Fran Drescher first envisioned The Nanny as a cross between The Sound of Music and I Love Lucy. “It all started in my head,” Fran tells the latest issue of Closer, on newsstands now, of the television comedy, which ran from 1993 to 1999. “There was also some good luck that came into play to realize the vision of it.” The sitcom made Fran a household name and still continues to win new fans with reruns on streaming services.
“Millennials, who either weren’t alive yet or were small children, are watching it now,” Fran, 63, marvels. “They get the humor in a different way and are very drawn to the style and the costumes.” Since then, Fran has moved on to movies — she voices Eunice in the highly successful Hotel Transylvania animated trilogy — as well as other television projects, books (including her New York Times best-seller Cancer Schmancer) and even a stint on Broadway.
This holiday season, she co-starred in The Christmas Setup, a Lifetime romantic comedy. Offscreen, the actress also continues to be the guiding light of the Cancer Schmancer Movement, a nonprofit dedicated to prevention and early detection of cancer through education and advocacy. “I feel that if you are a celebrity and have as far a reach as I do,” says Fran, “you are wasting it if you are not applying it to the greater good.”
Did you always know that you wanted to grow up to be a performer?
As a child, I became almost a student of the I Love Lucy show. It was on every day in reruns. I really loved it, and I wanted to be like her. She was pretty and funny and self-deprecating. I liked the physical comedy and thought it was really funny.
So Lucille Ball was a huge influence?
Sure. Then there was a point when I was deliberating between being a writer, a hairdresser, an actress, a journalist or going into politics. Ultimately, I reasoned that the thing that seems the most fun and came the easiest was what I should try. That way, my career would never feel like work.
You still managed to achieve a lot of the dreams you first aspired to.
In hindsight, I ended up fulfilling all of the things that I found interesting. When I was still in middle school, I did become the hairdresser. I have written articles. I am a best-selling author. I did get involved in politics. We’re able to wear many hats. [My ex-husband and current writing partner] Peter [Marc Jacobson] and I even created a little version of Desilu.
What are you proudest of?
Well, when Peter and I split [in 1999], we were never spiteful with each other. We continue to share the revenue from The Nanny equally. It was our baby. I am very proud of that. I am also very proud that I consider my parents my dearest friends. I FaceTime with them every day. I’m a very devoted daughter, and I cherish them.
You also have a new member of your family!
Yes, I have a new dog! She’s a gorgeous white husky-shepherd mix with one blue eye and one brown eye. I rescued her right before the lockdown, and we really bonded together at home. I got very lucky. I think there was a lot of divine intervention involved in that.
Are you dating now?
COVID put a damper on that, so I put it on a back burner. I like my bubble small with the people that I know live mindfully. With strangers, you really don’t know that. I’m also not in a rush to get into another relationship because I’ve never been in such a satisfying relationship with myself as I am right now. I am using this opportunity to enjoy, without any pressure or stress, where I am in life.
It sounds like you have reached a good point in your life.
I’m actually very happy and very connected to myself. I always say I’m in a relationship with myself and it’s going quite well. Really, for the first time, I feel very peaceful being alone with myself. I practice Buddhist philosophy and I call myself a Bu-Jew.
That’s funny! You do seem to have a very positive outlook on life.
Well, you could waste a lot of time saying, “Why me? This wasn’t supposed to happen.” You’re entitled to do a little kicking and screaming [when things go wrong], but you have to start asking yourself, “Why did the universe present this to me? How can I benefit from it, even though it is very painful? What do I need to do?” You have to keep in mind that growth is painful. That is why they call them growing pains. You have to grab ahold of yourself and figure out how to turn this lemon into lemonade.
That’s a wonderful philosophy!
Nobody leaves this planet unscathed. But what we do with it, how we work through it and what becomes of us as a result is what makes all the difference … Always count your blessings! I think it’s hard, especially for women, to put our own needs first. You know, I started out being strong for my career, and strong for others. And it’s taken me my life to become strong for me, to put myself into the equation of my life, to make my needs more important. So now, when I feel self-doubting or rejected, I’ll tell myself, “I love you, Fran. I know how special you are.” It’s Fran and Fran until the end of time. Everybody else is just a player in the story.
It is true that you are trying to take The Nanny to Broadway?
We’re beginning to develop the Broadway musical version of it. Peter and I are writing the book and our musical partner is Rachel Bloom from Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, who is writing songs. We’ll take as much time as the universe offers us to make it as perfect as possible.
There have also been rumors of a Nanny reboot for television.
It is something that has been discussed, even the possibility of me playing the Nanny again. It is all a dream that’s a bit of a ways off because of so many factors. But how great would it be to start the TV series when we are close to launching the musical? We could have a crossover!
For this story and more, pick up the latest issue of Closer magazine, on newsstands now!