Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Fran Drescher

"This show is more grounded in a real place," says Fran Drescher when comparing her newest TV series, Happily Divorced— debuting Wednesday at 10:30 p.m. ET on TV Land— with her long-running '90s hit The Nanny, which was "like a Cinderella story."
That "real place" Drescher talks about is similar to her own post-divorce relationship with ex-husband (and the show's co-executive producer) Peter Jacobson. Of course, says Drescher, some liberties are taken in the show for "more conflict and comedy."
The biggest difference is that in the series, Drescher's husband, played by John Michael Higgins, wakes up in the middle of the night with an anxiety attack and tells her that he's gay. In real life, it was Drescher who left her husband, spurred on by what she calls "a garden-variety midlife crisis." It wasn't until after their divorce that Jacobson told her he was living as a gay man (she already knew he was bisexual, she says) in New York.
By then, Drescher had already dealt with her "midlife crisis" and battled cancer. "I needed to get out of the marriage to find myself," she says. "It's been a very worthwhile journey, quite frankly for him, as well."
Drescher's post-cancer journey included many "silver linings," she says. "You climb out of the depths of despair, and I'm the type of person that needs to have control over something and turning pain into purpose and lemon into lemonades has been very healing. It's given me a depth and a meaning and a resonance to my life that I otherwise didn't have."
That included writing the best-selling book Cancer Schmancer; starting the Cancer Schmancer Movement; being instrumental in getting the Gynecologic Cancer Education and Awareness Act passed in Washington; getting appointed a public policy envoy for women's health issues by the U.S. State Department and continuing to "fight the good fight on behalf of improving greater health."
It's clear that when the Queens native, whose big break came in a part in the 1977 hitSaturday Night Fever, puts her mind to something, she makes it happen.
Take her next project, a children's book, Being Wendy, due out in November. She wrote the book after realizing she should "leverage" her new fan base of children who have discovered her by watching The Nanny reruns on TV Land and Nick at Nite. Another book is already in the works.
"I always had the big picture in my head," says Drescher. "My mom said to me — I think it was in junior high — 'You don't need to take typing; you're going to have a secretary.' That's the kind of support that made a big difference to me. I never wanted to disappoint them."
Even her B-plan, hairdressing, was ambitious. "I'd dropped out of college because I started getting work as an actress, it was splitting my attention," says Drescher. "I went in the evening to beauty school to become a hairdresser if acting didn't work out and that was the backup plan. Even when I went to hairdressing school, I wasn't thinking of working in some little shop somewhere, I imagined I would eventually become like Vidal Sassoon."
But even with her success, Drescher still has a long to-do list.
"In my life, not only my career. I'd love to live in Europe for a year and become fluent in a foreign language. I'd love to run for an elected office in politics at some point. I have another book in my head; these last 10 years need to be put into a book. … I think about adopting a child. … I can afford the help."
Sounds like The Nanny might soon need a nanny.

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