For years, Fran Drescher warmed the hearts of the fictional Sheffield family -- and millions of loyal viewers -- with her quirky laugh and quick-witted charm as Fran Fine in The Nanny. Almost a decade later, Drescher and Peter Marc Jacobson (ex-husband and co-creator of the beloved sitcom) have teamed up once again for TV Land's Happily Divorced, a series inspired by the former couple's life after Jacobson came out.
Out met up with Drescher at Industry Bar in New York City for the Happily Divorced launch party to chat about her new show, being a gay icon, New York marriage equality, and how to succeed in life after divorce.
Out: How much of Happily Divorced was directly inspired by your experiences?
Fran Drescher: I think that we felt it was a very fresh relationship: To have a couple that was once married but the husband comes out, and they reinvent their love into something that's more suitable for where they are in their lives now -- and become happily divorced. He's able to be authentic and totally in sync with his orientation, and she struggles to be single when she's been married all of her adult life. But they're forced to live together because, in this economy, they can't sell the house and can't afford to live separately until they do sell it. That didn't happen for Peter and I, but we took creative license because we want to create a situation that makes for good episodes week in and week out.
Are there any particular scenes or episodes that represent what really happened in your marriage and divorce?
We explored the times when Fran feels like she wasted her youth by going with the wrong guy. We explored Peter's inability to integrate into the community because all he knows is how to be a married man. And, in spite of the fact that they continue to try and become their own separate person, they keep slipping into their married roles.
How do you feel about having everything aired out in the open?
I'm writing and executive producing this show. It's taken on its own life and its own momentum. We inspired it, but now the actors have been cast in the roles and they breathe their own life into it. And the show has taken off. And, you know, we have a room full of writers. And, so, now it's like we're just... We're doing a sitcom.
After all of your experiences, would you classify yourself as a gay icon?
[Laughs] You know, I'm proud to say I believe I am a gay icon, and I really enjoy being one. I was also recently awarded the Ally for Equality by the Human Rights Campaign.
Why does the gay community love you so much?
I'd like to think that it's maybe because I'm kind of the whole package. I mean, I think I have a good heart... and I wear clothes well. [Laughs]
As you know, New York marriage equality is coming up for a vote very soon. What are your feelings about that?
I wish it was just done already. I'm happy that we're living in a time where it's moving in that direction, but to me it feels so silly that it's even a discussion. It should be a no-brainer. You can't call yourself a free country and then be exclusionary -- it's hypocritical. The human being is a complicated creature. And odds are we not only all look different and speak different languages, but I bet you dollars for donuts we also have different sexual orientations. And that's part of the human experience. And when everyone starts embracing that as part of a master plan that's bigger than anything we could ever imagine, we'll be moving in the right direction.
For anyone who is struggling to come out to their partners, what are a few pointers you would share?
I think that it takes as much effort and work to be happily divorced as it does to be happily married. And if you marry this person, you obviously love that person and you've invested time in that person. And you shouldn't throw it away just because you thought you were supposed to be married and it turns out that that wasn't what you were meant to be to each other. But you've got to figure out why you're in each other's lives and try another road. Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater.
Happily Divorced airs Wednesdays at 10:30 p.m. EST on TV Land. For more info, visit the show's official website.
For more from Fran Drescher, follow her on Twitter.