Robin Williams’ daughter followed in the late actor’s footsteps, pursuing a career in Hollywood as an actor and director
Robin Williams passed on his comedic and acting genes to his daughter, Zelda Williams.
The late Jumanji actor welcomed his second child and only daughter on July 31, 1989, with his second wife Marsha Garces. He also is a father to son Zak with his first wife Valerie Velardi and Cody Alan with Garces. After his tragic death by suicide in 2014, all three of his children rallied together and put their efforts toward supporting mental health causes.
Zelda has taken after her father, working as an actor and director in Hollywood with her first feature-length directorial debut Lisa Frankenstein out in February 2024. However, she previously told PEOPLE in 2017 that she didn’t grow up thinking she would be following in his footsteps.
"I didn't go into acting with any ideas of where I'd wind up," she said. "Maybe this is pessimistic, but I knew I was never going to be my father, so I went into it because I love it."
From how she dealt with her father’s death to her directorial debut, here’s everything to know about Robin Williams’ daughter, Zelda Williams.
She was born in 1989
Robin and Garces welcomed their first child together on July 31, 1989. The Jumanji actor explained that Zelda’s name came from the video game The Legend of Zelda, which they played while Garces was pregnant, he said during an ad campaign with Nintendo in June 2011.
“A lot of people come up and ask if she’s named after F. Scott Fitzgerald’s wife,” Robin said in the spot. “No, it’s Zelda for The Legends of Zelda.”
Zelda, who was also in the interview, said she used to think about changing her name when she was young, but as she got older, she liked it more, and that it was chosen after a princess.
“It’s magical,” Robin explained. “As she is, which is amazing.”
She and Robin had their own family traditions, including cooking
In December 2023, Zelda spoke with PEOPLE about what the holidays meant to her family and how they upheld their traditions, like cooking, year-round.
“Dad's job made it pretty hard to keep anything like a yearly tradition really, aside from Thanksgiving or days when sets would shut down,” she said. “So we didn't really have much in the way of that, but cooking together was a big part of our family. We would eat together every Tuesday, however many family members were in town.”
She added that while “not everybody” was the most skilled in the kitchen, they all made an effort to be present.
“My brothers and my dad were not good cooks,” she joked, adding, “But my mom and I would take part, and it was a big part of our family.”
Regardless of each individual member’s cooking skills, Zelda said the point of their Tuesday cooking sessions was to have guaranteed time together amidst everyone’s busy lives.
“Being together was the important thing, because otherwise, especially with people scattered to the wind with work, it became even more special to do that," she explained.
She was accepting of her parents' divorce
When Zelda was 18, her parents split. However, she told PEOPLE in 2008 that it wasn’t a “complete surprise,” and her family was still a close unit.
“It's never easy to end,” she said. “[But] there is no bitterness — we're all a family.”
She added that she gave her parents credit for lasting nearly 20 decades, and just wished for them to be happy. Her parents’ split coincided with Robin taking on fewer roles, which she said allowed him to have a bigger presence in her life.
“He's taking more of a break,” she said at the time. “He's not doing four films a year; he's doing one or two … Now he has more time for us.”
She was “fascinated” by her dad’s acting career, inspiring her to pursue her own
Zelda grew up on sets and around legendary actors and directors from a young age, capturing her attention in the industry early in life.
"I was fascinated by it early," Zelda told Entertainment Tonight of accompanying Robin to work. "When you're that young, I don't think you grasp that it's a job, really; just like a fun thing you go and visit."
Zelda recalled being behind the scenes of the 1999 sci-fi dramedy Bicentennial Man, marveling over the “beautiful” set.
"That was when I was old enough to really understand that there was a whole bunch of jobs you could also do,” she said.
Now, Zelda has made TV appearances in shows like The Legend of Korra, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Jane The Virgin and her directorial debut, Lisa Frankenstein, is set to release in February 2024.
The movie features Cole Sprouse and Kathryn Newton as the latter's character brings a zombie to life in the spooky comedy. “Still not sure it has sunk in yet that all this stuff is just 'out' now, instead of existing as dozens of emails and texts behind the scenes,” Zelda wrote on Instagram ahead of the movie’s release.
She relied on her friends’ support after her dad’s death
Robin died by suicide on Aug. 11, 2014, at 63 years old — just two weeks after Zelda’s 25th birthday. Following his death, Zelda tweeted a passage from Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s The Little Prince.
“You – you alone will have the stars as no one else has them,” she wrote in a since-deleted tweet. “In one of the stars I shall be living. In one of them I shall be laughing. And so it will be as if all the stars were laughing, when you look at the sky at night.”
In her own words, she added: “I love you. I miss you. I’ll try to keep looking up.”
Three years later, in a conversation with PEOPLE in May 2017, Zelda said she leaned on her friends during the challenging time.
“I did have those friends who were lovely and I really appreciate when they were like, ‘Come on! Let’s go to Disneyland!’ and I was like, ‘No, not today. Having a panic attack today,’ ” she said. “But the ones who would show up and brought groceries, sat down with me and just wanted to be there, those people made a huge difference.”
The actress added that during the days when she had a particularly hard morning, she had friends who would bring everything from mimosas to eggs, helping her talk her feelings out.
“They helped enormously in making me open up to people so I didn’t keep it all in and kind of get to a place of going, ‘This will never not have happened,’ ” she said. “You have to move forward without trying to push it aside, ’cause that doesn’t help.”
She takes a social media break on the anniversary of her father’s death every year
Around the time of her father’s death anniversary every year, Zelda chooses to stay off social media, explaining that it can be difficult to balance her own emotions as well as everyone else reminiscing and grieving.
"For those who always ask why, it’s so people can memorialize Dad on the anniversary of his death however they wish without me having to feel bombarded by it, or pressured by the expectation put on myself or my family to publicly acknowledge or join in doing so,” she explained in a since-deleted post on X in August 2016.
She encouraged others to memorialize her father in whatever way they chose, before adding she would do so privately.
Four years later, in August 2020, Zelda announced that she would again be steering clear of social media around the anniversary of his death.
"It's hard for me on regular, good day to remain the person expected to graciously accept the world's need to share their memories of him and express their condolences for his loss," Zelda wrote in a since-deleted message on X, formerly known as Twitter. "As I've said in the past, while I am constantly touched by all your boundless continued love for him, some days it can feel a bit like being seen as a roadside memorial — a place, not a person — where people drive past and leave their sentiments to then go about their days comforted their love for him was witnessed."
She has been passionate about mental health advocacy since his death
In December 2021, Zelda and her brother Zak attended Bring Change to Mind's 9th annual "Revels and Revelations" event which raises awareness in support of teen mental health efforts.
Zelda also often posts messages advocating for mental health and coping with depression on her social media. A year after her father died, in September 2015, Zelda wrote a message of positivity in a since-deleted post on Instagram, urging those who are struggling to not ignore their sadness and to also cherish their moments of joy.
“And for those suffering from depression, I know how dark and endless that tunnel can feel, but if happiness seems impossible to find, please hold on to the possibility of hope, faint though it may be,” she wrote.
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