Fran Drescher has been there and back.
The 63-year-old actor, cancer survivor and philanthropist is back in our newsfeeds once again because the show that made her famous is finally available on streaming. This past week, both longtime and new fans binged the beloved CBS sitcom about the lady in red when everybody else is wearing tan.
In tandem with “The Nanny” coming to HBO Max, we dished with Drescher on her favorite episodes of the popular series, as well as her least favorite episodes.
“First of all, I’m grateful,” she told TODAY of the resurgence of the show’s popularity with its debut on HBO Max. “Because it's a miracle. Everything about it was meant to be. I was meant to become famous only so I could do all the other things that I do and be able to have a platform to do them on.”
When asked about her favorite episodes, she quickly named the series premiere.
“The pilot was an amazing pilot, because you really wanted to come back and spend more time with these people you just met,” she said. “But they didn't really have the budget. They didn't want to give us all the money, so we kind of borrowed everything to do it and then as soon as we got picked up, that was when we did the animated opening titles. That was when we got that beautiful set with the curved staircase and all that.”
Drecher added that there were 150 different ways the pilot could have been done, but the overall story needed to be told in the most succinct and straightforward way possible.
“So what happens in the pilot is fish out of water, trying to show that Fran Fine is this big-hearted, gorgeous, flirty, a little self-absorbed young woman that changes the lives of this family and turns that house into a home,” Drescher explained. “That is what the whole series is about and it was in the pilot, and then you have to figure out how to tell that story over and over and over again in every episode. Nobody really wants to see anything else. That's a sitcom.”
The other memorable episode that Drescher loves is season three, episode 18, titled “Val's Boyfriend.” This episode features a rather unforgettable scene in which Fine tries sushi for the first time. Drescher's physical comedy here is seriously at its greatest, her animated facial expressions something that any acting novice could learn from.
“The other episode that I loved is when I go with C.C. to the sushi bar, and I never had sushi before and I eat the wasabi and it clear up my sinuses," she said. "That, to me, has kind of become like the candy on the conveyor belts of 'I Love Lucy.' Everybody brings it up wherever I go. So I can tell that it's one of those memorable things.”
One fan agreed this week in a viral tweet, writing," "the nanny gag where fran swallows a glob of wasabi is funnier than anything any man has ever done."
Drescher also added that she loved the many times she got to dress up as another character during "The Nanny," or the many guest stars who appeared throughout the series, including Rosie O’Donnell, Elizabeth Taylor, Bette Midler and Elton John.
On her least favorite episode, Drescher struggled to find a specific one, but then described a more visceral feeling that informed her answer. ”Some of the episodes remind me of when I was going through troubled times in my own life, and the character was in a much happier place for me to escape into when my marriage was falling apart, or when I was feeling like I was having symptoms that weren't being diagnosed correctly,” she said.
In 1999, the same year “The Nanny” ended, Drescher was diagnosed with uterine cancer after being misdiagnosed for more than two years.
“So it was towards the end of the series. My personal life was not happy. I was actually sick and undiagnosed going in whatever little break I had from one doctor to another," she said. "Also, my marriage was falling apart. I had been with Peter since I was 15 and it was a very painful time, and I wasn't used to being alone or on my own, and it was really a huge transitional period, fraught with a lot of pain.”
“People don't really realize that actors have that dual reality. Very often that episode or movie or play will remind you of what was going on behind the scenes during that period in your life, and you're really the only one that carries that experience in your head.”
For now, Drescher is living her best life, feeling blessed and grateful for every opportunity and challenge she has had to overcome. The trials and tribulations of her life have inspired her to become a fierce advocate for the LGBTQ community as well as her organization Cancer Schmancer, a movement to get cancer diagnosed earlier.
“I really always feel like if you don't apply your fame towards the greater good, then you're really wasting it,” she said. “Stuff happens, and if you can turn it into a positive, pain into a purpose, whether it’s obvious things that needs to be defended like civil liberties or you become an advocate for health, it just helps make sense out of the senseless and just deepens your life experience, really.
"I think that is what life is all about.”