Pam Dawber

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Pam Dawber
Pam Dawber in 2012
Pamela Dawber

(1951-10-18) October 18, 1951 (age 72)
Occupation(s)Actress, producer, singer
Years active1978–present
(m. 1987)

Pamela Dawber (born October 18, 1951)[1] is an American actress best known for her lead television sitcom roles as Mindy McConnell on Mork & Mindy (1978–1982) and Samantha Russell on My Sister Sam (1986–1988).

Early life[edit]

Dawber was born in Detroit, the older of two daughters of Thelma M. (née Fisher) and Eugene E. Dawber, a commercial artist.[2] She went to Reid Elementary School in Goodrich and attended North Farmington High School and Oakland Community College (OCC), with the intention of transferring to a four-year college.[3] She deferred her studies at OCC to do some modeling work and eventually dropped out after deciding to go into modeling full-time.


Dawber moved to New York City and was initially a fashion model with Wilhelmina Models before switching to acting. She appeared in several television commercials during the 1970s (Fotomat, Noxzema, Neet, Underalls, etc.).[4][1]

Dawber screen-tested for the title role in Tabitha, a 1977–1978 situation comedy spun off from Bewitched, but the role instead went to Lisa Hartman. However, ABC executives were impressed enough with her to enroll her in its "talent development" program, which paid its participants until they could find appropriate roles. Garry Marshall recruited her from this program.

Breakthrough: Mork & Mindy[edit]

Dawber's professional breakthrough came when Marshall chose her, despite her having relatively little acting experience and not having auditioned for the part, as one of the two title characters of the ABC sitcom Mork & Mindy, which ran from 1978 to 1982. She portrayed Mindy McConnell, the comedic foil and eventual love interest for the extraterrestrial Mork from the planet Ork, played by a then-unknown Robin Williams. The show was very popular in its debut season, when it averaged at number three in the Nielsen ratings for the year.[5] The only major difficulty for her on set was that she often found it impossible to maintain the proper composure in character in the face of her co-star's comedic talent. Also, pressure came from the ABC network to sexualize her character as the series progressed, which Dawber successfully resisted, with Williams' support.

The Pirates of Penzance[edit]

Dawber sang in a 1980s Los Angeles Civic Light Opera production of Gilbert & Sullivan's The Pirates of Penzance, based on the Joseph Papp/New York Shakespeare Festival production. Her role, as Mabel, had been played by Linda Ronstadt in the New York run of the show. In the summer of 1982, Dawber performed the role of Mabel at the Minskoff Theatre in New York.

My Sister Sam[edit]

From 1986 to 1988, Dawber again had the title role in a television series, playing Samantha Russell in the CBS sitcom My Sister Sam, co-starring Rebecca Schaeffer. The series was a success in its first season, but it suffered a ratings drop in its second after moving to Saturday night. My Sister Sam was cancelled in April 1988, with half of the second season's episodes never shown on CBS, but eventually broadcast (along with all previous episodes) on USA Network.

In July 1989, over a year after the show's cancellation, Schaeffer was shot and killed in front of her apartment in Los Angeles by Robert John Bardo, an obsessed fan who had stalked her for three years. Dawber was reportedly "devastated" by her former co-star's death.[6] Dawber and her other surviving My Sister Sam co-stars, Joel Brooks, David Naughton and Jenny O'Hara, all participated in a filmed public service announcement about gun violence prevention, and Dawber herself became a gun control advocate.

Film work[edit]

Although mostly known for her television work, Dawber has starred in several films, including the comedy movie Stay Tuned (1992) with John Ritter and the period movie I'll Remember April (1999), alongside husband Mark Harmon.

Return to television[edit]

In 1997, Dawber starred in the short-lived sitcom Life... and Stuff on CBS.[7]

In 2014, she reunited with Robin Williams on his comedy series The Crazy Ones as a love interest of Williams's character.[8][9] The reunion failed to improve ratings, and it was cancelled shortly afterwards. Williams, already suffering from Lewy body disease by this time, died by suicide later that year.

Dawber is a national spokeswoman for Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. Garry K. Marshall, the film-and-television comedy writer-producer-director who enabled Dawber's professional breakthrough, died in 2016. That year, Dawber made a guest appearance on The Odd Couple in a tribute episode to Marshall, along with other Marshall alumni Ron Howard, Garry's sister Penny Marshall, Cindy Williams, Anson Williams, Don Most and Marion Ross.

For the first time in her career, she appeared with her husband and fellow actor, Mark Harmon on CBS' NCIS in 2021 for seven episodes as '"seasoned investigative journalist" Marcie Warren.[10]

Personal life[edit]

Dawber married actor Mark Harmon on March 21, 1987, in a private ceremony.[2][11] They have two sons: Sean Thomas Harmon (b. April 25, 1988),[12] also an actor, and Ty Christian Harmon (b. June 25, 1992).[13] Dawber is Roman Catholic.[14]


