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'And Just Like That…' Showrunner Explains That Definitive Goodbye to Stanford: 'We Wanted Willie to Be Alive'

Stanford Blatch lived on on 'AJLT' after the actor who played him, Willie Garson, died unexpectedly in 2021 at age 57

<p>HBO Max</p> Sarah Jessica Parker with Mario Cantone (left) and Willie Garson on

HBO Max

Sarah Jessica Parker with Mario Cantone (left) and Willie Garson on 'And Just Like That...' Season 1

Stanford Blatch said “sayonara” on Thursday’s episode of And Just Like That…

Season 2’s penultimate episode saw Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) receive a letter from Stanford, played by the late Willie Garson. The letter informed her that after traveling over to Japan on business, Stanford decided to stay and become a Shinto monk. Carrie had the hard job of sharing the news with Stanford’s estranged husband Anthony (Mario Cantone).

And Just Like That… kept Garson’s character alive in the show after the actor died in September 2021 after quietly undergoing treatment for pancreatic cancer. Garson appeared in the first three episodes of AJLT season 1 before he died.

Related: 'Sex and the City' Turns 25! A By-the-Numbers Blowout

“Ever since Willie died and what we had to do last year was explain the loss of our really wonderful friend and actor, Willie Garson playing Stanford Blatch,” showrunner Michael Patrick King said on Thursday’s episode of the And Just Like That… The Writers Room podcast. “The thing we came up with is that he went to Japan on a TikTok tour.”

King, 58, called that plot point “a Band-Aid” to adjusting Willie’s story after Garson’s death.

<p>Slaven Vlasic/Getty</p> Michael Patrick King

Slaven Vlasic/Getty

Michael Patrick King

“It was a fast fix,” the two-time Emmy winner said. “It was a little bit, it was like thin ice. We skated over it ‘cause we had to, ‘cause he wasn't in the show suddenly and we didn’t want Stanford to die. We wanted Willie to be alive as Stanford somewhere in the world.”

After moving Stanford to Alaska, And Just Like That… barely brought up Stanford, save for the season 2 premiere when Carrie revealed Stanford sent her the kimono she wore while getting ready for the Met Gala.

“And here we are, and she says she got a letter from Stanford and he’s in Japan and he’s staying and he’s a Shinto monk,” King said of Stanford’s latest update.

King revealed the inspiration for Stanford’s story came from a trip he took to Japan with Parker, 58, to promote the second Sex and the City movie, which King knows many fans didn’t like.

<p>HBO/ Courtesy: Everett</p> Willie Garson and Sarah Jessica Parker on 'Sex and the City' season 3

HBO/ Courtesy: Everett

Willie Garson and Sarah Jessica Parker on 'Sex and the City' season 3

“I went to Kyoto with Sarah Jessica after the second movie which, I don’t know, spoiler alert: was not received well … it’s gorgeous, but I have had growth much like Nya has growth about the baby carriage. The critics were not nice to that movie,” King said. “And we were in Japan and we opened it. We went to Kyoto and I was in some sort of an emotional shockwave 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.”

So with Stanford becoming a monk, King “tapped into that feeling.”

“I wanted to somehow pay tribute to Willie and put Stanford someplace where it was golden and filled with light because I hope Willie’s someplace that's golden and filled with light,” King continued. “And it was poetic and it’s very emotional.”

After Carrie informs Anthony about Stanford’s letter, they toast “to Stanny” with Cosmopolitans.

<p>HBO Max</p>

HBO Max

“Sarah Jessica chose to drink the entire drink in one gulp,” King shared of the improvised moment, calling it “baller.”

He thought the act served as a testament to Parker’s real-life connection with Garson. “It says so much to me about how big that toast is for her, to Stanford and I think Willie,” King said.

Related: Why 'AJLT' Won't Show Carrie with Aidan in Virginia — Plus Details on That Cameo with a 'Sex and the City' Link

Before And Just Like That… season 2 kicked off, King explained to PEOPLE why they wanted to carry Stanford into this next chapter.

“I think that's important once characters are established like that,” King said. “When a circumstance is handed [to] you that is tragic and less than ideal, you can still keep these fictional people alive in spite of the fact that Willie's gone.”

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New episodes of And Just Like That… drops Thursdays on Max.

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