Fran Drescher shot to superstardom as Fran Fine on The Nanny. During the sitcom’s run from 1993 to 1999, she delivered a fan-favorite performance as the unlikely, eccentric nanny of three upper class kiddos fathered by Broadway producer Maxwell Sheffield (played by British actor Charles Shaughnessy). The character’s iconic sense of style and the actress’ signature nasally New York accent — rivaled only perhaps by the likes of Maggie Wheeler’s Janice on Friends — cemented Drescher’s place as a major player in pop culture. Meanwhile, her strong comedic acting chops scored her two Emmy Award nominations for outstanding lead actress in a comedy series.
With an impressive career spanning decades, this actress-writer-producer hasn’t necessarily lost her status as a household name. However, a string of short-lived projects, painful difficulties in her personal life, and a notable turn toward activism may have stymied her clout as a leading lady in Tinseltown. So, let’s break out our loudest animal-print outfits and belt out The Nanny‘s catchy theme song. Here’s the real reason why you don’t hear from Fran Drescher anymore.
Living with Fran was overshadowed by The Nanny
Fran Drescher returned to sitcomland with the show Living with Fran in 2005. With the hopes of striking TV gold once again, our leading lady starred as a divorcée named Fran Reeves on this WB series, which centered on her blossoming romance with a much younger man, played by actor Ryan McPartlin. The premise was loosely based on Drescher’s own dating life after divorcing husband Peter Marc Jacobson, her longtime collaborator who had come out as a gay man six years earlier. "When Peter and I broke up, I realized I had never really dated," she told Entertainment Weekly. "I had never been with another man. Those are the sorts of issues we’re exploring."
Unfortunately, Drescher felt creatively "muzzled" by the network. "Nobody wanted my opinion," she said. However, she remained optimistic that the show would find both its footing and an audience, telling EW, "I’ve never given up confidence in the power of the family sitcom. People have stressful lives, and if you create a world that the viewer enjoys being in for 22 minutes a week, they will come." According to The Futon Critic, Living with Fran was sadly unable to overcome these obstacles and was ultimately canceled after a two-season run.
Her PTSD struggle
In the mid-1980s, a small dinner party held at the Los Angeles home Drescher shared with her then-husband, Jacobson, took a turn for the worst. As Drescher told Larry King, two men broke into the house, and, while one stole the couple’s belongings, the other raped the actress and one of her friends at gunpoint. When the press caught wind of the painful ordeal over a decade later, the TV star found herself reliving that trauma in the public eye.
"There was a whole segment on one of those tabloid-esque magazine TV shows that made it seem like the incident had just happened," Drescher told Glamour in 2018. She added, "I kind of had a post traumatic stress break after. … All the fear from the experience came up, all the pain, tears. I had to start all over again." A decade after Drescher was assaulted, she was diagnosed with uterine cancer. She told Australia’s Studio 10 that she found it to be "a poetic correlation" to her rape, regarding "where the body [decided] to break down and create disease." Drescher has since spoken openly about her experience. In the wake of the #MeToo movement in Hollywood, she told Glamour, "Look, I’m not the only one, [it happens to] one out of three women, that’s the facts. So the more we talk about it, the better off we are."
Happily Divorced was short-lived
Fran Drescher teamed up with her ex Peter Marc Jacobson once again in 2011 to co-create the series Happily Divorced for TV Land. This short-lived sitcom, in which the actress and her on-screen gay ex-husband, played by John Michael Higgins, are forced to continue living together due to financial constraints, served as a fictionalized take on how these two remained close friends after their split. "The global message of this show is ‘Love is love,’" Drescher told The Washington Post at the time. She added, "Just as Peter and I have, the characters are learning how to reinvent their relationship and their friendship into something else that accommodates their life now."
Unfortunately, the series suffered a similar fate to Living with Fran and failed to outshine The Nanny. "Fans of Fran Drescher’s signature nasal voice and comedy style may enjoy this sitcom throwback," read the critical consensus on Rotten Tomatoes, which delivered a score of 50 percent, "but the poor punchlines and familiar theme will keep most viewers from staying committed to Happily Divorced." According to Deadline, low ratings and mixed reviews led to the cancellation of Happily Divorced in 2013.
