Everyone’s favorite nasally funny lady is coming back to television. Former Emmy nominee Fran Drescher is starring in a brand new sitcom for TV Land, titled “Happily Divorced“ premiering Wednesday, June 15. It’s based on Drescher’s real-life experience married to a closeted gay man for 18 years. Her world is turned upside down when her husband comes out and must struggle with navigating the new parameters of their relationship while re-entering the dating pool.
"This show is inspired by our story, because Peter is now living as an openly gay man, but Peter and I split up before he came out," Drescher explains. "That wasn't the reason why we split up, and I was the one who ended the marriage, and he didn't want it to end. It was only after that, and ("The Nanny") ended, and he moved 3,000 miles away and went into therapy that he started to connect with his true orientation."
Drescher had lunch with a TV Land executive who wanted the actress to pitch some series ideas, but when she tried to pitch shows that she would write and produce but not star in, the executive asked what show would get her back in front of the cameras.
"I said, 'Oh, that's easy; that would have to be this situation that I am in right now, where I am single, my ex-husband is gay, and I am dating a guy, and somehow my ex-husband helps me make the new relationship more of a success,' " Drescher recalls.
With Jacobson on board as co-writer and producing partner, the producers cast a wide net for an actor to play Peter, but Drescher was convinced Higgins was the right guy for the part. There was just one problem: Higgins had gone through a period of being typecast in gay roles after "Best in Show" and his phenomenal stage success in Paul Rudnick's comedy "Jeffrey," so he wasn't especially eager to crawl back into that pigeonhole.
Drescher scored a coup in landing Oscar, Emmy and Tony winner Rita Moreno to play Dori, Fran's good-natured mother.
"Rita just hit the bull's-eye," Drescher says. "We didn't want to do a version of Sylvia from 'The Nanny.' We wanted to go in a different direction." A deadpan Higgins says he also enjoys working with Moreno, even though he has to give this "rookie" a lot of tips.
"Every day it's clear that she needs a lot of help, because she has no idea what she is doing. She's got no miles on those tires," he says with a mock sigh. "So what you have to do is sit her down and say, 'Rita? This is the way performers work.' But I look at her and I think: 'There's something there. Maybe it'll come out one day.' "
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