You might remember her as Mindy in the off-beat yet endearing 70s and 80s sitcom Mork and Mindy. Mork, of course, played by the late Robin Williams. And while Williams sadly is no longer with us, Pam Dawber is still alive and well.
Dawber has married to NCIS star Mark Harmon for more than three decades, and that’s how many people think of her these days. Regardless of how you know her, either as Mindy or Harmon’s wife, Pam Dawber looks strikingly different than she did in her younger years. You probably wouldn’t even recognize her if you saw her on the street. Granted, that shouldn’t come as that big a surprise considering the fact that she is now 70 years old. But while some people age poorly, Dawber looks just as good today as she did back in her early 20s!
Just last year, Dawber returned to television alongside her husband. In this video, we’ll be discussing why Dawber took such a long break away from the entertainment industry. And why she just now decided to stage a return to show business. We’ll also be covering a bit of her backstory and how she ended up on TV in the first place.
Pam Dawber’s Early Life
Born in Detroit, Michigan, on October 18, 1951, Pam Dawber was the eldest of two daughters. Her parents were Eugene E. Dawber, a commercial artist, and Thelma M. Dawber, a homemaker who spent most of her time at home raising her children.
After attending North Farmington High School in Farmington Hills, Michigan, Dawber enrolled at Michigan’s Oakland Community College, intending to eventually transfer to a four-year college to finish up her studies. And after taking a break from her schooling to do some modeling, Dawber finally dropped out of college to instead pursue modeling full-time.
After making that decision, Dawber relocated to New York City, where she worked as a fashion model with Wilhemina Models. It is a full-service modeling agency with offices in New York, LA, Chicago, Miami, and London.
Eventually, she grew tired of merely modeling and decided to switch things up by acting as well. After appearing in several TV commercials in the early 70s promoting product lines for companies such as Noxzema, Underalls, and Neet, she screen-tested for the lead role in the 1977 sitcom Tabitha, a spin-off of Bewitched.
She didn’t end up getting the role, with it instead going to actress Lisa Hartman. But the ABC brass impressed enough by her to enroll her in their talent development program. That program paid it’s participants until they could find the right roles to suit their talents.
Mork & Mindy’s creator Gary Marshall ended up recruiting her from that program when he was looking to fill the two leading roles for his new show. Even though Dawber had limited acting experience and hadn’t auditioned for the role .Marshall still felt that she would be a perfect fit.
Mork & Mindy ended up running from 1978 to 1982. Her role as Mindy McConnell served as the comedic foil and inevitable love interest of the eccentric extraterrestrial Mork who hailed from the planet Ork. Just like Dawber, Robin Williams was a relatively unknown actor at the time. Mork & Mindy, thus, successfully launched both his and Dawber’s respective acting careers.
Mork & Mindy was extremely popular for it’s initial season. Although it wouldn’t be able to retain its viewership in it’s ensuing years on the air. After four seasons, it eventually canceled in 1982.
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After Mork & Mindy
After Mork & Mindy got the ax in 1982, things seemed to be going quite well for Dawber. In 1986, she’s given the leading role in another sitcom, My Sister Sam. Not long after that, she got married to fellow-actor Mark Harmon, who had just recently ended his multi-year on the popular drama St. Elsewhere.
Then, suddenly the unthinkable happened.
My Sister Sam canceled after airing only two seasons in 1988. During the production of that show, Dawber and co-star Rebecca Schaffer who played Pam’s character’s sister, Patti, grew quite close. They had become such close friends that Schaffer even lived with Dawber and Harmon for a bit. Dawber reportedly was even close to Schaffer’s parents.
In 1980, Schaffer gunned down by a deranged fan who had become obsessed with her when she had appeared on My Sister Sam. Suddenly, Dawber’s life had been turned upside down. With the pull of a trigger, she had lost her best friend.
Dawber was absolutely devastated by the loss. In recent interviews, she has admitted to feeling a great deal of guilt over her death. Even though she was once close to Rebecca’s parents, eventually, the pain became too much to bear. And she had to let her relationship with them go.
