Fans of Robin Williams have probably already heard a story or two about the episode of Happy Days that introduced Mork, an alien character who eventually got his own spinoff show. Apparently, Garry Marshall’s son wanted to see an alien on the show. A script was written, but just before shooting the actor who had been hired quit (his loss). Robin Williams eventually nabbed the gig, and recently, Ron Howard recounted that the episode was written and was being rehearsed from Monday-Wednesday before Williams even was signed on. Luckily, while the episode was expected to be shot just a couple of days later, Robin Williams immediately lit up the stage. Here’s what Howard had to say in a recent AMA:
The casting director Bob Hoffman came walking in with Robin Williams, he had his trademark suspenders on, some kind of beret, a kind of striped mime kind of t-shirt. He immediately took over, but in the most playful way, you wouldn’t believe it. Henry Winkler looked at me after this five minute torrent of unbelievable hilarious improvs that sort of included… like kissing Fonzie on the forehead which I don’t think ever made it in the episode, which was kind of just a cartoon come to life. He looked at me, we just never had never seen a burst of genius quite like that. Robin is so missed for that mind, that heart, and that talent. But it was all there on that day, and I’ll always be grateful that I got to witness it.

In the AMA, Howard also talked about how things were so bad on the set before Williams showed up that the fact he was so wonderful in the role was pretty amazing. Apparently, due to the whole not having an actor in the role until the very last minute thing, the set was nearly shut down for the week to pick up the week following. But lo and behold, Robin Williams came onstage and he just absolutely crushed the role.

In time, Robin Williams developed enough of a reputation that no one would have expected any less from him than to make an already popular show that much more innovative and bolder, even if it was only for a guest stint. But since the Happy Days role was one of Williams’ first gigs, it makes sense that he was able to show up and just completely wow those working behind-the-scenes on the series.

The Happy Days episode in question, “My Favorite Orkan” soon after led to Williams getting his own gig with Mork and Mindy. In fact, the episode is still a memorable TV moment, nearly 40 years later. It's fitting that Howard’s story about the episode is just as vivid forty years later, as well.

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