Actress Fran Drescher Says She Used Her ‘Chutzpah’ to Fight for ‘The Nanny’ to Be Jewish
American-Jewish actress Fran Drescher, star of the popular 1990s sitcom “The Nanny,” said on Tuesday that she had to stand her ground in order to have the show’s titular character, Fran Fine, remain Jewish.
As a guest on the debut episode of Los Angeles magazine’s new podcast “The Originals,” Drescher explained what happened when she and her co-creator, ex-husband Peter Marc Jacobson, pitched the series to CBS.
“When we got green-lighted to write the pilot for ‘The Nanny,’ I guess the network was already talking to major sponsors like Procter & Gamble, who said, ‘It sounds great — we’ll buy the show outright. But the nanny has to be Italian, not Jewish,’” the 62-year-old actress-producer told podcast host and journalist Andrew Goldman.
Drescher was “taken aback” by the demand and told Goldman she did not like “living with regret,” and did not “want to rush into doing something to get the job” because if it ultimately failed, she would have regretted not listening to her instincts.
“I thought, ‘I can’t live with that regret. I know this character needs to be written very close to me and all the rich and wonderful characters that I grew up with,'” she said. “Peter and I have a brand of comedy that’s rich in specificity, and not only couldn’t we have written it that way — if the character were Italian — but I couldn’t have performed it that way. So we kind of mustered up our chutzpah and said, ‘No, Fran Fine must be Jewish.’”
Drescher also referenced the lack of Jewish representation on television at the time, saying “The Nanny” was the first series in a prime-time slot that was led by “an openly Jewish character” who was played by a Jewish actress since Molly Goldberg starred in 1949’s “The Goldbergs.”