Pam Dawber

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Pam Dawber
Pam Dawber 2012.jpg
Pam Dawber in 2012
Pamela Dawber

(1951-10-18) October 18, 1951 (age 69)
OccupationActress, producer, singer
Years active1978–2016
(m. 1987)
Relatives Tom Harmon
Elyse Knox
Kelly Harmon
Kristin Nelson

Pamela Dawber (born October 18, 1951) is an American actress best known for her lead television sitcom roles as Mindy McConnell in Mork & Mindy (1978–1982) and Samantha Russell in My Sister Sam (1986–1988).


Early life

Dawber was born in Detroit, the older of two daughters of Thelma M. (née Fisher) and Eugene E. Dawber, a commercial artist. [1] [2] She went to Reid Elementary School in Goodrich and attended North Farmington High School and Oakland Community College (OCC), with the intention of transferring to a four-year college. [3] She deferred her studies at OCC to do some modeling work and eventually dropped out after deciding to go into modeling full-time.


Dawber moved to New York City and was initially a fashion model with Wilhelmina Models before switching to acting. She appeared in television commercials (Nair, Underalls, etc.). [4] [5]

Dawber screen-tested for the title role in Tabitha, a 1977-1978 situation comedy spun off from Bewitched , which role instead went to Lisa Hartman. However, ABC-TV was favorably enough impressed with her to enroll her in its "talent development" program, which paid its participants until they could find appropriate roles.[ citation needed ] Garry K. Marshall recruited her from this program.

Breakthrough: Mork & Mindy

Dawber's professional breakthrough came when Marshall chose her, despite her having relatively little acting experience and not having auditioned for the part, as one of the two title characters of the ABC sitcom Mork & Mindy, which ran from 1978 to 1982. She portrayed Mindy McConnell, the comedic foil and eventual love interest for the extraterrestrial Mork from the planet Ork, played by a then-unknown Robin Williams. The show was extremely popular in its debut season, when it averaged at number three in the Nielsen ratings for the year. [6] The only major difficulty for her on set was that she often found it impossible to maintain the proper composure in character in the face of her co-star's comedic talent. Also, pressure came from the TV network to sexualize her character as the series progressed, which Dawber successfully resisted, with Williams' support.


Dawber sang in a 1980s Los Angeles Civic Light Opera production of Gilbert & Sullivan's The Pirates of Penzance, based on the Joseph Papp/New York Shakespeare Festival production. Her role, as Mabel, had been played by Linda Ronstadt in the New York run of the show.

My Sister Sam

From 1986 to 1988, Dawber again had the title role in a television series, playing Samantha Russell in the CBS sitcom My Sister Sam, co-starring Rebecca Schaeffer. The series was a success in its first season, but it suffered a massive ratings drop in its second after moving to Saturday night. My Sister Sam left the air in April 1988, with half of the second season's episodes never airing on CBS, but eventually airing (along with all previous episodes) on USA Network.

In July 1989, over a year after the show's cancellation, Schaeffer was shot and killed by Robert John Bardo, an obsessed fan, in front of her apartment. Dawber reported being "devastated" by her former co-star's death. [7] Dawber and her other surviving My Sister Sam co-stars, Joel Brooks, David Naughton and Jenny O'Hara, reunited to film a public service announcement about violence prevention, and Dawber herself became a gun control advocate. With the birth of her second child, she left the industry for family reasons and acted sporadically during the 1990s.

Film work

Although mostly known for her television work, Dawber has starred in several films, including the comedy movie Stay Tuned (1992) with John Ritter and the period movie I'll Remember April (1999), alongside her husband Mark Harmon.

Return to television

In 1997, Dawber starred in the television series Life... and Stuff. [8]

In 2014, she reunited with Robin Williams on his comedy series The Crazy Ones as a love interest of Williams's character. [9] [10] But this reunion failed to boost the show's ratings, and it was cancelled shortly afterwards. Williams, already suffering from Lewy body disease by this time, died by suicide later that year.

Dawber is a national spokeswoman for Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. Garry K. Marshall, the film-and-television comedy writer-producer-director who, as noted above, had made possible Dawber's professional breakthrough, died in 2016. In that year, Dawber made a guest appearance on The Odd Couple in a tribute episode to Marshall, along with other such Marshall alums as Ron Howard, Garry's own sister Penny Marshall, Cindy Williams, Don Most, Anson Williams and Marion Ross.

