Born in Dothan, Alabama, Robert lived in several Southern towns—including Madison, Georgia—before his family settled in Louisiana when he was 12. Upon graduation from Tulane Law School, rather than take the bar exam, he opted to become an actor in New York. After years of productive work as an actor in voiceovers and commercials, family trauma inspired Harling to write his play, STEEL MAGNOLIAS. The true story chronicles his sister Susan’s struggle with diabetes and celebrates the community of women who surrounded and supported her through good times and bad.
He adapted his play into the popular film of the same title which was filmed entirely on location in Natchitoches, Louisiana, where the events which inspired the story took place. He has also written the screenplays for Soapdish (1991), The First Wives Club (1996), The Evening Star (1996) and Laws of Attraction (2004). For television, Harling created and executive produced the ABC series GCB. Current projects include writing the book for the stage musical of Soapdish.