The Sex and the City actor sent her a thoughtful gift after she and Morgan finally tied the knot in late 2019. “I wept when Willie sent Jeffrey and me a wedding present. A first edition copy of Grapes of Wrath. The note he included is partially shown here (the rest is ours. And incredibly dear to us.) But I include it because it illustrates a quality of Willie’s that I loved,” the “Drama Queens” podcast host explained.
She added that the New Jersey native “would pay you the biggest compliment in the world. Tell you that you were the smartest or prettiest or most talented or that your book/show/recipe/charity, etc mattered and was valuable. And right as you’d blush, he’d temper it with ‘alright, calm down!’ And then laughter. He’d stop you before you could rebuff the compliment. Calm down. I can hear him saying it.”
The mother of two — she shares Gus, 12, and George, 4, with the Walking Dead star — revealed that she got the phrase “calm down” tattooed on her arm in his handwriting before he died.
“Before I went to see him, I needed him to know how I felt,” she explained. “I wanted Willie to know that I was carrying that ‘calm down’ with me forever.”
The Rural Diaries author revealed that Garson, who adopted his son, Nathen, now 20, in 2009, was by her side as she finished her debut book in 2019 while they filmed Lifetime’s A Christmas Wish. That was when they realized what Garson’s potential first book would include.
“We talked a lot about memoir, this weird industry, our families. He’d been toying with an idea for a book,” she recalled. “An accounting of his career as a character actor. As someone who benefited from hours of Willie’s stories over countless dinners, I loved this idea.”
According to Burton, Garson finished the book before he died and asked her for her expertise. She promised to work hard to find a home for one of his final pieces of art after sharing more than a decade of friendship with him.
“Recently he asked if I’d help his family get it published for his son Nathen,” she wrote. “It is a love letter to our industry, to storytelling and to the hundreds of people he worked with and made better over the decades. To Willie’s family, especially @nathen_garson, … on my honor I will see it through. You have been so generous in sharing him with the rest of us. Love you.”
Morgan commented on his wife’s post, “I love you. I love Willie … hard to ‘calm down’ today. We are trying.”Garson’s death has left Hollywood reeling.
Tributes have come pouring in from Sex and the City costars, such as Cynthia Nixon and Chris Noth, as well as huge names throughout the entertainment industry, including Mia Farrow, Ben Stiller and Bradley Whitford. The actor’s cause of death has yet to be confirmed.
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