Fran Drescher is perhaps best known for her nasally voice and thick New York accent. She is also known for her role in The Nanny, the 90s sitcom where she played Fran Fine. Since the end of The Nanny in 1998, Drescher has had a few shows, but these days is mostly known for her activism. In 2007, the actress launched her Cancer Schmancer campaign, which focuses on helping diagnose cancer when it’s in its earliest stage. She’s recently dabbled in political activism as well. What else has the New York native been doing?
Fran Drescher in Film
Fran Drescher was born in Queens, New York City, on September 30, 1957. Raised in a Jewish household, her mother was a bridal consultant while her father worked for the US Navy. She attended Hillcrest High School, where she met Peter Marc Jacobson, who would become her husband, and Ray Romano, who would become a long-time friend and colleague.
In 1973, she was the first runner-up in the “Miss New York Teenager” beauty pageant, and graduated from high school two years later. She and Jacobson got married in 1978, when she was 21. The couple briefly attended Queens College in New York City, but left after one year because they weren’t able to pursue their desired acting majors.
Drescher’s first major role was as Connie in Saturday Night Fever, the iconic American dance film starring John Travolta. As Connie, she delivered the now-famous line, “Are you as good i nbed as you are on the dance floor?” Over the next couple years, she continued to appear in films, including American Hot Wax and Summer of Fear.
Through the 80s, she found a niche as a character actress, with memorable performances in 1980’s Gorp (which also cast her husband) and The Hollywood Nights, where she was able to represent her heritage as a Queens native. In 1981, she broke from her typecast to appear in Ragtime, a heavy drama film directed by New Wave screenwriter Milos Forman.
In 1983, she appeared in Doctor Detriot starring Dan Aykryod, helping her expand the diversity of roles under her belt. The next year she played Bobbi Fleckman, the publicist for the fictional metal band in mockumentary This is Spinal Tap.
In 1985, Drescher and her husband’s apartment was robbed, while they and a woman friend were home. Jacobson was beaten and restrained, and forced to watch as his wife and their friend were violently sexually assaulted by one of the robbers. Her rapist, who’s identity is unknown, was out on parole during the event, and after his arrest was convicted and sentenced to two consecutive life sentences. The event was kept hidden from the press for many years, understandable due to the traumatic nature of the event.
It was several years before Fran Drescher took another role, with 1989’s UHF, written by and starring Weird Al Yankovic. The next year had a supporting role in Robin Williams’ iconic comedy film Cadillac Man, performing as one of Williams’ mistresses. In 1991, Drescher was cast to co-star in Princesses, a short-lived sitcom on CBS. Shortly after the series’ cancellation in the middle of its first season, Drescher was seated near Jeff Sagansky, president of CBS at the time, on a flight from America to Europe. Drescher convinced Sagansky to let her and her husband pitch a show to CBS. Sagansky agreed to a meeting once they were back in Los Angeles.
Drescher and Jacobson didn’t have a pitch in mind, but while she was spending time with former Princesses co-star Twiggy Lawson and her family, noticed the culture clash occurring between herself and Twiggy’s teenage daughter. She called Peter Marc Jacobson, giving him her rough idea of a show. She suggested they create a vague spin on The Sound of Music, only with her in place of Julie Andrews’ more sophisticated character.
Once she returned to L.A., Drescher and Jacobson pitched their idea to a team of CBS’ comedy producers. Sagansky brought in Robert Sternin and Prudence Fraser, another married couple who had helped write for the 80s sitcom Who’s the Boss? The couples worked together to write the pilot for The Nanny, focused on building a character that would cultivate Drescher’s image and background of growing up in Queens. Drescher’s character was named Fran Fine, and grew up in the same part of Queens are the real-life Drescher had. Even Fine’s parents had the same name as Drescher’s real life parents.
CBS produced the pilot and a few episodes, which they premiered on November 3, 1993. Sagansky was an immediate fan of the series, and ordered a full 22-episode first season. Despite Sagansky’s support, the first season of The Nanny performed poorly in the ratings, and was almost cancelled. Some criticism was directed toward Drescher’s character being too Jewish, but Drescher and the producers objected to these criticisms and stood by the writing.
