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'Mrs. Doubtfire' star Lisa Jakub reveals Robin Williams' impact on her

Lisa Jakub, who played Lydia Hillard in 1993's "Mrs. Doubtfire," looked back on working with Robin Williams in an interview with TODAY.
/ Source: TODAY

When former child actress Lisa Jakub auditioned for "Mrs. Doubtfire," the bond with her onscreen family was immediate.

"I felt like I met my siblings for the first time," she told TODAY during an interview in honor of the film's 25th anniversary. "I'm an only child, and so I was so excited to have siblings, even if they were fake siblings. There were several kids there, auditioning for the three children's roles. And they put Matt (Lawrence) and Mara (Wilson) and I together very quickly. And we just felt like family. I feel like that chemistry was very obvious."

Jakub also shared a close relationship with the late Robin Williams, who unforgettably played a divorced dad who poses as a British nanny in order to spend more time with his children.

"I learned so much from Robin," she said. "I learned how to be in the moment. One of the things that made Robin so brilliant at what he did was as an actor, as a performer, he was present. He was reacting to what was going on around him. And I think that that's a really valuable thing, just to learn about life; to be in that moment so you can really experience it and react in an authentic way."

Lisa Jakub in Mrs. Doubtfire
Courtesy Everett Collection

Williams' willingness to share his own struggles made a profound impact on the young actress.

"Something that Robin taught me that was really, really important is that he was very open with me about his issues with addiction and depression," Jakub said. "And I really appreciated that. I was 14 at the time that we shot 'Mrs. Doubtfire,' and I think he thought that was, you know, a prime time to really be open with me and honest. And I have dealt with depression, and I have anxiety, and the fact that he was that open, that honest, that willing to talk to me about it was something that was really special."

She added, "It has inspired me in my struggles to not be ashamed of those things, to talk openly about them. And I really feel like that's a way that we can change the stigma around mental health and really help people and make a difference. And so I will always be very grateful to him for that."

As a testament to the late actor's comic genius, Jakub revealed that it took her and co-star Matthew Lawrence a moment to recognize Williams the first time they saw him dressed as Mrs. Doubtfire.

Lisa Jakub in Mrs. Doubtfire
Courtesy Everett Collection

"(Director) Chris Columbus, when we were doing rehearsals for the movie, introduced us to his 'mother,'" she recalled. "And it was actually Mrs. Doubtfire. So, Matt and I had already had the experience of thinking that Mrs. Doubtfire was just sort of this older woman that we were just chatting with, and then realizing that it was Robin."

Jakub also has warm memories of Sally Field, who played her mother in the movie.

"She was a mom to all of us," she said. "She is such a sweet and caring person. She would always come by our trailers and drop off books and games and ask how we were doing and make sure that everything was good. It can be really hard being a kid on set. You're balancing schoolwork and being a professional actor. And Sally just was constantly making sure that as kids, we were OK."

Lisa Jakub in Mrs. Doubtfire
Alamy Stock Photo

Fans of the movie tell Jakub how the Hillard family's story resonated with them to this day.

"I think the divorce aspect of 'Mrs. Doubtfire' was so important," she said. "I think it was monumental that the parents did not get back together at the end. I was 14 when we filmed 'Mrs. Doubtfire.' I'm about to turn 40, and I still have people who come up to me and hug me and cry and want to talk about their parents' divorce and how the film helped them to know that it was OK, that it was going to be OK. That families look different, but that doesn't mean that they're less of a family."

She added, "I think that that message of love and compassion and acceptance is really important. And I think that touches people."

Lisa Jakub is retired from acting and is now an author. You can find more from her at Her books include "Not Just Me: Anxiety, depression, and learning to embrace your weird," "You Look Like That Girl: A child actor stops pretending and finally grows up" and "(Don't) Call Me Crazy: 33 Voices Start the Conversation about Mental Health."