Fran Drescher Talks Life After Cancer, Reminisces About 'The Nanny' and Shares Her Future Career Plans

by Susan Hornik 9:40 AM PDT, October 16, 2015
Photo: Getty Images

It’s hard to imagine how someone can turn a life-threatening illness into a way to help thousands of women take control of their health, but cancer survivor Fran Drescher is just that kind of woman. While the popular comedic actress is known for her many performances on television and Broadway, her most rewarding role has been as creator of the non-profit organization, Cancer Schmancer, which recently hosted its first Women’s Health Summit in Los Angeles.

Curb Your Enthusiasm’s Cheryl Hines and Drescher’s former TV mom, Renee Taylor, attended the Summit, which honored Rosie O’ Donnell with the Empowerment through Comedy Award for raising awareness for women’s heart health.

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Unfortunately, O’Donnell was unable to attend last minute, but sent in a video from the set of FOX’s Empire in Chicago. “I will be playing Pepper O’Leary, a baker with a criminal past, and I’ll be on a couple of times this season,” O’Donnell explained. “When Frannie asked me to accept an award, which I thought was so kind of her -- she is the kindest person I know… I support her in every way and everything she does. This Health Summit is so needed, so wonderful, so empowering to women. I wish I could be there, I said yes right away and then I got this job. And you know actors, we need work!”

Following the event, ETonline exclusively caught up with Drescher to talk about her charity, O’Donnell and getting back into TV. 

ETonline: What was your goal at the Summit?

Fran Drescher: We wanted to create an educational conference that would offer people information that they would never hear from a doctor. We didn’t want to just do a typical fundraiser, where you sit at round tables and watch a comedian. We had over 400 people who participated in panel discussions that raised awareness about early warning symptoms, nutrition, reducing their risk of disease and detoxifying their home. As a cancer survivor, it’s become so important for me to turn pain into purpose and offer people a way they can take charge of their health. It was truly a great day.

Rosie O’Donnell has been dealing with a lot lately, with the troubles surrounding her daughter.

I really love that lady. It is very heartbreaking to see what Rosie is going through. Her daughter is over 18 and that makes it hard. I know she hopes at some point to get her into a special needs home where she can get the help she needs. In the meantime, she has four other kids she shares her life with. Her heart is always open to her daughter no matter what… time will tell. It wasn’t nice what her daughter did, acting out publicly. It’s really a cry for help. Rosie didn’t deserve that. 

It must be so nice to see your former TV mom, Renee Taylor.

I see Renee often, I love her! She is great -- so very glad she was able to come. She is very interested in cutting edge and alternative medicine and always interested in learning new things. And she is always there to support me. That relationship we shared on camera was exactly the same way when we were not on set; we genuinely loved each other. And we will always have the memories from the show.

Do you have a favorite episode from The Nanny with her?

There were so many! I like the one where Aunt Ida died and left me a mink coat. I didn’t want to accept it since I wasn’t wearing fur for political reasons, but my mom was completely old school about it! She was so excited her brother's daughter didn’t get it but her daughter did.

Are you writing something new for yourself to star in?

I have to get back into the saddle. My dear friend of 37 years (former manager Elaine Rich) died on Aug. 13 and I have been grieving these last several weeks. I just haven’t felt like writing. I am not sure what my next choice is. I am always offered so many things to do, but it has to be the right thing. I don’t want to push myself out of the grieving process. I would also love to write another book. I have a TV series for myself I need to begin writing next month. I wish to develop something for me and possibly my husband that revolves around health, prevention, lifestyle and practical tips plus the science behind it. 

You just celebrated your one-year anniversary with your husband Dr. Shiva Ayyadurai.

Yes! It was a quiet evening at home. Being newly married, I am trying to put energy into that as well.

You did a terrific job with Cinderella. Would you go back to Broadway?

I would go back to Broadway but not anytime soon! It’s wonderfully enriching while wholly exhausting. 

Do you ever run into your former castmates from TV Land’s Happily Divorced?

I see Tichina Arnold and her sister, Zenay. I speak to Rita Moreno via email as well as Robert Walden. DW Moffet I see all the time, as he and his wife, Kristal, live nearby.