Photo of Peter Marc Jacobson by Andrew Villagomez
Known to many for creating '90s hit show The Nanny--and as Fran Drescher's gay ex-husband--the handsome Peter Marc Jacobson continues to not only be a successful producer, but still best friends with Fran and, as he explains, will always love her. HappilyDivorced stars Fran and is based on the events of her and Peter's post-marriage lives together, as it would've happened today and instead of the late '90s when they separated and divorced. The show returns for a new season packed with guest stars and fan-pleasing events.
Out: What was the process behind creating Happily Divorced?
Peter Marc Jacobson: Fran and I took a vacation together to Paris after we were divorced, and we started getting into all these fights, and started going back to the way we were when married. We looked at each other and said, this would be a funny movie. We started writing it and called it HappilyDivorced. Keith Cox at TV Land then called Fran and said, what would you like to do for TV if you were producing your own show ... and if you were to star in the show? She said well, that would be easy, it would be me and my gay ex-husband, and her boyfriend and our weird little triangle. She asked, should I tell you the rest of my ideas, and he said no because I just bought that one. Easiest sale in television history. [Laughs]
You publicly came out in 2010, but came out to Fran before then correct?
I actually came out 11 years ago, and everyone who knew me, knew I was out. Then a tabloid [InTouch] called about three years ago and said we are going to out you, and I said, well I'm out already ... save yourself the news ... They then [asked if I] would do an interview, and I said no, because it would look like it's being gratuitous and looking for attention. So I said, why don't you just make a statement that we're friends and we love each other.
Instead, they put out the story as 'Fran Drescher outs her husband,' which was not true. The next morning it was all over CNN, and Oprah called and said, 'We want to do a show about you and Fran.' Fran and I figured, well if we are going to talk about it, we'd bring up HappilyDivorced, since at that time [we working on the pilot], and Oprah said what a great idea, [about the show] on the air. Then the show got picked up. So we thank Oprah and the tabloid ... But yes, I came out years ago. I was going to the Roxy, can't come out more than that. [Laughs]
Speaking of nightlife, in HappilyDivorced there is a local gay bar, the There Bar, played off Here Lounge in LA. Is Here a favorite spot?
I love going there Sunday afternoons, and The Abbey. Sunday Funday is my favorite day to go out [Laughs]. I go to the Abbey around 5 o'clock with my friends, and we have a drink or two. Then go to Here Lounge. It's like a ritual with me.
As a big Nanny fan, it is wonderful to see guests such as Renee Taylor, who played Fran's mother on TheNanny, and Charles Shaughnessy, who played Mr. Sheffield, on HappilyDivorced. Who else will be making an appearance?
Renee is now a reoccurring character, and we are hoping to get Danny Davis [who played Niles the Butler] and Lauren Lane [CeCe] on, and maybe Rachel Chagall [Val]. We also have great guest stars this season - Joan Collins, Florence Henderson, Robert Wagner, and Cyndi Lauper, who just shot an episode. Molly Shannon is also doing an episode ... it takes a while for a series to get its groove going, and now this season is really out there. We are pushing the envelope.
Back to your relationship with Fran, what went on through your mind before you came out?
I didn't want her to think that I didn't ever love her. Because I always did and I still do, and I always will. I was worried people were going to think it was a business marriage, since someone wrote that it was a marriage of convenience. That wasn't the case, I was born in the '50s and I didn't even know what gay was. In my neighborhood, everyone got married at 20 years old and that was it, there was no choice; that was what you did.
Any feelings, you just put them away, and that's what I did, because I loved her and thought we could have a great marriage, but eventually, I started controlling her and dealing with her instead of dealing with my own self, burying that away. That's when the marriage fell apart, from me being controlling or as she put it, a pain in the ass. When I told her, I couldn't even tell her I was gay, I said I was dating men. She was dating a guy much hotter than me, and 16 years younger, so it made it much easier for her to accept. She said, you have to live your authentic life and be who you are, and I appreciated that and was very touched by it. She's a big supporter of the gay community and equal rights.
But while married, you were also open about your attraction to men?
I told her I was bisexual about half way through the marriage, but I didn't want to act on it. Just wanted her to know who I was. She was going through her own stuff and didn't want to be alone, and she figured I'm telling her the truth, I'm not having a double life or anything. She loved me and I loved her, and we enjoyed our marriage and went on. I guess me saying I was bisexual, I was living in a denial, and at that point I thought I was. Sexuality evolves for some people.
HappilyDivorced is relatable, what has been some feedback from the public?
