For so many of us, Robin Williams was part of our childhood through his movies. But for Lisa Jakub and Matthew Lawrence, he was a part of childhood through their work on one of those movies, Mrs. Doubtfire.
Lisa, now 35, played Williams' oldest daughter Lydia in the beloved 1993 film, while Matthew, now 34, played his son Chris. Just as Robin's real-life children Zak, Zelda and Cody were touched by his kind and generous soul, so were his onscreen kids. (You can read the reaction of Mara Wilson, who played Robin's youngest daughter in Mrs. Doubtfire, here.)
In a heartfelt blog post written Monday, Lisa, who retired from acting in 2001, remembered Williams as "an incredibly kind human being." She also recounted the time when, at 14 years old, Williams went to bat for her.
According to Lisa, her high school was "not happy" when she "went on location to film Mrs. Doubtfire for five months." The reason? "My job meant an increased workload for teachers, and they were not equipped to handle a 'non-traditional' student," she writes. "During filming, they kicked me out."
"It's devastating, at 14, to have your formal education ended," she writes. Robin "noticed I was upset," asked what was wrong, heard her explanation, and "the next day," Lisa writes, "he handed me a letter that he wrote to my school."
"He explained that I was just trying to continue my education while pursuing my career," she continues. "He wrote embarrassingly kind things about my character and my work, and requested that they reconsider and allow me to return to my classes."
When Lisa told him she "still didn't think they would take me back," he told her, "It's kinda like Amnesty International. That school just needs to know that people know the truth."
Unfortunately, Lisa was right. While her school "framed the letter" and even "hung it in the principal's office," they didn't invite her back to school.
"But here's what matters from that story. Robin stood up for me. He was in my corner," she writes. "I was only 14, but I had already seen that I was in an industry that was full of backstabbing. And it was entirely clear that Robin had my back."
"I know I said thank you at the time and I'm sure I wrote one of those stiff thank you notes that 14-year-olds write with slanting lines and spelling mistakes," she writes. "But that all seems so insufficient now."
"Even though I had not spoken with Robin in a very long time, I always assumed there would be some future opportunity to tell him that his letter changed my life. It taught me that you stand up for the things that matter. And even if your attempts fail, you tried. You told the truth. You took care of your friends. You fought back."
And on that note, Lisa hopes that we'll all speak up—now—and say something to the people who made us "feel loved and supported," letting them know that "they made you feel like you belonged somewhere, and that you were not a freak."
Lisa's onscreen brother Matthew was impacted by his time with Robin filming Mrs. Doubtfire as well. "I am devastated," he told E! News in a statement Wednesday. "He was the single most important influence in my career and not a day goes by I don't appreciate the time I got to spend with him. My deepest thoughts and prayers are with his family."
If you or someone you know needs help, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
—Additional reporting by Ruth O'Neill