Year Title Role Notes
1978–1982 Mork & Mindy Mindy McConnell / Mandy Main Role, 94 episodes
1979 The Chevy Chase National Humor Test Various Television Special
1982 Mork & Mindy/Laverne & Shirley/Fonz Hour Mindy McConnell (voice) 14 episodes
1985 Faerie Tale Theatre Guest Interviewee Episode: "Grimm Party"
The Twilight Zone Karen Billings Episode: "But Can She Type?" segment
1986–1988 My Sister Sam Samantha 'Sam' Russell Main role, 44 episodes
1987 Faerie Tale Theatre Pearl Episode: "The Little Mermaid"
1988 Rosie Shelby Woods Episode: "Shelby by the Moon"
1994 Dream On Cheryl Castorini Episode: "From Here to Paternity"
1995 Aaahh!!! Real Monsters Wife (voice) Episode: "Chip Off the Old Beast / The War's Over"
1996 Adventures from the Book of Virtues Liese (voice) Episode: "Self-Discipline"
1997 Life... and Stuff Ronnie Boswell 5 episodes
1997–1998 101 Dalmatians: The Series Perdy (voice) 20 episodes
1998 Men in Black: The Series ? (voice) Episode: "The Elle of My Dreams Syndrome"
2014 The Crazy Ones Lily Episode: "Love Sucks"
2016 The Odd Couple Arnette Episode: "Taffy Days"
2021 NCIS Marcie Warren 7 episodes
Year Title Role Notes
1978 Sister Terri Sister Terri Television film
A Wedding Tracy Farrell Feature film (billed as Pamela Dawber)
1980 The Girl, the Gold Watch & Everything Bonny Lee Beaumont Television film
1981 Swan Lake Princess Odette (voice) Feature film
1982 Twilight Theatre Missy Television film (segment 'Jilted Johnny')
Remembrance of Love Marcy Rabin Television film
1983 Through Naked Eyes Anne Walsh Television film
1984 Last of the Great Survivors Laura Matthews Television film
1985 This Wife for Hire Marsha Harper Television film
Wild Horses Daryl Reese Television film
American Geisha Gillian Burke Television film
1988 Quiet Victory: The Charlie Wedemeyer Story Lucy Wedemeyer Television film
1989 Do You Know the Muffin Man? Kendra Dollison Television film
1990 The Face of Fear Connie Weaver Television film
1991 Rewrite for Murder ? Television film
1992 Stay Tuned Helen Knable Feature film
1993 The Man with Three Wives Robyn Television film
1994 Web of Deception Ellen Benesch Television film
A Child's Cry for Help Monica Shaw Television film
The Bears Who Saved Christmas Mom (voice) Television film
1995 Trail of Tears Cheryl Harris Television film
Kevin's Kitchen ? Television film
1996 A Stranger to Love Andie Television film
1999 Don't Look Behind You Liz Corrigan Television film
I'll Remember April Barbara Cooper Feature film
2006 Christa McAuliffe: Reach for the Stars Herself Television documentary film[15]


  1. ^ a b Brant, Marley (2006). Happier Days Paramount Television's Classic Sitcoms, 1974-1984. Billboard. pp. 99–100. ISBN 978-0-8230-8933-8.
  2. ^ a b Bernstein, Fred (March 1987). "Dawber hits the Mark!". People. 27: 45. Archived from the original on March 4, 2016. Retrieved June 18, 2013.
  3. ^ "Detroit Native Pam Dawber To Reunite With 'Mork & Mindy' Alumn Robin Williams On CBS' 'The Crazy Ones'". WWJ News. February 13, 2014. Retrieved August 16, 2014.
  4. ^ Marshall, Garry (1997). Wake Me When It's Funny: How to Break Into Show Business and Stay. Newmarket Press. p. 16. ISBN 978-1-5570-4288-0.
  5. ^ "Screen Source: Top TV Shows, 1970's". Arizona Macintosh Users Group. March 28, 1997. Archived from the original on October 20, 2015. Retrieved May 16, 2013.
  6. ^ Douglas, John E.; Olshaker, Mark (November 1, 1998). Obsession. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 978-1-4391-0740-9. Retrieved September 26, 2014. [Rebecca Schaeffer's] Sam costar Pam Dawber adored her and was devastated by her death.
  7. ^ "Review: 'Life and Stuff'". Variety. June 6, 1997.
  8. ^ Sara Bibel (January 24, 2014). "Pam Dawber to Reunite With Robin Williams in an Upcoming Episode of 'The Crazy Ones'". TV by the Numbers. Archived from the original on January 28, 2014. Retrieved August 12, 2014.
  9. ^ "Pam Dawber Reunites with Robin Williams". January 24, 2014. Archived from the original on August 19, 2014. Retrieved August 16, 2014.
  10. ^ Ushe, Naledi. "Mark Harmon's Wife Pam Dawber to Join Him on 'NCIS' for 4 Episodes". People. Retrieved March 17, 2021.
  11. ^ Earl Blackwell's Celebrity Register, 1990. Gale Research. 1990. pp. 113, 190. ISBN 978-0-8103-6875-0.
  12. ^ "Baby Boom". Los Angeles Times. April 27, 1988.
  13. ^ "In Step With...Mark Harmon". Parade. September 2008. Archived from the original on September 8, 2012. Retrieved November 26, 2013.
  14. ^ "Select FIRST letter of actor's first name… P". Retrieved December 24, 2023.
  15. ^ "Christa McAuliffe: Reach for the Stars". Traipsing Thru Films. Retrieved May 16, 2013.

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