Instead of jumping right back into acting, Dawber shifted gears hoping that she could help make a difference in the world after the death of her dear friend. She then reunited with the cast of My Sister Sam and filmed a PSA about the importance of gun control. From there, she went on to testify before congress lobbying for what she dubbed “saner gun laws”.
During that difficult time in her life, Dawber decided to take a step away from acting to instead focus her time and energy on her marriage and family. She stayed busy acting up until the late 90s but not nearly as fully committed as she had been back in the Mork & Mindy days.
Some of her most notable roles in the 90s included being a cast member in the short-lived situational comedy Life. And Stuff and voice acting in 101 Dalmatians: The Series.
By 2000, she wasn’t even acting at all.
In 2014, however, Robin Williams managed to convince her to return back to the television screen to appear on his new series The Crazy Ones. Sadly, that would also be the same year that Williams committed suicide.
Pam Dawber And Mark Harmon Initially Had To Keep Their Relationship A Secret
Dawber and Harmon were undoubtedly one of the hottest couples of the 1980s. They started dating in 1987. The year prior Harmon was listed as People Magazine as being the sexiest man alive, and Dawber’s beauty speaks for itself.
In Hollywood, the tabloids and media are ever-eager to report on every last aspect of a celebrity couples relationship. So, even though they hadn’t set out to keep their relationship a secret per se. Harmon and Dawber had to develop what they called a ‘protective strategy’ to protect themselves from the paparazzi.
Dawber and Harmon had met a a party of a mutual friend in 1986. Within a matter of months, they had gotten engaged. They got married in a private ceremony a year later and have been together ever since.
Dawber and Harmon’s Long-Awaited TV Appearance Together
Mark Harmon has played Leroy Gibbs on the crime drama series NCIS since 2003. In 2021, Pam Dawber appeared on that series as the character, Marcie. This was the first time that Dawber and Harmon had acted together in their 35 years of marriage.
Harmon and Dawber’s son, Sean, has also appeared on NCIS, portraying a younger version of Leroy for 13 years now.
NCIS had been trying to get Dawber to appear on the series for years, but the timing never felt right before. When they created the character Marcie, however, it was a role that she couldn’t refuse.
Dawber told OK Magazine that she loved her experience on NCIS so much that she can’t wait to score more roles. That being said, Harmon reportedly isn’t too thrilled about the idea of his wife going back to acting full-time.
While Harmon might be looking forward to retirement alongside his wife, Dawber feels as if this is now her shot at getting back out into show business. While, she would love to have Harmon’s support, sources close to her suggest that she’ll probably follow her heart and do what she wants.
Putting Her Career On Hold Was Dawber’s Decision
Dawber told ET back in 2016 that after she had children, she was the one that ultimately made the decision to stop chasing fame. She had already accomplished so much. She had appeared in a number one TV show, got to do Broadway, did cartoon voices – after all of that, she knew that she needed to focus her attention on the things that mattered most to her. And for Dawber, the most important thing in life is family.
She told the outlet that she wanted to be able to attend her kid’s birthday parties and drive them to school. She wanted to be the mom who brought cupcakes to school functions. Simply put, she wanted a ‘normal life’.
When asked if she thinks her role on NCIS was a one-off gig, Dawber said that she’s not sure her character’s story arc is over. While it hasn’t been confirmed that she’ll be returning to the series. It is possible that we haven’t seen the last of Marcie.
Mark Harmon, however, ended up leaving the show after the fourth episode of it’s nineteenth season.
Pam Dawber possesses the kind of beauty that only seems to get better with age. At 70, she looks every bit as good – if not better – than she did back in her 20s. Regardless of whether she chooses to continue pursuing roles in the future, it’s nice to see that she is still doing as well as she is considering the hardships she has had to contend with over the years. It’s also nice to learn that she and her husband’s marriage is still flourishing after more than three decades. How often do you hear of celebrity couples that manage to keep the spark alive for that long?
Do you think that Pam Dawber should attempt to make a career comeback, or do you think she should enjoy her retirement with Mark Harmon, who just recently ended his run on NCIS? Let us know in the comments.
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