Willie Garson helped Hilarie Burton get her confidence back

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Hilarie Burton credit:Bang Showbiz
Hilarie Burton credit:Bang Showbiz

Hilarie Burton credits the late Willie Garson for helping her get her confidence back after she escaped the "toxic" environment of 'One Tree Hill'.

The 39-year-old actress met the actor - who died last week from pancreatic cancer - when they worked together on 'White Collar', her first project after leaving the teen drama series, and she praised him for encouraging her to start to believe in herself again.

Speaking on 'People (The TV Show!)', she said: "Willie was the person who took me under his wing and had lunch with me and took me out to dinner.

"He saw the version of me that I wasn't yet, but that I was working toward."

Shortly before Willie passed away, Hilarie had the words 'Calm down' tattooed on her left forearm as a lasting tribute.

She explained: "He would pay you the biggest compliment in the world, and the second you'd start to get bashful about it, he'd be like 'Calm down, calm down.'

"It was his way of forcing you to accept the compliment, because he would diffuse it, which was a lovely habit."

In an Instagram tribute last week, Hilarie showed off her tattoo and explained she'd asked for the 'Sex and the City' star's approval before she had the inking done.

She wrote: "Before I went to see him, I needed him to know how I felt. And @hudsonvalleytattooco was so kind and understanding and got me in the night before my flight. I wanted Willie to know that I was carrying that 'calm down' with me forever."

The actress also shared the personal gift her friend had given her and Jeffrey Dean Morgan after they married in October 2019.

She wrote: "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."

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