Beloved TV character Fran Fine would have been Italian had it been up to network honchos.
In a new interview, Fran Drescher revealed she had to battle CBS for her character to be Jewish on the hit sitcom “The Nanny.”
“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 revealed on Los Angeles magazine’s podcast “The Originals” on Monday.
Drescher — who, like her character, is Jewish and from Queens, N.Y. — said she was “taken aback” by the request, but initially contemplated doing it because this was potentially the big break she’d been waiting for. However, the she ultimately decided it was worth the fight.
“I do not like living with regret, and I don’t want to rush into doing something to get the job and then when it doesn’t go right or it fails, I kick myself because I thought, ‘Why didn’t we follow our instincts? Why did we listen to them?’” she said. “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.’”
Drescher said that she and her then-husband and producing partner Peter Marc Jacobson “mustered up our chutzpah and said, ‘No, Fran Fine must be Jewish.’”
Drescher also described her character as the first overtly Jewish character on primetime since Gertrude Berg in 1949’s “The Goldbergs.”
When the host of the podcast mentioned Valerie Harper as Rhoda Morgenstern in “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” Drescher pointed out that the actress was not Jewish in real life.
“That’s the difference,” she said. “It was almost like gilding the lily. They didn’t want to have Jews playing Jews in a starring role.”
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