The Nanny ran for six seasons, eventually ending on June 23, 1999. During its run, the show was nominated for multiple Primetime Emmys, winning a couple, in addition to other assorted awards. Even before it ended, though, the series was in off-network syndication. In addition to local syndications, the show has also lived on at Nick at Nite, The Hallmark Channel, and TV Land. Internationally, several countries produced their own localizations. The Russian remake was so popular they even commissioned some of the original American writers to extend the series, after they’d finished recreating the existing seasons.
Fran Drescher in the 2000s
After the end of The Nanny, Fran Drescher had established herself as a true television icon. She took a few years off, following her separation and divorce from Peter Marc Jacobson. Jacobson, who came out as gay after the divorce in 1999, continued to work closely with Drescher, who in turn supported his projects. They publicly emphasized that their divorce was amicable.
On June 21, 2000, after two years of misdiagnoses, Drescher was admitted to Cedars Sinai Hospital in L.A. for uterine cancer. She immediately had a complete hysterectomy, which doctors decided completely removed the cancer, removing the need for post-operative treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation. She wrote about her experiences in what was her second book, Cancer Schmancer. The book was intended to raise awareness about the early warning signs of cancer, as she felt doctor’s inability to properly diagnose her is what enabled the cancer to progress to the point a hysterectomy was the only option.
In 2003, she turned to television, appearing a few episodes of Good Morning, Miami. The NBC sitcom was neither popular nor acclaimed, but lasted two seasons. After its cancellation, she starred once more in her own sitcom, this time on the relatively new station The WB. Living With Fran also lasted two seasons, but was cancelled after its timeslot was moved, leading to low ratings.
In 2007, on the seventh anniversary of her radical hysterectomy, Drescher announced the launch of the Cancer Schmancer Movement. The non-profit focused on carrying forward the torch of the eponymous book, emphasizing the importance of early detection and proper diagnosis in preventing deadly cancer. Her work toward these ends helped secure the unanimous passage of Johanna’s Law, an amendment to the federal Public Health Service Act which helped finance campaigns to raise awareness of gynecologic cancers among both patients and doctors.
Through the rest of the decade, Fran Drescher appeared in many shows as a guest star, most notably Entourage and The Simpsons “Treehouse of Horror XVII” halloween special. In 2010, she had a briefly-lived daytime talk show, The Fran Drescher Tawk Show. Despite strong opening ratings, the show stumbled after the first few weeks, and by the end of the third week it was cancelled. The next year, she and her ex-husband created Happily Divorced.
Happy Divorced, an original series for TV Land, was based loosely on Drescher and Jacobson’s own relationship. Drescher, who played a florist in L.A., is shocked to learn that her husband is gay after 18 years of marriage. While they divorce, they kept living together, unable to afford the single life in L.A. The show was relatively successful for a TV Land original series, and two seasons were produced, before the show was cancelled in February 2013.
On February 4, 2014, Fran Drescher played the role of the evil stepmother in the Broadway revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella. Her first Broadway performance, she reprised the role for the subsequent American tour, which lasted through April 2015. She used her pay for the Broadway performance to raise money for the Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS Easter Bonnet Competition, and subsequently became an ordained minister with the Universal Life Church monastery so she could officiate LGBT wedding ceremonies.
What is Fran Drescher Doing Now in 2017?
There’s no new film or TV projects that Drescher is slated to work with, but that doesn’t mean the Nanny has been idle. Fran Drescher has continued to expand the scope of her Cancer Schmancer foundation. Recently, Cancer Schmancer collaborated with Go Beyond Natural to help raise awareness of the cancer-causing chemicals in common foods and household products. She’s also been announced as one of the presenters at the Genii Awards.
The 57th Annual Genii Awards, which will take place on May 5th, are hosted by the nonprofit Alliance for Women in Media Southern California Foundation, and help highlight some of the charitable efforts done by women in entertainment. Drescher will be presenting the Excellence in New Media Award to Lisa Meier, Group Vice President at Time Warner Cable Media Sales.