Living joyfully like The Nanny

Fran Drescher plays Fran Fine in The Nanny, which made her a star.
Fran Drescher plays Fran Fine in The Nanny, which made her a star.PHOTO: TRISTAR TELEVISION

Fran Drescher's voice immediately gives her away: brassy, nasal and with a soupy Noo-Yawk accent.

"People always say, 'I can't believe that's your real voice', and I say, 'Who could make this up?'", the actress says with a chuckle that is a cross between a dry heave and a snort.

That distinctive set of pipes will always be associated with the character of Fran Fine in The Nanny (1993-1999), the sitcom that turned Drescher into a star. In the comedy, which airs weeknights on Hits channel starting from Friday, she played a Jewish-American woman who ends up as a nanny to British Broadway producer Maxwell Sheffield's three children.

Speaking from the telephone from Los Angeles, Drescher, 58, says: "It has universal appeal. People understand it everywhere in the world - blue-collar meets blueblood, or working class meets aristocracy. And then when you add the component of sexual tension between the classes, it's a lot of fun. And you want to know if she's going to get her man."

The show was nominated for multiple awards and won an Emmy in 1995 for achievement in costuming. Several local versions were produced, including in Russia and Indonesia.

Over the years, The Nanny featured a large number of guest stars, including businessman and United States Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, about whom Drescher shares an anecdote: "I had a moment where I was standing between Mr Sheffield and Donald Trump and I said, 'All you millionaires are alike.' He gave us a note at the end of the day that said, 'Can you please change that line, I'm not a millionaire, I'm a billionaire.'"


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She might not be in that league, but The Nanny was definitely a profitable venture.

"I'm comfortable financially and I'm able to do some of the things that are important to me," she says.

In contrast to her ditsy character in The Nanny, she has accomplished much, including writing, directing and producing for television, making her Broadway debut in 2014, penning best-selling books such as Enter Whining (1996) and launching a non-profit organisation on cancer awareness called Cancer Schmancer.

What Drescher does have in common with her most famous role is the way in which she lives life joyfully.

She says earnestly: "I want my organisation to continue to impact the world, I want to become proficient in a second or third language. I love collecting art. I enjoy life."

She has even managed to remain friends with her ex-husband Peter Marc Jacobson, with whom she created The Nanny. Her current husband, India-born scientist Shiva Ayyadurai, has no problems with that at all.

She lays it out like it is: "First of all, my ex-husband is now gay, so there's no chance that we're ever going to reconcile. Also, my husband is a busy, confident man. He invented an electronic version of an interoffice mail system when he was 14 and he has four degrees from MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology). He's happy that I have someone who cares about me and spends time with me when he's travelling."

For the moment, she has no interest in a reboot of The Nanny even if her subsequent small-screen ventures, Living With Fran (2005-2006) and Happily Divorced (2011-2013), were nowhere as successful.

"I'm not ready to go back and do a sequel to the classic. I want to continue to do things that excite me and that's more important than reviving a character I've already done."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 23, 2016, with the headline 'Living joyfully like The Nanny'. Print Edition | Subscribe