BWW Interview: Fran Drescher of SCHMOOZING WITH FRAN at Outlandish Palm Springs
Outlandish launches its third season on Saturday, October 12 with America's favorite Nanny Fran Drescher, performing a show for the first time in Palm Springs. In "Schmoozing With Fran Drescher", the legendary actress/comedian/activist shares, in her unique voice, both hilarious and poignant stories of her life. Produced by Logo TV Founder Matt Farber in partnership with the Palm Springs Cultural Center and benefiting the LGBT Community Center of the Desert (The Center), the Outlandish series will feature six iconic acts known in the LGBT and mainstream media for their cutting-edge wit and humor. I had the chance to chat with Ms. Drescher as she was preparing for her upcoming Palm Springs foray. Here are a few excerpts from that conversation.
DG: How early in your life did you know you wanted to be an actor, and how did your life lead you into a career in professional theatre, film, and television?
FD: I think when I was very young, still in elementary school, I was thinking that I had a certain calling to do this, and suddenly in junior high I was asked for a career goal because I was going to a special high school - it was public school, but it was careers oriented, so they wanted you to go for a half a day in the career of your choice. So I thought about whether I would do journalism, which interested me, or politics, or writing, or hairdressing or acting. And it turns out, for me, I reasoned out, that the thing that I never get bored doing and that seems to come the most naturally is acting. So if I'm going to choose something to make a living at, it might as well be that. And then it turns out that I kinda did everything that I had enjoyed doing when I was younger. It's wonderful that acting has actually paved the way for so many other things that are of interest to me and for that I'm grateful.
DG: What's the best advice you were ever given about a career in professional theatre as you were coming up in your career, and by whom?
FD: I think that ... probably the best advice was believe in yourself and never give up. And that's what I often tell people now. It's like .. it takes ... sometimes it takes a while to get people to realize your talent. And it can be frustrating, but if that's what you ... we should all be doing what makes our heart sing. And if that's what makes your heart sing then stick with it, because that's the most important aspect of your life - it's doing something that you love.
DG: You are so well known for the very distinctive sound of your voice. Did that ever inhibit you in your career and/or did you ever lose out on anything you really wanted because of your uniqueness?
FD: Oh, definitely. And I was even told as early as in high school that if I didn't fix my voice I would be very limited in my options. And, there is some truth in that. But, I wasn't just a voice. I was a comedienne, so the voice almost worked with my ability to do comedy and, so, the voice actually worked with the ability to do comedy and in that regard it wasn't a hindrance but, in many ways, a help. If I had a goal to, you know, to have Meryl Streep's career then I really would have had to change things up.
DG: What would you consider to be your greatest career achievement to date?
FD: Oh. Well, absolutely The Nanny was the brass ring and has paved the way for so many other opportunities, It continues to be such an amazing door opener all over the world. That was an incredible opportunity that just keeps on giving. As far as, in life, I think is my cancer survival and The Cancer Schmancer movement and everything I do on behalf of that - spreading the world to people on how to connect lifestyle with poor health, or good health, and what we can do every single day to reduce our risk or reverse our symptoms. And that's very meaningful and purposeful for me. And it all, you know, is inter-woven, because the opportunities that my career - and, it's current, my career, and so I'm always working so that I have a reason to go on talk shows and sell a new project and while I'm at it I talk about Cancer Schmancer, I talk about people's health or whatever it may be. If I'm going to the mat for LGBTQ or Arts Education .. it all kinda inter-weaves and affords me the opportunity to have a platform on the subjects that I'm most passionate about.
DG: Is there something on your career bucket list that you have yet to accomplish?
FD: Maybe direct an independent film. I've done TV. And there's something about the enormity of doing a film - and how it's time-consuming and very visionary. And maybe, at some point, maybe I'll become an elected official if I feel like I can be productive.
DG: You made your Broadway debut in Rodgers and Hammerstein's CINDERELLA. What was that experience like for you?
FD: It was amazing. I mean, honestly, I had no idea what to expect. I only did a very short stint at Lincoln Center and then the rest were more smaller Off-Broadway theatres. It was an incredible experience because I had no idea about the tremendous camaraderie between the talent and the crew, you know, what that was all about. And how much behind the scenes, when you're waiting to go on, is going on. People are talking. They're doing their cellphones. They're exercising, They're practicing their dance steps. It's fascinating, all the life that is going on behind the curtain. And I never realized that. I thought everybody would line up for their entrance and be very quiet - and it's not like that at all. It's pretty fantastic. And, also, we raised a significant amount of money for Broadway Cares. That also was, like, very special. And it gives you a strong sense of community and extending yourself for the greater good. My experience was bombastic and extremely thrilling - that's why I kept extending. It was supposed to be for ten weeks - it became six months. It was a hell of a ride.
DG: Do you have a preference between film and television and appearing in a live theatrical or stand-up production?
FD: Well, you know, they both have their place. I don't think I could do a show - I don't know how the people that are chorus people go from one show to another AND they're raising families, AND they have husbands and wives - I honestly don't know how they do it. Maybe because they're much younger than me and when I was doing it it was like - it was really all I could do. It was all about the show and preserving my strength for the show. I think for that reason - after I finished Cinderella I said the next thing, I'd like it to be one act and with no costumes changes. (She laughs) Very big costumes. I still have little bit of a rip in my rotator cup from wearing those heavy costumes and heavy wigs. That adds a little extra fatigue - and it was changing costumes. Changing wigs. And then getting out there to do a dance number and remembering everything. I look at it like a three hour meditation - because when you're out there you have to be very present - you've got to experience it like it's the first time - you've gotta listen and you've gotta respond - and if you start thinking about other things, like where you're going to go for dinner after, you're gonna risk going up on your lines. And in meditation, the goal is to be single-minded and I was. And that's actually a very therapeutic thing to do. And when people ask me "how did you do it for six months?" I say I looked at it like a meditation. 'Cause my mind is always running on overdrive. I'm always multi-tasking. But when I'm out there on the stage I'm in the magical world of Cinderella. That was a very light-hearted show. I don't know what it would be like to do have to do a serious, gut-wrenching drama every day, day in and day out, week in and week-out, month in and month out. I, personally, prefer to do comedy. When I do anything dramatic I have to remind my body as soon as I walk off the stage " We're just making believe. It's all good. We're happy. We're healthy."
DG: Talk about "Schmoozing With Fran" at Outlandish in Palm Springs? What can audiences expect from the evening spent with you?
FD: Well, I think it's gonna be ... it's a night of humorous storytelling with some touching moments. It covers big chunks of my life in a very humorous way. I talk a lot about my gay ex-husband, and my parents, and my career, and growing older.
DG: I heard a rumor that there were plans to turn THE NANNY into a Broadway musical? Any truth to that and are you involved in the development?
FD: Well, I'm involved with everything "The Nanny". And, within the next couple of weeks there is going to be an announcement about what the next version of The Nanny is going to be. And that's all I can say about that. I think my fans will be very happy!!
The Outlandish series will benefit The Center - The LGBT Community Center of the Desert and is sponsored by Atlantis Events, Chill Bar Palm Springs, Hotel Zoso, Palm Springs Home Team, and its 3 locations: PSA Organica, 420 Lounge and soon to open The Bank. Our media partners include Gay Desert Guide, Channel Q, Hocker Productions and Spectrum Cable. Tickets are now on sale for each performance at www.OutlandishPS.com. General Admission, Premium Seating, and VIP tickets (including a meet and greet) are available. Tickets range from $30-$100. "Series Passes" to see all six shows are available at a discounted price.