Personal life

Dawber married actor Mark Harmon on March 21, 1987, in a private ceremony. [2] [11] They have two sons: Sean Thomas Harmon (born April 25, 1988), [12] also an actor, and Ty Christian Harmon (born June 25, 1992). [13] The couple is known to be private about their family life and rarely appear in public together with their children or speak about one another in interviews.


1978Sister TerriTerri1 episode
1978–1982 Mork & Mindy Mindy McConnell94 episodes
1982 Mork & Mindy/Laverne & Shirley/Fonz Hour Mindy McConnell (voice)14 episodes
1985 The Twilight Zone Karen Billings1 episode: "But Can She Type?" segment
1986–1988 My Sister Sam Samantha "Sam" Russell44 episodes
1987 Faerie Tale Theatre Pearl1 episode: "The Little Mermaid"
1994 Dream On Cheryl Castorini1 episode: "From Here to Paternity"
1996 Adventures from the Book of Virtues Liese (voice)1 episode: "Self-Discipline"
1997 Life... and Stuff Ronnie Boswell5 episodes
1997–1998 101 Dalmatians: The Series Perdy (voice)20 episodes
2014 The Crazy Ones Lily1 episode: "Love Sucks"
2016 The Odd Couple Arnette1 episode: "Taffy Days"
1978 A Wedding Tracy FarrellFeature film
1980 The Girl, the Gold Watch & Everything Bonny Lee BeaumontTelevision film
1981 Swan Lake Princess Odette (voice)Feature film
1982 Remembrance of Love Marcy RabinTelevision film
1983Through Naked EyesAnne WalshTelevision film
1984Last of the Great SurvivorsLaura MatthewsTelevision film
1985This Wife for HireMarsha HarperTelevision film
1985 Wild Horses Daryl ReeseTelevision film
1986American GeishaGillian BurkeTelevision film
1988 Quiet Victory: The Charlie Wedemeyer Story Lucy WedemeyerTelevision film
1989 Do You Know the Muffin Man? Kendra DollisonTelevision film
1990 The Face of Fear Connie WeaverTelevision film
1992 Stay Tuned Helen KnableFeature film
1993The Man with Three WivesRobynTelevision film
1994 Web of Deception Ellen BeneschTelevision film
1994 A Child's Cry for Help Monica ShawTelevision film
1995Trail of TearsCheryl HarrisTelevision film
1996A Stranger to LoveAndieTelevision film
1999 Don't Look Behind You Liz CorriganTelevision film
1999 I'll Remember April Barbara CooperFeature film
2006 Christa McAuliffe: Reach for the StarsHerselfDocumentary film [14]

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  2. 1 2 Bernstein, Fred (March 1987). "Dawber hits the Mark!". People . 27: 45.
  3. "Detroit Native Pam Dawber To Reunite With 'Mork & Mindy' Alumn Robin Williams On CBS' 'The Crazy Ones'". Cbslocal. February 13, 2014. Retrieved August 16, 2014.
  4. Marshall, Garry (1997). Wake Me When It's Funny: How to Break Into Show Business and Stay. Newmarket Press. p. 16. ISBN   9781557042880.
  5. Brant, Marley (2006). Happier days: Paramount Television's classic sitcoms, 1974-1984. Billboard Books. pp. 99–100. ISBN   9780823089338.
  6. "Screen Source: Top TV Shows, 1970's". March 28, 1997. Archived from the original on October 20, 2015. Retrieved May 16, 2013.
  7. John E. Douglas, Mark Olshaker (November 1, 1998). Obsession. Simon & Schuster. ISBN   9781439107409 . Retrieved September 26, 2014. [Rebecca Schaeffer's] Sam costar Pam Dawber adored her and was devastated by her death.
  8. "Review: 'Life and Stuff'". Variety . June 6, 1997.
  9. Sara Bibel (January 24, 2014). "Pam Dawber to Reunite With Robin Williams in an Upcoming Episode of 'The Crazy Ones'". Archived from the original on January 28, 2014. Retrieved August 12, 2014.
  10. "Pam Dawber Reunites with Robin Williams". January 24, 2014. Retrieved August 16, 2014.
  11. Earl Blackwell's Celebrity Register, 1990 . Gale Research Incorporated. 1990. pp.  113, 190. ISBN   9780810368750.
  12. "Baby Boom". Los Angeles Times . April 27, 1988.
  13. "In Step With...Mark Harmon". Parade. September 2008. Archived from the original on September 8, 2012. Retrieved November 26, 2013.
  14. "Traipsing Thru Films". Retrieved May 16, 2013.