How ‘Last Man Standing’ Star Hector Elizondo Remembers Working With James Garner on ‘The Rockford Files’

by Allison Hambrick

Last Man Standing actor Hector Elizondo looked back on his time on The Rockford Files alongside James Garner. Elizondo played two different roles on The Rockford Files. His first appearance was in 1975, and the other was in 1978.

“He was quite a gem,” Elizondo said in an interview following Garner’s death. “From him, I learned how to comport myself on the set. He quietly mentored me.”

Unsurprisingly, Elizondo has nothing but kind words to describe the iconic The Rockford Files star. He also described how he judges a person’s character as well as how that relates to Garner.

“You know, when someone wants something from you, I think the guys in the neighborhood used to tell me ‘you want to judge somebody, find out whether they’re cool or not… If they want something from you, they’re going to be nice to you,” explained Elizondo. “As soon as they turn around, they’re gonna yell at the waiter. As soon as they yell at the waiter, you know that they’re an asshole. Judge a person’s character by how they treat those who can do nothing to them or for them. “

Garner passed Elizondo’s test with flying colors. The Rockford Files star conducted himself with dignity, strength, and yes, kindness.

“That’s how he was,” said the Last Man Standing star. “He was a delight and a gentleman and a tough guy, too. Don’t mistake his courtesy for lack of toughness because more than once, he put someone through a chainlink fence, practically.”

Additionally, Elizondo recalled a particularly humorous exchange he had with Garner.

The Hilarious Exchange Between Elizondo and The Rockford Files Star

When he appeared on The Rockford Files, Elizondo was still a bit green. As a result, he felt his questions for Garner reflected that.

“I realized he knew everything,” said Elizondo. “He knew everything about the equipment, so I asked ‘why don’t you direct? Because in the theater and movies, the director is important. You cast and so you have a lot of weight.’ He looked at me and said, ‘See that guy over there? The guy who’s pacing back and forth with a cigarette in each hand–he’s the director. You want to look like that? It’s a lot of pressure on television. See that camera? I own that camera. See that truck? I own that truck.’ He owned all of the equipment–he rented it.”

Afterward, Elizondo was left speechless by his costar’s charismatic yet abrupt response. His opinion of Garner remained strong up until the latter’s death in 2014, after which he expressed his sympathies.

“He was quite a guy,” stated Elizondo. “I’ll miss him.”

The Rockford Files is available to stream on several services, including Peacock and Amazon Prime.