Robin Williams’ Daughter Zelda: “It’s Going to Take Time” to Get Back to My “Fun, Happy Life”

Robin Williams and daughter Zelda
Robin Williams' daughter, Zelda, appeared on the Today show six months after his suicide to talk about carrying on his legacy  Tsuni/Gamma-USA

Robin Williams' daughter Zelda is picking up where he left off. Six months after her father's suicide in August 2014, the 25-year-old actress is carrying on his legacy and presenting a "Noble Award" in honor of his humanitarian work with the Challenged Athletes Foundation.

In advance of the ceremony, Zelda appeared on the Today show on Thursday, Feb. 26, chatting with Kate Snow about life without her famous and very beloved dad.

"I think a lot of people feel his absence. But for me, especially, it's going to take a lot of work to allow myself to have the sort of fun, happy life that I had," she admitted. "But that's important. Anybody who has ever lost anyone works very hard to continue that memory in a positive way." 

One of the ways in which she's chosen to honor his memory is with a tattoo of a hummingbird on her hand. "Hummingbirds are fun and flighty and strange," she explained to Snow of the ink. "It's hard to keep them in one place, and dad was a bit like that. Keeping a conversation in one moment was impossible with him. It was a bit like trying to put a bag around a storm and hoping it didn't blow away," she continued, laughing.

Prior to his death at age 63, the actor had a long, varied career, with acclaimed roles in dramatic films like Dead Poets Society, Awakenings, and Good Will Hunting, for which he earned an Oscar nomination. He was best known, however, for making people laugh with movies including Mrs. Doubtfire and Night at the Museum — which made his suicide in August all the more tragic.

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Of the shock that followed his passing, Zelda told Snow, "It's not to say that people didn't know dad. They knew a dad that he was proud of them knowing. Because he was an incredibly kind and incredibly caring man. And he was also very private and very calm and very subdued, and so the side of him that people know and love and that is attached to their childhood is the characters that he had so much fun being. And that's what's important. And I do think that's what a lot of people will hold on to. That's not going anywhere."

She added, too, that she doesn't like to dwell on his death and chooses instead to focus on his life. "There's no point questioning it and no point blaming anyone else for it, and there's no point blaming yourself or the world or whatever the case may be," she explained, "because it happened, so you have to continue to…live and manage."

That said, she does want to draw attention to — and hopefully eliminate — the stigma of mental health. "I think one of the things that is changing, that is wonderful, is that people are finally starting to approach talking about illnesses that people can't really see," she said. "Nothing happens immediately, but I think we're on our way."

That's the part of his legacy that means the most, she added. "I think it was important for him for people to talk about important things. It meant a lot to him," she told Snow. "He didn't like people feeling like the things that were hard for them, they should go through alone. And I think that's the big legacy for him, and for me and for my brothers — that he somehow had an enormous number of people in this world who felt that he made them feel a little less alone."

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Asked what she hopes people remember of her father, she said, "People should remember what they want to remember about him. Who am I to guide what their childhood memories are of watching his movies? That's their memories…I have mine, and they are mine, and I love that. They are private and lovely and perhaps very different, but who knows?" The important thing, she noted, is just that they remember him at all. "The world keeps spinning," she said, "but that doesn't mean he was never on it."

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