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Fran Drescher On Almost Running For Office, Taking Control Of Your Health, And 'The Nanny'

"Our fan base seems to be chomping at the bit."

The A Plus Interview reimagines the celebrity interview by inviting artists to answer a short series of brief, poignant questions that strive to be more meaningful than those asked by others. Visit on the last Thursday of each month for the latest installment.

She was the flashy girl from Flushing on The Nanny back in the '90s, but rest assured that Fran Drescher is still the bubbliest, funniest, and most genuine person out there. As a celebrity, it's more than just the limelight for her, it's about what she can do to uplift others — whether that be a smile or something more worthwhile: educating them on what's happening in health care.

And, yes, she still has her signature nasally voice, recognizable laugh, and thick accent.

It was in 2000, the year after The Nanny was over, when Drescher was finally diagnosed with uterine cancer after two years of misdiagnosis by numerous doctors. Since it was found in Stage 1, treatment was administered swiftly and Drescher was given the all-clear. In 2007, she founded Cancer Schmancer — based on the same name of her 2002 memoir — as a way to spread the knowledge that women, but really everyone, should take a more active role in their health. As Drescher says: "I got famous, then I got cancer, and now I live to talk about it."

For this month's A Plus Interview, we spoke with Drescher ahead of a recent Healthline panel about The Nanny's past and (potential) future. Plus, we touch on how she almost ran for office but doesn't view politics as the platform for her now as well as how she is using Cancer Schmancer to help educate others about their own health by putting her personal battle front and center. 

Photo Credit: CBS
Photo Credit: CBS

A PLUS: I’ve been dying to ask you this, but is there any specific reason why the major TV characters you’ve played — on “The Nanny,” “Living With Fran,” and “Happily Divorced” — have all been named Fran?

FRAN DRESCHER: I got it in my head a long time ago that the really big stars very often use their own name. I thought I wanted to be Fran because my persona almost superseded the character and so, for that reason, I thought it distinguished me as someone who was in good company. Tony Danza was always Tony, Lucille Ball was always Lucy, and Mary Tyler Moore was always Mary. I don't know why, but I got it in my head and it just stuck. That was it, I just became Fran. There really weren't any Frans, so that, too, kind of made it singular and easy to identify with me.

You and Peter Marc Jacobson had a great partnership and created your own projects, so that must have made it easy to put your stamp on characters, right?

I was kind of getting frustrated with the business. I felt like I understood my brand of comedy best with Peter and so I was very lucky to convince CBS of the same — so it all began with The Nanny. I thought I needed to get on the inside in a big way because I feel like I can contribute a lot and I know what makes me click — and so does Peter. I was able to convince the president of CBS and, when we pitched The Nanny with the one-liner that it's like The Sound of Music only, instead of Julie Andrews, I come to the door. That was kind of the beginning of it all. 

Now, I'm rarely just a gun for hire. I do that but only when it's a one-shot deal like I just acted in a movie [The Creatress], I appeared on Broad City after being offered the part, and I'm in the Hotel Transylvania franchise where I just do what I'm told. If I'm committed to something that's going to take up a big chunk of my life, like a series, I really need to be a showrunner, develop my own idea, bring in my own team, and make a show that fits me hand-in-glove.

Photo Credit: CBS
Photo Credit: CBS

That makes me think about the trend we see today of women in Hollywood creating their own projects or projects for their fellow actresses to star in.

Yeah, well you're living in the character's shoes a long time so you really want to like it. You don't want it to be like a shoe that's a little tight, always rubs, and kind of looks pretty — but isn't as comfortable as it should be. If you're working week in and week out in that character's skin, you know? I'm very grateful for the success I've had because it gives me entree to speak on the platforms that I'm most passionate about — namely health, civil liberties, art, education, and so on and so forth. I've founded Cancer Schmancer, so that's a big thrust in my life and gives me a great deal of purpose. As a survivor, turning pain into purpose can be very healing.

You’ve said, “My whole life has been about changing negatives into positives.” How do you, personally, go about fulfilling this mantra each and every day?

I not only have become a health activist and advocate, but I've also tried to practice the Buddhist philosophy every day, and I try to keep my mind, body, and spirit in balance every day in spite of the interferences which may perturb that balance. I am mindful of that and I know how to fortify what may be suffering as a consequence of stress, trauma, flu season, extreme weather conditions, exposure to other sick people, lack of sleep — you name it, there's a million things. This has become a great effort for me and one I really think is a component we all must try to take on in our daily practice. 

