Return of a legend
He’s 62, back on the box, loved up and having the time of his life, Robin Williams tells Michele Manelis
WHEN Robin Williams burst onto our screens in 1978 as the irrepressible alien in Mork & Mindy, it was unlikely he’d segue into an illustrious movie star career. But starring roles in the hits Good Morning, Vietnam, in 1987, and The Fisher King, in 1991, earned him two Oscar nominations, and in 1997 he walked away with the Best Supporting Actor award for Good Will Hunting.
Now, more than three decades later, Williams joins the ever- increasing trend of A- listers flocking to the small screen ( most recently, Halle Berry in the upcoming Extant and Matthew McConaughey’s True Detective).
“Yes, it’s been 32 years. I don’t remember much of those days; I was pretty much on everything but skates,” he jokes, referring to his addiction to cocaine in the ’ 80s.
“Back then, there were three television networks and wired meant something totally different.”
The swing to contemporary television also brings the return of other TV veterans, notably, Michael J. Fox. Says Williams, “It’s great. There’s room for old, there’s room for new.”
These days, the 62- year- old actor is in good spirits and excited about this new stage in his career.
The Crazy Ones is created by David E. Kelley ( L. A. Law, The Practice, Ally McBeal) about a genius advertising executive who works with his tightly wound daughter, played by Sarah Michelle Gellar ( Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Ringer).
Williams shares some similarities with his character.
“He’s a guy who’s led an interesting life; multiple marriages and rehab. I have done the research,” he smiles.
“It’s interesting to see the parallels in terms of his life. He’s trying to be an ideas man in a time when ideas are so changeable.
“He’s trying to stay relevant and that’s the real struggle.”
Although Williams continues to perform stand- up comedy, as well as appearing in several upcoming movies such as The Butler,
The Angriest Man in Brooklyn and Boulevard, the idea of a regular job appealed to him. I’m looking forward to the rhythm of a daily gig. It’s comforting in some ways, but hard work.”
The rigorous schedule a TV series is a lot of pressure both physically and mentally for any actor, but in particular for Williams, who still maintains his trademark manic high energy.
Currently in good health, in 2009 he was hospitalised for heart problems and underwent surgery to replace an aortic valve. He deadpans, “I’m fine. I have a cow valve so I can crap standing up now.
“My heart is in good shape. They don’t work me so hard that I’m worried about my health. This isn’t an action series; I’m not climbing buildings.”
Unlike his Mork days which required much improvisation, he says, “The good news is the writing is really good on the show and there’s not a need to try to pump it up.
“And as far as pressure, I don’t have to write the show, and there’s a great backup with Sarah Michelle Gellar and Haymish Linklater ( The New Adventures of Old Christine). It’s a really good cast.”
The show premiered in the US to largely positive reviews.
“In a couple of weeks we’ll find out if we’re picked up. Right now, it’s just: do the show and see what happens; so far so good.”
Contrary to recent reports citing his newfound enthusiasm for stable employment coincides with alleged financial obligations to his ex- wives, he says, “No, that’s not true. I don’t have to work, and I’m doing fine financially, thanks.”
Since October 2011, Williams has been married to his third wife, Susan Schneider, with whom he lives in his hometown of San Francisco. She follows ex- wife Marsha Garces ( from 1989 to 2008), with whom he fell in love during his first marriage to Valerie Velardi ( from 1978 to 1988) while she was employed as nanny to their son, Zachary, now 30. Williams has two other children: Zelda, 24, and Cody, 22, from his marriage to Garces.
His face lights up when speaking of Schneider.
“She’s amazing. She’s an artist and just had a show of her paintings and I really appreciate her on that level.”
He pauses. “She’s my friend, she’s my lover, she’s also a great adviser.
“This is a really good time in my life; a wonderful, wonderful time.
“I’m 62. I’m not trying to look younger; I’m not trying to be younger. It’s a really good time to be me.”
THE CRAZY ONES Tonight, 8pm, FOX8 ( Foxtel)