In 1993, Lisa Jakub won America's hearts as Lydia Hillard, the eldest daughter of Robin Williams's character in Mrs. Doubtfire. Now, 25 years later, Jakub sat down with Today to talk about what the film meant to her and how her relationship with the late Williams shaped her into the woman she is today.
Jakub immediately felt at home with her onscreen siblings:
I felt like I met my siblings for the first time. I'm an only child, and so I was so excited to have siblings, even if they were fake siblings. There were several kids there, auditioning for the three children's roles. And they put Matt (Lawrence) and Mara (Wilson) and I together very quickly. And we just felt like family. I feel like that chemistry was very obvious.
Lisa also developed a close relationship to Robin Williams, who famously played a man cross-dressing as a British nanny to spend time with his children after their mother divorces him:
I learned so much from Robin. I learned how to be in the moment. One of the things that made Robin so brilliant at what he did was as an actor, as a performer, he was present. He was reacting to what was going on around him. And I think that that's a really valuable thing, just to learn about life; to be in that moment so you can really experience it and react in an authentic way.
Though Williams was known for being somewhat guarded, he made a profound impact on Jakub by opening up to her:
Something that Robin taught me that was really, really important is that he was very open with me about his issues with addiction and depression. And I really appreciated that. I was 14 at the time that we shot 'Mrs. Doubtfire,' and I think he thought that was, you know, a prime time to really be open with me and honest. And I have dealt with depression, and I have anxiety, and the fact that he was that open, that honest, that willing to talk to me about it was something that was really special.
Jakub has carried this lesson forward into the rest of her life.
It has inspired me in my struggles to not be ashamed of those things, to talk openly about them. And I really feel like that's a way that we can change the stigma around mental health and really help people and make a difference. And so I will always be very grateful to him for that.
Of course, even after their time together, Robin's child co-stars had trouble recognizing him the first time they saw him in makeup:
(Director) Chris Columbus, when we were doing rehearsals for the movie, introduced us to his 'mother.' And it was actually Mrs. Doubtfire. So, Matt and I had already had the experience of thinking that Mrs. Doubtfire was just sort of this older woman that we were just chatting with, and then realizing that it was Robin.
Lisa also has incredibly fond memories of her onscreen mother, Sally Field:
She was a mom to all of us .She is such a sweet and caring person. She would always come by our trailers and drop off books and games and ask how we were doing and make sure that everything was good. It can be really hard being a kid on set. You're balancing schoolwork and being a professional actor. And Sally just was constantly making sure that as kids, we were OK.
At the end of the day, Jakub is glad Mrs. Doubtfire's story of divorce is able to resonate with so many:
I think the divorce aspect of 'Mrs. Doubtfire' was so important. I think it was monumental that the parents did not get back together at the end. I was 14 when we filmed 'Mrs. Doubtfire.' I'm about to turn 40, and I still have people who come up to me and hug me and cry and want to talk about their parents' divorce and how the film helped them to know that it was OK, that it was going to be OK. That families look different, but that doesn't mean that they're less of a family. I think that that message of love and compassion and acceptance is really important. And I think that touches people.