Who would have thought the nasally-voiced nanny from Jamaica, Queens would someday be president? Fran Drescher did! Emmy nominated for bringing Fran Fine to TV screens in the hit 90s sitcom The Nanny, Fran Drescher is a cancer survivor, author, producer, actress in various movies and TV shows, community advocate and current President of the Screen Actors Guild. And long before a generation of celebrities turned themselves into a brand, Drescher built a career on and perfected the art of being herself.
Fran Drescher early movies and TV shows
Francine Joy “Fran” Drescher attended Hillcrest High School in New York (alongside fellow sitcom star Ray Romano) and Queens College, but dropped out the first year because all the acting classes were filled. Fran then enrolled in cosmetology school, but her continued dream was to be an actress.
She got her first break in a small role as dancer Connie in 1977’s megahit, Saturday Night Fever, where she shared the disco floor with John Travolta. American Hot Wax and Summer of Fear – both 1978 films – followed. Drescher was told to lose her nasally voice and New York accent, but when she did, the work didn’t come. As a matter of fact, what she would come to learn was that people wanted to hire her when she spoke with her natural voice — the voice that has since made her famous.
The 1980s found Drescher busy as a character actress, with roles in films such as Gorp (1980), Doctor Detroit (1983), UHF (1989), Cadillac Man (1990) and memorably, This is Spinal Tap (1984). Guest appearance on TV also kept Drescher relevant, showing up in Who’s The Boss?, Night Court and ALF.
The Nanny makes Drescher an icon
When The Nanny first hit the airwaves in 1993, it was an instant hit and continued to draw large audiences until it went off the air in 1999. It ultimately made Fran Drescher a star and fashion influencer, yet she credits being in the right place at the right time as the key to her success.
It was on a plane trip to Paris with ex-husband Peter Marc Jacobson that she bumped into then president of CBS, Jeff Sagansky. She convinced him to hear her idea for a sitcom and within a year, the pilot was filmed. She told Marie Claire, “I had run into the bathroom to put some makeup on and came out to start talking to him basically saying, ‘Have I got a show for you! And me!‘” Sagansky later said that he was impressed with Drescher’s intelligence, persistence and charm.
Fran Drescher movies and TV shows after The Nanny
Her work outside of The Nanny included 1996’s Jack, directed by Francis Ford Coppola and Picking Up the Pieces, co-starring Woody Allen. Her return to television in the early 2000s was not quite as successful. Living With Fran in 2005 only lasted two seasons and a sitcom, The New Thirty, also starring Rosie O’Donnell, never got off the pages.
A three-week test run of her own daytime talk show, The Fran Drescher Tawk Show, got shelved while Happily Divorced on TVland lasted two years. Drescher played Fran Lovett, a florist coping with the realization that her husband (played by Joh Michael Higgins) is gay, while in real life, Fran’s co-creator and former husband Jacobson had also come out as gay.
Fran Drescher didn’t limit her talent to just movies and TV shows. She enjoyed the stage as well, making her Broadway debut in 2014 in the revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella as the evil stepmother. Off-Broadway saw Drescher in Love, Loss and What I Wore and Camelot at Lincoln Center with the New York Philharmonic.
Staying strong in the midst of tragedy
While all this sounds like a charmed life, Drescher has endured many hardships. In 1985, two armed robbers broke into her Los Angeles apartment and assaulted her and her female friend. She didn’t tell her story until she went on The Larry King Show many years later. Although it was a traumatic experience that took years of therapy to recover from, Drescher found ways to work through her pain.
In 2000, Drescher also underwent a radical hysterectomy to treat her uterine cancer — this after experiencing symptoms for two years and being misdiagnosed by eight doctors. Today, she is declared cancer-free. In her book Cancer Schmancer, she writes: “My whole life has been about changing negatives into positives.”
“I was going to learn what I needed to learn, ask questions, become partners with my doctor instead of having some kind of parent/child relationship.” Outside her Hollywood work, she continues to raise awareness of early warning signs of cancer with the Cancer Schmancer Movement, a non-profit organization. “It’s been an amazing journey,” she told PEOPLE of her health. “I have learned tremendous life lessons and experienced incredible silver linings as a result of this experience.”
What Fran Drescher is up to today
So what does Drescher attribute to her phenomenal success? “It’s trying to see everything as an opportunity, which is absolutely very Buddhist and I do consider myself a BuJew – a Buddhist Jew,” Drescher said to First for Women. “I always say I’m not glad I had cancer and I don’t wish it on anyone, but I am going to own it. So by doing that it actually opens up a world of things that I probably would never have been involved with – starting my foundation, going to Washington, becoming a lobbyist, helping to make a law into legislation.”
Add to that array of accomplishments Drescher’s current job as President of Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, commonly known as SAG-AFTRA. Drescher says: “All of this kind of fueled my desire to stay relevant. I’m a passionate person about a lot of things whether it be civil liberties for those who are marginalized or health issues. I’m a writer. I do so many things creatively and I think I have to do a lot of things in order to feel satisfied. So I’m always trying to see why is this presented to me and how can I turn this experience into a learning one or something positive.”
On July 13, 2023, Drescher announced her union would strike, aligning themselves with the Writers Strike that began two months prior. At this time, the WGA is voting to accept conditions offered to them.
Latest news on The Nanny reboot
In May of 2023, before the strike, Drescher went on SiriusXM’s The Julie Mason Show, revealing that a reunion was on the horizon. “At least pre-strike, we were in conversations with Sony, our parent company, to figure out what we could do that would be fun and exciting for the fans to tune into,” Drescher said. “Hopefully the strike will be over soon enough, a deal can be forged with the Writers Guild and the [Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers], and we’ll be able to go back to figuring out what we want to do for a Nanny kind of reunion.”
Until we know more, you can watch every season of The Nanny on COZI TV — and they will also be airing a special marathon in October to celebrate the show’s 30th anniversary.
Fran finds joy no matter what
With an infectious personality and contagious light that shines out of her, Drescher has helped make people laugh for decades. She also enjoys bringing joy into her own life. “I like cooking and hosting people in my home,” she says. “It’s really the simple things in my life that make me smile. I’m very blessed.” Drescher summed up her life’s journey to Marie Claire: “You’re dealt a hand of cards and you have to play it as courageously and elegantly as you possibly can.” We couldn’t agree more!
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