A celebration of Robin Williams' life is already in the works for this month's Primetime Emmys telecast, producer Don Mischer tells TV Guide Magazine. Williams' death, announced on Monday, came just two weeks before the 66th annual awards show.
"With the tragic loss of Robin, we're trying to deal with that and figure out what to do in the right, appropriate and meaningful way," Mischer says. "It's about what can we do to properly remember Robin and create perhaps an emotional moment about Robin, knowing all that he did for all of us who love entertainment and love comedy."
Mischer and his production team worked with Williams on a variety of specials. "We have done at least 30 shows with Robin through the years, going back into the 1980s," he says. "We all know what Robin meant to the television community and to everyone, and the unique take on comedy that he brought to all of us. It's about what can we do to properly remember Robin and create perhaps an emotional moment about him."
Awards show producers frequently find themselves making last-minute changes in the wake of untimely deaths. In 2012, the Grammy Awards paid tribute to Whitney Houston just one day after she died. Mischer remembers having to adjust the 1994 Primetime Emmys after Jessica Tandy, who was nominated for an award that year, died the morning of the telecast.
Besides the tribute, Mischer expects that a number of presenters and winners will mention Williams at the podium as well.
Early in Williams' career, Mischer directed the short-lived 1977 revival of Laugh-In, which featured the comedian. Mischer later worked with Williams on specials including HBO's 1982 entry An Evening with Robin Williams. Mischer recalls how Williams' unpredictability was both a delight and a challenge for directors, particularly on live shows.
"Robin was constantly surprising us," he says. "Robin would come out on stage and go someplace you'd never dreamed he would go. He always had you off-guard. Directors would get nervous about what he was going to do. And he brought so much spontaneity. It was always refreshing."
Other projects Williams hosted for Mischer included the 1998 ABC special Christopher Reeve: A Celebration of Hope. Says Mischer: "He was always ready to devote time to trying to help people. That was a part of who this guy was."
Mischer remembers traveling once with Williams to Toronto, where the comedian performed two shows in front of a 5,000-seat theater, and then hit three or four late-night comedy clubs to do more sets. "He loved it. He was born to perform. It was the essence of what made him happy and gave him a sense of self-esteem and satisfaction. There's nobody else like that that I've ever worked with."