‘Mork & Mindy’: Pam Dawber Was ‘Mad’ When She First Found Out About Her Role

Robin Williams and Pam Dawber played star-crossed sweethearts on Mork & Mindy for four seasons. The acclaimed TV show was inspired by Williams’ appearance as Mork from Ork on Happy Days and was created with the actor in mind. 

But according to Gary Marshall, Dawber’s role came as a complete surprise to her. And when she first discovered the casting details, Dawber wasn’t thrilled.

Robin Williams and Pam Dawber on 'Mork & Mindy'
Robin Williams and Pam Dawber on ‘Mork & Mindy’ | Jim Britt/Walt Disney Television/Getty Images

Gary Marshall created ‘Mork & Mindy’

In 1977, while producing Happy Days, Marshall took his son to see Star Wars: A New Hope. His son was so smitten by the space adventure, Marshall decided to create an alien character for the show. After getting the suggestion from his casting director sister, Ronny Hallin, the showrunner went to see Williams perform and instantly knew he had his Mork. 

Williams first appeared as Mork on season five of Happy Days. His performance was very well-received. So when network executives asked Marshall to come up with a new show, he pitched the idea of a Mork & Mindy

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Pam Dawber was hired without knowing it

In an interview with the Television Academy Foundation, Marshall explained how the casting process for Mork & Mindy played out. The show was created for Williams, so his part was cast beforehand. But for Mindy, he suggested finding an actor from a failed pilot called Sister Terry. 

A network executive found Dawber’s scenes from the pilot and edited them together with clips of Williams’ Mork. Based on Marshall’s pitch and that mash-up, Mork & Mindy was picked up with Williams and Dawber in the leading roles. 

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“But nobody told Pam Dawber,” Marshall recalled. “So she’s reading it in the paper. She read it in the trades [that] she’s starring in a show with Robin Williams called Mork & Mindy. Nobody ever called her because they had her under the contract for the other show, so they said, ‘No, that one didn’t sell.’”

Pam Dawber was initially angry when she learned of her ‘Mork & Mindy’ role

When talking to ABC in 2020, Dawber revealed how she felt when she found out about being cast on Mork & Mindy. “I had a little log cabin up in the Catskills where I was when my agent called and said, well Sister Terry didn’t sell, and I was like, ‘Thank God,’” she recalled. “That was Friday. Monday he calls me, he goes, ‘You’re not going to believe, but I am reading you out of Variety.”

Dawber’s agent told her that she was cast in a leading role for ABC’s fall lineup. But when the actor discovered what the show was about, her excitement faded. 

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“‘An alien lives with girlfriend in an apartment’ and I’m on the phone going, ‘What?’” Dawber said. “And I said, and I was mad, “It sounds stupid, it sounds really stupid. I don’t want to do a show like this — and who’s this Robin Williams?’”

Marshall set up a lunch date with Dawber and asked her to watch Mork on Happy Days. Dawber was so impressed by Williams’ performance, she instantly agreed to take the role.

“It was clear. He was so adorable and so funny,” she added. “He just had it. And that was it. It was just like, “Where do I sign?’”