We have loved Fran Drescher ever since she took that first cab over the bridge from Flushing to the Sheffield’s door.
Now the star of The Nanny is back on TV in the new NBC sitcom Indebted. In it she plays Debbie, an overbearing mother who moves in with her adult son (Adam Pally) and his wife (Abby Elliott) after she and her husband (Steven Weber) go broke from spending all of their savings on medical expenses.
Off-screen Drescher has been busy with her foundation, Cancer Schmancer, which educates people on how they can eliminate causes of cancer in their everyday lives. She started the organization after she was diagnosed with uterine cancer 20 years ago.
Recently Drescher sat down with NewNowNext to discuss her return to prime time, co-starring with Carly Rae Jepsen in Cinderella, and the current status of that much-anticipated Nanny musical.
Hi, Fran! I’ve seen people online talk about how they’re watching their Nanny DVD boxed sets while they’re self-isolating. How do you feel about giving people comfort in these dark times?
It’s great! I’m thrilled. I was asking Sony for years to do the whole series on DVD. For a long time they just had the first three seasons. It’s a lovely gift. You can watch it whenever you want, and there are no commercials!
So let’s talk about your new show, Indebted. What drew you to the project?
Well, it kind of just fell in my lap. It was already greenlit. I talked about it to Peter [Marc Jacobson], my gay ex-husband, and he said, “There’s no harm in taking a meeting. You can always turn them down if they offer you the role.” In the original pilot my character is described as “a Fran Drescher type.” Originally it wasn’t going to be as large a role. Then, just because it’s me, the demands of it became more significant. I became more of an integral part of each story.
You also spent some time on Broadway. I saw you as the wicked stepmother in Cinderella, and you were fantastic.
What was it like being in that show and acting opposite Carly Rae Jepsen?
I had an amazing time. It was supposed to be 10 weeks; I ended up doing six months.
I just really enjoyed it. I learned so much. I had such a good time enmeshing myself into the Broadway community. They did a caricature of me that hangs on the wall at Sardi’s. I was a presenter at the Tonys. I announced nominees with the music team from Ice Princess—or what’s that Disney show?
Yeah, Frozen. I would walk from my apartment on the Upper West Side to the theater. It was just a very magical time.
Have you talked to Carly Rae since the show ended?
I don’t talk to her that much, no. I mean, a little bit here and there, but not a lot. She was always writing music on the side. It wasn’t like we really socialized outside the show, but we did enjoy working with each other.
Speaking of Broadway, what’s the update on the musical adaptation of The Nanny with you and Rachel Bloom?
She’s writing the music now. We handed her the book. Soon we’re going to be able to go over the whole first act with the music, and then Peter and I will have to get notes on that and smooth out the book. The words and music are seamless, and we’re really thrilled about it.
Broadway productions take a long time, but do you have an opening date in mind?
You know, we haven’t booked the theater yet, but I would say probably in like two years. The casting is going to be very meticulous. It’s got to be right. I mean, this is an homage to something that’s very established and still current. So the actors who play these parts are going to have to be spectacular and make it their own event.
Are you thinking of casting an unknown for the part of the nanny?
We’re open to anything. I’ve got a pop star in mind, but I can’t really talk about it. But they may do a talent search. You just don’t know. If they can find the next Barbra Streisand, more power to them.
Wendy Williams recently asked her viewers on social media if they would watch a Nanny TV reboot with Cardi B.
That’s funny. I mean, I’m legally obliged not to do a reboot on TV until the show opens or just before the show opens. Peter and I thought it would be great to do the show within the show. So maybe Mr. Sheffield on TV is producing a show based on what happened between him and Fran. Then you have the actors on Broadway crossing over into the series as the talent in his Broadway show.
Peter thought of that. Everybody likes the idea, but we can’t really work in tandem quite yet. We have to focus on the musical. Having said that, I do love the idea of bringing the series into the now and getting somebody that’s funny—ethnic with a funny voice—to do a new version of the character, and that could be Cardi B.
Do people ever bring up The Beautician and the Beast? I saw it opening weekend in the theaters back in the day. I love that movie.
Yes, they do. Even Sherry Lansing, who was the president of Paramount Pictures then, said, “I’d rather have every movie not be a huge box office hit but have the longevity of The Beautician and the Beast in video and cable sales worldwide.” So, you know, it opened the same weekend as Star Wars [the 1997 Special Edition], and that was probably a mistake. It didn’t really get huge numbers and didn’t stay in the theaters more than a couple of weeks. But people really enjoy it from one generation to another. It does have longevity.