Pam Dawber is one of the dozens of celebrities interviews for ABC’s special The Happy Days of Garry Marshall because she starred for four years on Marshall’s Happy Days spinoff, Mork & Mindy alongside legendary comedian Robin Williams.
In the special, Dawber and others who worked on Mork & Mindy recalled how amazing Williams was to work with and the incredible way he even ended up on TV in the first place. Here is what you need to know about his death, how co-star Dawber remembers him, and the great story of how he landed Mork & Mindy.
Dawber Says Williams is a Comedic Genius
Williams died of suicide on August 11, 2014. In 2018, HBO released a documentary about the comedian titled Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind, in which his friends and co-stars remembered his unique talent.
In an interview for that documentary, Dawber told On TV Today that seeing the never-before-seen footage of Williams in that documentary was “joyous” but also sad and shocking.
“It covers parts of his life that I didn’t know about, and I think this will probably cap it for everything Robin Williams at this point,” Dawber said. “I just think everybody is still so shocked to see him in these things and he’s so joyous, and all of our heads still spin (over his passing). And I think that, especially, everybody who knew him still can’t figure out what happened.”
She added, “Robin was such a comedic genius, and he made so many people happy, I think that’s why everyone wants to keep revisiting his life.”
Williams Was Hired for a Happy Days Guest Spot at the Last Minute… And The Rest is History
In the ABC special on Garry Marshall, Happy Days Anson Williams recalls how the script where alien Mork (Robin Williams) was introduced on the show was “awful” and the person cast as Mork actually quit on Wednesday, when they were supposed to be shooting the episode on Friday. Luckily, Marshall’s sister Ronnie had someone in mind for the part, recalls Marshall’s son, Scott.
“My dad’s sister Ronnie was casting Happy Days and Laverne & Shirley at the time and she told my dad about a guy she’d seen doing stand-up on a street corner with a hat, getting money. My dad said, ‘You want me to hire a guy who stands on the street with a hat on a primetime ABC show?’ And my aunt Ronnie said,’ It’s a pretty full hat,'” said Scott.
So Robin Williams came to set and immediately started improvising.
“I walk on the set and there’s Robin Williams improv-ing the whole script. Every writer, they’re just writing everything down as fast as he does it,” recalls Anson Williams. “By Friday night, it’s one of the best scripts in the history of Happy Days.”
But that’s not all. Star Ron Howard says that “at least a third of what’s in that final episode were riffs that he pulled out and did for the first time when we were shooting.”
Henry Winkler calls is “amazing,” adding, “His mind went so fast that you could not keep up with it. And I’m gonna tell you that you knew you were in the presence of greatness.”
Dawber says when Marshall cast her opposite Williams on Mork & Mindy, he explained to her that the show was going to be unlike the way any other television show had been done because Williams was not going to stay on script.
“If Robin was a different kind of guy, he could have chewed me up and spit me out. But I loved him. It was a hit because of him, it was a hit because the timing was right, and I think it was also a hit because he and I really liked each other, so we had chemistry,” recalls Dawber.
The Happy Days of Garry Marshall airs Tuesday, May 12 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.