She became an author
While much of Drescher’s TV work has been inspired by her real life, she began sharing even more of herself off-screen as a published author. The actress-writer initially released two New York Times bestselling memoirs, 1996’s Enter Whining and 2002’s Cancer Schmancer. While the former served as a "funny autobiography," The New York Times noted that the latter focused on more "intimate events of her life," including surviving rape, battling uterine cancer, and divorcing her husband.
Drescher picked up the pen once again for the children’s book Being Wendy, which was published in 2011 and which highlighted her experiences with bullying as a child in Queens, N.Y. "I wanted to be a writer, a hairdresser, an actress, a mediator, a journalist," she told Fox News. "I wanted to do everything and what tends to happen very often in provincial places is that becomes threatening to people and they put you down a little bit." With The Nanny‘s syndication bringing the series to a new and younger audience, the multi-talent added, "I wanted to leverage that leadership that I have with that generation by offering them a children’s book that I felt would have an empowering message."
She turned to the stage
Drescher further distanced herself from Hollywood in 2014 with her Broadway debut as the Evil Stepmother in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella (via Broadway World). "I grew up in the shadow of Manhattan in Queens, N.Y.," she told PIX 11 News at the time. "And the allure of Broadway and the glamour of … the theatre was always very provocative to me." The actress went on to call it "a once-in-a-lifetime experience," before revealing how she’d reinvented the role to play more to her strengths as a performer. In addition to making "her very glamorous and sexy," she said, "I’ve infused comedy into the character."
Unfortunately, not all critics enjoyed Drescher’s take on the role as much as she enjoyed performing it. A year into her run, Jordan Riefe of The Hollywood Reporter called her performance a "less-wicked-than-obnoxious" portrayal. However, he went on to speak to her lingering star power, stating, "Despite (or because of) her trademark nasal delivery, she got a rousing ovation opening night, and fans clearly enjoyed seeing the former sitcom star in the flesh." Having clearly caught the theater bug, Drescher even playfully played it coy when asked if she’d ever try to adapt The Nanny for the stage in 2018.
Her second marriage fell apart
After calling it quits with ex-husband Peter Marc Jacobson, Fran Drescher began working on herself while navigating her newfound single life. "I learned not to be afraid to be alone … I went through expensive psychotherapy," she told ABC News in 2011. She also noted, "The truth is the man who is smart, sexy, successful and straight is very rare to find."
The actress would later find love once again with scientist-entrepreneur Dr. Shiva Ayyadurai, whom she married in 2014, just over a year after they first met, as reported by People. But Drescher and Ayyadurai’s marriage wouldn’t last long. In September 2016, Drescher announced their breakup on social media, and she has since entered the world of online dating. "Since the demise of my second marriage [I had to] truly learn to love myself," Drescher told Closer Weekly in 2018. She shared, "I started to find who I was and become more empowered." In the meantime, this multi-talent is still on the lookout for love, saying, "I am putting my trust in the universe that when I’m supposed to meet somebody, I will." She added, "I have six S’s: sexy, smart, successful, single, straight, and sane!"
She was heard, not seen
One of Fran Drescher’s steadiest on-screen gigs after The Nanny has been one in which she’s not even seen. Since 2012, she’s voiced Eunice Stein in the animated franchise Hotel Transylvania. While "delighted" to play a role in the film series, the voice actress told Good Morning America in 2018, "It’s genuinely funny. It appeals to the whole family." Those who’ve noticed some similarities between Eunice and Fran Fine aren’t alone. "She was already drawn before I even, you know, met her," Drescher revealed to Access Live at the time, "but I think I probably inspired it."
As of this writing, the Hotel Transylvania films have grossed a collective $1.3 billion worldwide, according to Box Office Mojo. However, the movies haven’t exactly been critical hits. Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation earned a score of 61 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. "Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation delivers exactly what fans will expect," read the site’s general consensus, "which means another 97 agreeably lightweight minutes of fast-paced gags and colorful animation." These flicks may have done little to bolster Drescher’s on-screen presence, but a job’s a job. As noted by Variety, the series’ fourth installment will hit theaters in December 2021.
She’s an outspoken activist
Drescher has devoted most of her time and energy to philanthropic work ever since The Nanny came to an end. According to Look to the Stars, she’s used her celebrity platform to advocate on behalf of LGBTQ+ rights and women’s healthcare. After her own battle with uterine cancer (via CNN), the actress has primarily focused on the latter issue through her organization Cancer Schmancer. "I feel like I got famous, I got cancer, and I lived to tell about it," Drescher told People in 2018.