It's been great, people stop me on the street and I get letters from people, such as men who are still in marriages or straight people who are still divorced and living together because of the economy. It's a universal problem, you don't have to be gay or straight, you just have to have been in a relationship. It's nice that if you have had love with someone along the way [but it didn't work out], you don't have to be enemies and you can find a way back to the love. It might not be the same, but it doesn't always mean it is bad or worse ... Fran and my relationship now is much better than it was when we were married, much more mature. When we get uptight with one another, we know we can go to our own home. [Laughs]
As you said, you and Fran are both strong supporters of equality and LGBT rights. What organizations do you support and have been involved with?
We were just honored by GLAAD, they gave us a lovely award. We are very supportive of the HRC, and The Trevor Project. A little girl who was bisexual got in touch with me on Facebook saying she wanted to kill her self, and I immediately had to think, what do I do? I said please, please don't do anything, I'll give you a number to call, call them they can help ... [After couple of days] she wrote me back saying she called The Trevor Project and they really helped and [that she was] much better. It makes me so upset to think a child would think about taking their own life, but it's wonderful a place like Trevor exists.
While based on your lives, not all on HappilyDivorced actually happened to you and Fran. Any parts of the show really happen to you two?
A lot of pieces exist between us, and then we evolve them into something else, Caesar and Judy are people in real life. Someone said, well Caesar is so stereotypical, because he speaks with an accent and he's a gardener, but that is who he was. Why does that have to make someone's story stereotypical, because he has an accent, why cant people be who they are, be different? I think it's charming; I have an accent... Pieces like that exist through the whole show.
How did you go about selecting John Michael Higgins to play the character based on yourself?
We could not find someone to play me, and we were looking high and low, in New York and LA, testing people right and left, but they were all 10 years too young. All great actors, terrific, but Fran said it's got to be someone my age, because that was who we were. Michael came in, the last person, and they tested together. The second they did, we knew that was him. We are so lucky to have him, he's such a brilliant talent.
Are aspects of the character Peter true about you?
[Laughs] Yes, I'm oblivious: oblivious when people are coming on to me. When the first time I went to a gay bar, I walked in with a friend and some guy came up to me and said, 'yo daddy,' and I said, 'Why is he calling me tha?' And my friend said, 'No, that is a good thing.' I said, 'Oh, it doesn't sound good. How did I already go to daddy; it's my first time in a gay bar?' So they explained to me what it meant. I'm not good at the whole scene, I try though. Part of me is like a 25-year-old at 55.
Any significant relationships coming up on the show for Peter?
He's started to date more; he's dated me on the show at the end of first season, but slowly, as in my real life. I was dating someone for a little while, but we broke up. It's hard to date in Los Angeles; I guess any big city it is. When I lived in New York it was too. I'm trying though, I'd like to have a relationship. I'm ready.
Can you tell us more about the new season, any more surprises for fans of both shows?
There is a big twist at the end, but I can't say what it is. But you won't see it coming. We have a new character that is coming in, a neighbor, played by the guy who played Charles Shaungey's brother on TheNanny, Harry Van Gorkum. They have a very cantankerous relationship, where he's a noisy kind of neighbor. Peter is working for Joan [who plays a version of her real self], and Fran has to fill in and gets her fired, so Peter and Fran have to get her job back.
A great show coming up for Judy. She has a boyfriend, and we'll have a very exciting guest star for that: Cyndi Lauper plays Renee Taylor's daughter. And Peter has been having a relationship, which he hasn't told Fran about, and that comes out. He's in a movie theater, and she sees him and says what?! He says, we are on a date, and the guy next to him says, we've been going out for three months, and she's not happy about that.
Sounds like a really packed season ahead, and it is also great that TheNanny is still on the air worldwide since 1993. Anything planned for the 20th anniversary?
We haven't thought about it, we should do something special for it. I'll need to talk to TV Land about that. Everyone keeps asking for the fourth, fifth, and sixth year on DVD. I don't know why they don't put it out. The ones on TV now are cut, so they really should put out the originals, but that is Sony Entertainment. When we did that show, we were just hoping we could pay the rent for another month. We never knew it was going to turn into what it did.
There are 12 other Nannys out there in different countries; it's the most popular show in the history of Russian television. I'm so grateful and so amazed how many people are fans of that show that made people laugh, and that was really what we were trying to do, make people laugh. They were reflections of our families. When Fran's mother saw Renee for the first time she said, thank God you didn't exaggerate my hair. [Laughs]
HappilyDivorced returns November 28. Watch a sneak peak video from Fran Drescher and TV Land below:
The November 28 episode is also available early online until Saturday November 24, make sure not spoil the ending for any other fans.