It’s been a little over a week since Robin Williams’ death, and in that time we’ve witnessed countless tributes to him from co-stars and fans alike. They’ve been consistently positive and continuously touching. The latest comes from Mara Wilson, who played Robin’s youngest daughter in Mrs. Doubtfire. Mara has a witty and insightful Twitter presence, and last year she penned a great blog post about child stardom. Her tribute to Robin, in which she describes what it was like to work with him on set and run into him years later, is just as eloquent and offers further proof of just how beloved he was.
The entire post, titled “Remembering Robin,” is worth a read, but I’ll excerpt a few particularly moving parts. Mara reveals Robin’s love of improvisation, as well as his great rapport with her and the other kids between takes:
When he saw me watching him work on his laptop during downtime, he played a sound file of Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz screeching “You wicked old witch!” When we were filming the petting zoo birthday scene, he fed a pony oats out of his hat, then held it out to me and said, “Wanna wear it?” When we were filming the climactic dinner party scene, he would make his carpet bag bark like a dog under the table, then order it to be quiet. He seemed to know instinctively what we would find funny, and never had to resort to saying anything that was inappropriate for children. He was, after all, a father himself.
Mara also recalls running into Robin a few years later and seeing a different, more shy side of him that she hadn’t expected considering he had been “so on so much of the time” before. She explains, “It was as if I was seeing him for the first time. He was a person now.”
Mara goes on to share some important thoughts about mental health. She urges people not to “romanticize what Robin went through” and to remember this:
Artists who struggled with mental illness, trauma, disease, addiction (often the latter is a way of self-medicating after the first three) did not want or welcome it. I don’t know if I’d consider myself an artist, but speaking as someone who sometimes makes stuff, my best work is created when I’m content and contemplative, looking back on painful times rather than in the middle of them. To focus on someone’s pain instead of their accomplishments is an insult to them. As my friend Patrick put it, a person is a person first and a story second.
Thanks to Mara and so many other people who have shared their fond memories of Robin Williams, the public is encouraged to do just that — remember him as “a person first.” And it sounds like that person was pretty special.