'Mrs. Doubtfire's' Lisa Jakub looks back at working with Robin Williams

Lisa Jakub, who co-starred alongside Robin Williams and Sally Field in Mrs. Doubtfire, talks to Yahoo Entertainment for a special episode of Are the Kids Alright? about what it was like working with them, and the letter that Williams wrote to her High School.

Video Transcript

LISA JAKUB: I'm really torn about the where are they now articles. Because my initial response is, who cares? If anybody really cared where I was, they'd google me.

[MUSIC PLAYING]

[VIDEO PLAYBACK]

LISA JAKUB: Dad?

ROBIN WILLIAMS: Yeah, honey.

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LISA JAKUB: I completely fell into the entertainment industry. When I was four years old I was in a farmer's market with my parents in Toronto, and there was a man who came up to us and said that he worked for a company. They were looking to cast a commercial, and would I be interested in coming in for an audition.

So, you know, it's kind of like asking a dog if they want to go for a ride in the car. Like I totally enthusiastically agreed, but I'm not sure I had any idea what I was really getting myself into. Sometimes I felt protected by specific people. But then on some shoots I felt very unprotected. It felt like I was just sort of thrown into a very adult world. So it definitely changed from set to set.

"Mrs. Doubtfire" was one of the sets that did it so well. Robin and Sally were so wonderful to us. Matt and Mara and I were really, really close, and so we all felt like family. Sally did an amazing job both treating us like we were kids and treating us like we were professionals.

She would bring us games and books and things to remind us, like-- hey, we're kids. We can mess around. We can have fun. We can enjoy. But we were also treated with this respect, that we were expected to show up on time, be prepared, know our lines, and be part of this work situation that was serious and intense.

[VIDEO PLAYBACK]

LISA JAKUB: Yeah.

ROBIN WILLIAMS: Oh, honey. Sorry I scared you.

[END VIDEO PLAYBACK]

LISA JAKUB: Robin was everything that you would hope he would be, and he was very open and honest with me about his issues with anxiety and depression. I was able to share with him that anxiety was something that I struggled with. And he would talk to me about mental health issues in a way that-- 14-year-olds aren't usually used to adults being really open about those sorts of personal experiences with them.

He was very insistent in making sure that I knew that substances were not going to help, that that was a route that he had gone down with addiction, and that it just made everything worse. And I think as a 14-year-old kid actor it's a really good story to get, a really good message to hear. Because that does tend to be a-- a well-worn path for a lot of kid actors. [VIDEO PLAYBACK]

ROBIN WILLIAMS: I just mean, I understand the pain you're all going through.

[END VIDEO PLAYBACK]

LISA JAKUB: One day on set I was very upset, because I had received this letter from my high school saying that it was too difficult for them to work long distance with me and that I just shouldn't come back to high school. I had been working with an on-set tutor and sending my work back to the high school, but that just wasn't working for them anymore. So they just kind of broke up with me, and I was really upset about that.

And Robin, being perceptive and-- and kind-hearted, reached out to me and was like, hey, what's going on? I told him what happened, and he wrote a letter to my school asking them to please reconsider. Would they work with me in trying to balance my education and my career? And he didn't think that that was fair.

My high school got the letter. And they framed the letter and put it up in the principal's office. But they declined to invite me back.

But what I love about that story, and what I love about Robin, it's just the fact that he would do that for someone. That he would go out of his way. That he would take the time to realize that this would be important. And even if it didn't work, somebody needed to stand up. And he did that for me.

[VIDEO PLAYBACK]

ROBIN WILLIAMS: But if there's love, dear those are the ties that bind.

[END VIDEO PLAYBACK]

LISA JAKUB: I don't know if he ever knew how massive that was, and how much I felt like he was in my corner, and how much that really shifted things for me and-- and made me think about what is the impact I want to make in the world. So by the time I got to my early 20s, I think some of the realities of the film industry started to hit me-- the superficiality, the competition, the lack of privacy, all of these things started to pile up for me. And my anxiety, my depression was pretty much just off the charts.

And I really hit this point that I think a lot of us hit, where one day we kind of wake up and go, what am I doing with my life? Eventually, I got to this point where I realized that there must be a path out there that is going to make me feel fulfilled. That really brought me to this point where I realized I want to work with my mental health and acknowledge that this is a problem for me.

I feel so grateful to have found this path that makes me excited to get up in the morning. And I am a writer. I have two books. I'm working on my third.

My first book is called "You Look Like That Girl." And so it is a memoir of growing up in the film industry and making that difficult decision to leave. And then my second book's all about anxiety, depression and panic.

The other thing that I do is I lead workshops on mental wellness, on mindfulness, on ways to use yoga and meditation as tools for anxiety, depression. And I feel like that is one of the ways I'm kind of paying forward some of the things that-- that Robin taught me by being so open.

[CLOSING MUSIC]

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