We just finished Fran Drescher's Health Summit, a third year in a row now, and that is a master class. You come in the morning and it's an all-day event ... with no breaks and you just get your pen and paper and you start taking notes. When you leave, you hopefully are transformed into a medical consumer and you have a game plan to share with your family on how to reduce the risk of all sorts of diseases. 

I think we can effectively shift this toxic paradigm we're currently wallowing in thanks to a lot of unconscionable big business who are getting richer while our health becomes poorer. The power of purchase is loud and the more I can motivate people to be mindful consumers, to support the companies that do not make profit at the expense of everything that is of true value to all of us, the more we will become a healthier nation. Once you wake up and smell the coffee, it's hard to go back to sleep. So I'm sounding the alarm.

Photo Credit: Healthline
Photo Credit: Healthline

It’s been 10 years since you started Cancer Schmancer. A decade later, what’s the organization’s mission? Has that goal changed or evolved at all?

The cornerstone of Cancer Schmancer was early detection. I was very lucky, even after two years of doctors, I was still in Stage 1. When you're in Stage 1 of your cancer, your survival rate is exponentially increased. I began to question why everyone isn't being diagnosed in Stage 1? I mean, this is America. Part of that is what we as future medical consumers don't know, which is killing us. Our ignorance is killing us. We need to know and that's where places like Healthline and Cancer Schmancer come in handy because we educate and empower with knowledge so you can go to the doctor more informed.

The best gift you can give your family and friends is a long and healthy life. Women, to this day, remain the dominant caregiving of the child, the spouse, and the elder in almost every American home. She is the largest consumer so she wields a lot of power, so we target her a lot. It must begin with her. It's too easy to slip into that place where you put your family first and you ignore those early warning whispers. What we try and do is teach people to tell yourself this could be nothing but, God forbid, it's something I want to catch it at the whisper stage when it's most curable because I'm useless to my family if I'm six feet under.

I read you once considered running for New York senate after Hillary Clinton left. Why did you decide not to? Is it something you’ve ruled out?

Yes, I have been asked to run for office. I entertained the idea of running for the senate, but the truth of the matter is I feel like it's a broken system that needs to be circumvented for the moment. I need to reach whomever I can through different pathways because I don't want to ... deal with people that will lie to my face because they cut a deal with some big business lobbyist who helped them get into office. I don't want to do that. It's too stressful. I deliberated for a really long time — even every day it crosses my mind, that I should just throw myself in the ring. 

But I can do that more effectively outside of that toxic and broken system filled with a large percentage of people who would rather be re-elected than do the right thing. You'll talk until you're blue in the face and they'll disagree with you for selfish reasons, not because in their heart of hearts they know they're doing the right thing. I can't. It's become too corrupt. But I think that there's a disrupter in the White House and I'm feeling like complacency is over, democracy is in action, and let the chips fall where they may. It is a very interesting time indeed. I see good things ahead because it's always darkest before the dawn.

Wow, I feel like that could just be a speech right there.

Yeah, well, that's why they're always asking me to run — but they don't have to do it. Since my cancer, I have to maintain a certain strength level and I need to pick my battlefields without becoming slain in the process.

You did “The Nanny” for six seasons, from 1993 to 1999. What’s something important you learned about yourself from that iconic role?

I think the global message of the show, for me, was always that it doesn't matter what you look like or what you sound like, it's what's in your heart that counts. I try and make that one of my credos in life, not to be quick to judge anybody but to listen to what's in their heart.

Photo Credit: CBS
Photo Credit: CBS

Today is a lot different than in the '90s. What do you think Fran Fine would be doing in today’s world?

I think she would either have a major fashion blog or she might get very into local government or activism, I don't know. She was a very positive character that was not beyond self-improvement — I mean, she went to therapy on the show. She was on a path of self-discovery and was becoming a first-time mom when the show ended, so I'm sure that's had its impact on her. We've thought about it just in case somebody wants to offer us an opportunity to do a reboot.

Funny you say that. We’re in the age of TV revivals — is that something that’s seriously being considered? I mean, “Will & Grace” is back and bigger than ever.

Well, it's a little more complicated with The Nanny because they altered their relationship by getting married, having kids, and moving away at the end. Whereas Will & Grace, for all intensive purposes, is the same exact show it always was — it almost picked up just where it left off. It is a little more challenging, but I think it can be done. Peter and I have spent a great deal of time talking about it, though we surprisingly haven't really found any place that has shown an interest in doing it — even though our fan base seems to be chomping at the bit. We'll see.

This interview was edited for length and clarity.

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