Her laugh is contagious. Her smile brightens a room when she enters it. Her frizzy hair takes over your line of vision. And you can’t forget about the high-pitched, nasally voice.
It’s hard to miss Fran Drescher, the well-known actress who took the television world by storm in the 1990s. When she’s not working on a television show or a new project, she’s focused on her charity, Cancer Schmancer. But she is not an ordinary actress.
“My mom, when I was in junior high, said, ‘You don’t need to take typing because you’re not going to be a secretary,’” Drescher said, laughing about her childhood. “Even now, doing this series, my mom said recently, ‘The show is definitely going to get picked up. You’re incredible.’ I said, ‘Ma, you’re a real backstage mother.’”
Drescher, 62, hails from Queens, where she lived until she moved out to California when she was 21 years old. In most of her work, she plays a Jewish character, often using memories from her childhood to inspire plots, phrases and more.
“I never forgot my roots, and most of my characters are deeply tied with my past,” she said. “I keep the memories of my childhood and upbringing—all of the rich and colorful characters I grew up with—very close in my heart, and it’s what Peter [Marc Jacobson, her ex-husband] and I like to write about. Inside, I still feel like that chubby girl from Queens with working-class parents. That’ll never go away. I’ve been rich and I’ve been poor. I’m not afraid to not have money.”
Best known for her star role in The Nanny on CBS from 1993-99, Drescher rapidly worked her way through Hollywood to become one of the most familiar faces on TV sets across the globe. The Nanny became an instant hit, with Drescher playing the character of Fran Fine, who accidentally became a nanny for the Sheffield family.
Broadway producer Maxwell Sheffield, played by Charles Shaughnessy, endlessly bickered with his nanny, who took care of his three children. But her quintessential Jewishness, combined with some Flushing, Queens charm, led to the creation of one of the greatest couples in television history.
“It’s a very special period in our lives,” Drescher said. “For a while, it was as good as it gets. I don’t know if anything will ever match that.”
And Drescher never forgot where she came from, no matter how successful she would evidently become.
Not only did she meet Jacobson in Queens, but it’s where she found her true identity. While attending Hillcrest High School, she came to the realization of a lifetime: she needed to be an actress. Once the couple dropped out of Queens College and departed for California, everything fell right into place.
“There’s opportunity, ambition, luck and talent, and it all has to come together in the right harmony at the right time,” she said. “You have to be ready. I have been successful for two and a half, almost three decades.”
While Drescher and Jacobson split in 1999, the memories of their early days in Flushing still inspire both of them. The two still work together on projects, including Happily Divorced, one of her most popular shows after The Nanny, which ran from 2011-13 for 34 episodes.
Now, Drescher is ready to take the world by storm in a refreshing way.
Last month, the now-California resident announced she is bringing The Nanny back. No, it’s not a return of the TV series in the form of a reboot. Instead, Fran Fine will take over Broadway within the next few years.
“It’s something I’ve been working on for a couple of years with Peter, trying to crack the code of how to successfully take a series and turn it into a two-and-a-half-hour musical,” Drescher said. “It’s never been done successfully, and we’re hoping that we’re going to break the mold.”
Drescher has teamed up with director Marc Bruni, who led the production for Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, as well as the Zeilinger brothers. Rachel Bloom, who played the lead role in Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, was tabbed as the main music writer with Adam Schlesinger.
Finally, Drescher believes The Nanny can come back in a way that will not only be popular with old fans, but it will resonate with a new generation that might not be familiar with her work.
“I think the show is so beloved, and it was almost a musical without a musical,” she said. “It led itself to being on Broadway because Mr. Sheffield was a Broadway producer and he was always putting on shows.”
Unfortunately, Drescher won’t be playing the lead role in the musical, which she said won’t hit a Broadway stage for at least “a couple of years.” However, the play is “taking a really wonderful, healthy, exciting shape.”
While the finer details of the The Nanny in a musical format have yet to be announced, Drescher described how she and Jacobson came up with this new project.
“I wrote a children’s book called Being Wendy, and I said, ‘Don’t you think that would be a good, family Broadway musical?’” she explained. “He said, ‘If we’re going to do a Broadway musical, we should do it as The Nanny.’ It was like ding, ding, ding. The next call I made was to Sony, and we’ve been working on it ever since.”
The ironic part of the announcement, Drescher explained, is that fans never had a chance to see Mr. Sheffield’s work on Broadway. All they could witness were his arguments with his main competitor, producer Andrew Lloyd Webber. Now, lovers of The Nanny will get to see what Drescher said is a natural progression of the show.
“It just feels like the show is a musical waiting to happen,” Drescher said. “It’s larger than life. The thing about a musical is, when the words aren’t enough for the emotions, they break into song. When the song isn’t enough for the emotions, they break into dance. The Nanny series has been waiting for two decades to break into song and dance.”