From Civics to ‘Cinderella’: A Q&A With Fran Drescher

Queens native Fran Drescher, best known for her starring role in the 1990s television sitcom “The Nanny,” grew up in a family where political discussions were common around the dinner table. But while the actress and women’s health advocate once aspired to enter politics herself, she now says she is “exhausted” by the election cycle.

In an interview with Alice Popovici, a freelance reporter for City & State, Drescher—who was on her way to perform in “Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella”—talks about politics, her current role and the unique accent that has become her trademark. The following is an edited transcript.

City & State: Hillary Clinton just announced she’s running for president and you supported her in 2008. Do you still support her? Are you excited for the race?

Fran Drescher: Since that last election I’ve thought about things through a different lens. I like Hillary and I think, on a domestic level, she would be maybe more engaged in things that concerned women and girls, for example. But on a global level I think that all of these politicians are in servitude to the military-academic-industrial triangle. As long as war is profitable there will never be peace, and as long as sickness is profitable there will never be cures, and as long as incarceration is profitable there will always be crime. So I’d like to see a politician step up to the plate and actually say why things never change, and this is why.

C&S: You have also talked about wanting to be a U.S. senator. Is that still a goal you want to pursue? Would you consider running for any other office?

FD: You know the interesting thing is, my district (Congressman Henry Waxman of California) stepped down. I could have run for his seat. Now, my state senator is stepping down—(Barbara) Boxer—and I could, if I wanted to, pursue that. But I’m on the fence, because right now I feel exhausted by all the bullshit, and I’m not sure it’s the best path to change. It’s a very broken system—they spend three-quarters of their time raising money for their next election. They are very clever, and every election there’s a new hot topic designed to divide the nation.

C&S: Is there a hot topic you’ve picked up on this election cycle?

FD: Every election there is always one, whether it be gay marriage, or this one will possibly be the immigration issue—as if that’s the real problem. Let’s blame it on the poor immigrants for why there are so many people out of work in this nation. But that’s not why. And the poor people that are out of work, it’s hard for them to see how manipulated things are, because it’s hard to see the frame when you’re in the picture.

C&S: How did growing up in Queens in the ’70s shape your political beliefs, and when did you become interested in politics?

FD: My dad and I always liked to debate at the dinner table about politics, political events, world events, current events, news. So there was that in my house growing up. I was born into a family of Democrats and working people, and I fell very much in line with all that goes with that—not that that’s a bad thing. But in recent years, very recent years, I feel that I’ve awakened to an umbrella that overshadows it all. And I feel like these elected officials are middle management beholden to very powerful mega-industries.

C&S: You are known for your accent—how would you describe it? Is it a Queens accent, is it a New York City accent?

FD: I think it’s definitely more Queens as far as any of the boroughs. Each one has a slightly different dialect and mine is Queens. Having said that, even within the borough I think that I have somewhat of a unique voice, independent of where I come from.

C&S: You try to turn negative experiences into positive experiences. Could you give some examples of how you’ve done this?

FD: Subsequent to my cancer survival and my best-selling book, “Cancer Schmancer,” I started a women’s health movement, and I’m very proud of that because, again, we are challenging the way people look at the problem. To try to solve cancer and other diseases by looking for a cure—again, this is the same problem. Because if we really looked at causation, that might cut into someone’s profit margin, and we don’t want to do that. We’d just rather keep people chronically ill with a bunch of pharmaceuticals, and make them believe that getting arthritis and Alzheimer’s and tooth decay is part of aging. I choose to look at the cause of disease and eliminate it—how’s that for a cure?

C&S: You’re on your way to “Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella.” Could you tell me a little about your character?

FD: I’m the wicked stepmother—they call her “Madame” in the show. It’s a lot of fun. They’ve designed my costumes to be glamorous, they’ve allowed me to add some more humor to the part. I’ve created a character that you don’t just hate, but you love to hate—that hopefully you can’t wait till I come back out, so that you can laugh as well as being shocked, and enjoy the visual feast of the beautiful costumes.