When looking back at his time spent working with Robin Williams in Mrs. Doubtfire, Matthew Lawrence recalls learning a slew of lessons from the comedic genius.
Lawrence spoke at the first-ever ’90s Con this past Saturday on the lessons he learned during his time shooting the 1993 film alongside Williams.
“He was the first adult who really let me in on his condition. Like, full-on let me in,” the 42-year-old said. “I mean, as bright as he was on camera — I would go visit him in his trailer to talk to him — it was painful for him. It’s really painful for him. He didn’t hide it. He talked to me about it.”
Lawrence said Williams, who died at 63 in 2014 after taking his own life, had given him “a gift” through a very profound piece of advice.
“‘Don’t ever do drugs. Especially cocaine,'” Lawrence recalled Williams saying.
“He was very serious. He was like, ‘You know when you come to my trailer and you see me like that?’ He’s like, ‘That’s the reason why. And now I’m fighting for the rest of my life because I spent 10 years doing something very stupid every day. Do not do it.’ I stayed away from it because of him.”
Lawrence went on to praise, Williams, sharing how the late actor was a major reason he landed the part of Chris Hillard — Williams’ character’s son — in the iconic film. At first, the Boy Meets World alum was “a hair away” from snagging the role.
“There was another strong choice that everybody else wanted. The studio wanted this other boy … I don’t know who it was, I was only 9 years old. But I did start to sense that something was up because there was like this little pause and little awkwardness and I was always the quiet one,” he said.
But during the two’s screen test audition, Lawrence said that Williams wanted to “do something” that would help launch him to first pick.
“He very secretly reached behind my back and pinched me so hard,” he recalled, making a sound indicating his pain at that moment. “The studio started bawling and wept. I got the role because of that little moment over the other boy. It was all Robin Williams. ‘I know what I’m going to do to get this kid this job.’ Thank you, Rob.”
Mara Wilson also starred in Mrs. Doubtfire, shared how she was thankful for the connection she made with William during her time working with him.
“Robin had a massive influence on me,” said Wilson, 34.
“He, during filming, would talk to me a lot about his issues with mental health and addiction. And I have had a lifelong struggle with anxiety and depression. So we we had those conversations.”
Added Wilson, “I think it was so good for me to realize that it’s okay to talk about this. It’s okay to be vulnerable. And it was really the first time that I had someone sit down with me and go, ‘I understand that you have anxiety and you are not alone. You’re not just some weirdo freak who has something going on that nobody’s going to understand, that everybody’s going to reject you for.’ Like, this is okay and there are things you can do, and you will be alright.”
With a background in the creative and educational fields, Amelia Finefrock is freelance writer, singer-songwriter and nanny based in Chicago.
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