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Pamela Dawber is an American actress best known for her portrayals as Mindy McConnell in Mork & Mindy. (1978–1982) and Samantha Russell in My Sister Sam (1986–1988).
Dawber was born in Detroit, the older two daughters of commercial artist Eugene E. Dawber and Thelma M, on October 18, 1951.
She attended Reid Elementary School in Goodrich and North Farmington High School, and Oakland Community College (OCC) with an intention to move to a four-year institution. She postponed her studies at OCC to pursue modeling full-time, and she eventually dropped out after deciding to pursue modeling full-time. She was only a teenager when she began modeling full-time for the top-ranked Wilhelmina Models in New York City. Leslie, her younger sister, tragically died from a congestive heart condition in December 1976 when she was only 22 years old.
Pam Dawber met her future husband, Mark Harmon, at a party in March of 1989, shortly after the cancellation of My Sister Sam. They were married only one year later, on March 21, 1987, in a private ceremony. Together they have two sons, Sean Thomas Harmon (born April 25, 1988) and Ty Christian Harmon (born June 25, 1992.)
"We're not trying to keep anything secret," Pam told People Magazine in an interview during her engagement, "but if you don't want it exploited by the press, you have to." After their marriage, Harmon told TV Insider, "It's not even a choice. It's who we are. We stay at home—a lot. I'm not a Twitter guy or a Facebook guy. Our sons aren't into that either."
Harmon is an actor himself and co-starred with Dawber in I'll Remember April (1999). He has appeared in well-known roles such as Simon Donovan in The West Wing, for which he received an Emmy Award nomination. Surpassing his previous role in popularity and notoriety was his character of Leroy Jethro Gibbs on NCIS on CBS. He was dubbed one of People's Sexiest Men Alive in 1986.
Dawber has been quoted saying, "I am so grateful for my life. I've had tough times, but then so have most people. But I'm grateful for having been able to come out on the other side of it." "It's like a train pulls up to your door, and either you get on it, or you let it go. And I just always got on the train."
Pam Dawber tried out for a role in a spinoff of Bewitched. Although she wasn't chosen, she was offered a spot in a talent development program. In this program, she was paid until she was selected for a role. Garry K. Marshall chose her for one of the two lead characters in a new ABC sitcom titled Mork & Mindy. She was an unlikely choice, as she never auditioned for the role and had no formal acting experience. The show became extremely popular in its debut season and lasted from 1978-1982. Dawber was paid $15,000 per episode. She was awarded her first People's Choice Award due to the show's success.
Her co-star on Mork & Mindy was Robin Williams, and she claimed that the most challenging part about the job had to keep her composure around his comedy. When the network insisted on sexualizing her character, Dawber refused, and Williams supported her decision against the network's wishes. They were close friends in addition to being coworkers. In her biography, she stated Williams was "such a nice person who had a gigantic heart." Garry Marshall, who initially selected Dawber for the role, said that Williams' "aim in life was to make Pam Dawber blush."
After the end of Mork & Mindy, Dawber landed another starring role as Samantha Russell on My Sister Sam's CBS sitcom in 1986. The show ran for 44 episodes and earned Dawber a second People's Choice Award for Favorite Female Performer in a New TV Program. The show was famous in its first season but dropped in ratings and was eventually taken off the air in 1988. In July of 1989, Dawber's former co-star, Rebecca Schaeffer, was shot and killed outside her apartment by an obsessive deranged fan. Dawber became a gun control advocate and filmed a public service announcement about violence prevention and the remaining former cast. She is also a national spokeswoman for Big Brothers and Big Sisters of America.
In addition to her well-known television roles, she has appeared in several movies, including Stay Tuned (1992) and I'll Remember April (1999). In 2014, she joined her former co-star Robin Williams in his comedy series The Crazy Ones, which was canceled not long after. Williams committed suicide only four months after the series' last episode. Later that year, Dawber participated in a one-hour TV special on PBS titled "Robin Williams Remembered" and was her first on-camera interview since the tragedy. She stated she was "completely and devastated." In 2017, Dawber appeared on The Odd Couple in a tribute to Garry Marshall, who was the one that plucked her from obscurity and brought her into the limelight.
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