Millions of Americans across the country were saddened Monday night, just having learned of the passing of Robin Williams, one of the greatest actors of the last half century.
Williams’ passing was felt most deeply, perhaps, within the acting community.
“It was a little surreal,” actor Orlando Jones said on The MoJo Show. “On one level, I feel conflicted because you know someone. I had the opportunity to work with Robin, which was exciting. But it’s one of those things where we spent a couple of days together – you get to know him, you work with him – but you can’t say you really know him. But you also feel such an incredible sense of loss when someone who had such an impact on your life and so many other people’s lives is gone. For me, it’s always just an uneasy, uncomfortable time. That one hit me pretty hard just because it was somebody who I had a chance to really talk to and work with.”
After news broke of Williams’ death, Jones posted a photo of the two of them on Twitter. In the photo, both actors are laughing.
And yes, there’s a story there.
Jones worked with David Duchovny in Evolution in 2001. Three years later, Duchovny made his directorial debut in House of D, which starred Williams. Well, Duchovny wanted Jones to play a part in the movie, so he gave him a call.
“I don’t mean this to insult you,” Jones recalls Duchovny saying, “but I want you to play a pimp.”
Jones wasn’t too enthralled by that, but then Duchovny said the magic words.
“It’s going to be you and Robin Williams.”
Jones was immediately on board.
“Here I am, I’m on set and we’re hanging out,” Jones said. “Robin (was being) funny and gregarious. What’s most striking about him isn’t how funny he is; what’s really most striking about him is how kind he is. He’s just mellow and sort of funny but really listening, conscious, paying attention like you’re in the room and he makes sure that everybody feels that way.”
“So he sees me walk up in my pimp outfit and he immediately starts laughing,” Jones continued. “And he’s like, ‘Really? He’s got you playing a pimp? Let me get this straight.’ And he says this in this voice like it’s a black dude from a 1970s movie. So he says, ‘You let this white man talk you into playing a short-term relationship consultant – AKA a pimp? Where is your soul, brother? How much did he pay you for this?’”
“And I turn to him and I go, ‘He’s not paying me. I paid him $500 just to hang out with you.’ And he starts laughing and the photographer snapped a photo. So I have a photo of that moment of him laughing and me and David laughing and a few people with the crew cracking up. And for me, it was one of those moments where I was like, ‘This is crazy.’ We just sort of poked fun at each other all day long and had a great time – and I have this crazy keepsake from the set.”
Still, it’s been an emotional few days for Jones, 46.
“It still takes you by surprise because for me, the Robin I know is Aladdin and (Sean Maguire in) Good Will Hunting – and I could go on all day naming all the pictures I saw him in that I was moved by,” Jones said. “When I look at somebody whose comedic work was incredible – but also the dramatic work was really recognized and incredible – he is a real icon. Along with everybody else, I just feel a tremendous sense of loss.”
That’s probably because Williams, at his core, was beyond comparison. He was unique.
“For me, what stands out really was just him,” Jones said. “What makes you remember Robin Williams is Robin Williams. (He was) just one-of-a-kind. He could just stand up and take a room or a moment if he wanted to – and it was the way he did it and how he did it, the way he could make you laugh and scream and cry with laughter. His ability to communicate was special.”