"So that’s kind of become my life mission," she explained to the magazine. "All the work I do as an actor is to stay current so I can speak to the platforms I’m passionate about." While discussing her personal experience with the life-threatening disease, she said, "I’m not glad I had cancer. I don’t wish it on anyone. But I am better for it," stating, "It’s deepened me as a human being. It’s forced me to have a life that resonates more with other people’s needs, with compassion, and a sensitivity to other people’s pain."
She began doing stand-up comedy
Drescher branched out into a brand-new role when she tried her hand at stand-up comedy during a set for AXS TV’s Gotham Comedy Live in 2017. "I just started building an act," she told IndieWire two years later. "For years I did what I call ‘the sit-down act’ on late night talk shows. Structuring a joke, telling a story, and finishing it with a punchline. … I know how to write my brand of comedy."
The newbie stand-up comic went on to headline Showtime’s Funny Women of a Certain Age, a 2019 comedy special. According to Forbes, Carole Montgomery was the brains behind this show, which featured fellow female comedians Lynne Koplitz, Vanessa Hollingshead, Kerri Louise, and Luenell. While Drescher’s material covered her personal life (via IndieWire), the publication noted that the special itself "[addressed] what it is like to be a female in a male dominated business." Drescher went on to explain to IndieWire, "I like utilizing my talent in a variety of ways. … I don’t really need anything to do the show. It’s just me standing up there with a mic."
Has she been typecast?
Fran Drescher’s voice held her back in showbiz for years. "I didn’t always get the part," the actress told Glamour in 2018. "I’m very unusual, and while that [eventually] helped in making me a star, [it didn’t work] when people tried to put me in a traditional box." That all changed, of course, when she cleverly paired her unique vocals with a sassy attitude, flashy wardrobe, and a self-deprecating comedic shtick on The Nanny.
Since the early ’90s, Drescher’s on-screen resume hasn’t strayed too far away from her beloved alter ego. However, if she has found herself being typecast, it’s no skin off her nose. "I think I’ve always sort of been the hooker with the heart of gold," the actress quipped to Stellar in 2018 (via the Daily Mail). While she’s fully embraced her usual acting prospects, Drescher went on to note that her nasally NYC rasp has remained instantly recognizable in the general public after all these years, saying, "People say they can’t believe this is my real voice and all I can say is, ‘Who could make this up?’"
Is The Nanny getting the reboot treatment?
With television reboots all the trend in the late 2010s, every ’90s fanatic must be dying to know whether The Nanny will head back to the small screen alongside contemporaries like Will & Grace and The Conners. At the time of this writing, the jury is still out on Fran Fine’s possible return to TV… but Fran Drescher, at least, is more than game to revisit her most popular TV character.
"I’m totally down with doing it," she told People in October 2018. "I don’t know what is going on with some of these networks out there because they do not seem to be hip to the fact that there’s an obsession amongst millennials for the show and moi!" Drescher even hinted at some dream casting after rapper Cardi B paid tribute to her on Instagram with a photo of herself wearing a full-body cheetah-print ensemble and a caption comparing her look to one of Drescher’s wild outfits. "Wouldn’t she be great as my daughter?" Drescher asked People in response to the post.
"I was so flattered," she said. "I got my juices flowing and thought, ‘Wait a minute, she’s from New York, we both have funny voices, she could be my daughter!’" Are any television execs paying attention? We need a Nanny reboot!
She’s turning it around
After spending some time out of the spotlight, Fran Drescher appears to be back at the top of her game. According to Glamour, the actress has reclaimed her standing as a ’90s comedy and style icon by finding renewed popularity among millennials through social media accounts devoted to her wardrobe on The Nanny and appearances on shows like Broad City. As of this writing, she is set to star in NBC’s multi-cam comedy pilot for Uninsured (via Variety). In addition to performing stand-up gigs and appearing as Justin Long’s mom in the comedy Safe Spaces, Drescher told IndieWire that her other upcoming projects include "a daytime show for Bravo" and "a Broadway musical with Peter [Marc Jacobson]," which she’s writing. "So it’s a busy time, a fruitful time, and I’m very grateful," she shared.
During an interview with Variety in 2015, Drescher revealed, "For the first time in my life, I’m relaxed and comfortable accepting that I made it. I don’t have to work so hard all the time." She added, "And I can still, whenever I’m ready, conjure something up, because I’m in that place in my career. I have very loyal fans."