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Fran Drescher Q&A: ‘Nanny’ Actress Talks ‘Cinderella,’ Octogenarians and Meditation

Fran Drescher, fan-beloved star and creator of “The Nanny,” has taken to the stage, reprising her role as the wicked stepmother in “Cinderella” at L.A.’s Ahmanson Theater after a stint on Broadway. Drescher took a moment to chat with Variety about her role, her plans and her marriage. Catch her in “Cinderella” through April 26.

Tell me all about “Cinderella.”

It’s wonderful. Here I am in the city that I’m currently living in and a lot of people who were unable to see it when I did it in New York are now going to be able to see it. It’s a very joyful production. People have really loved it. I have another opportunity to play it and wear those beautiful costumes, and to experience performing from the beautiful Ahmanson Theater, which is a wonderful privilege.

How did you end up with this role?

They sent it to me almost a  year into its run. It was a great idea because the audience for the show is the same kind of broad demographic as “The Nanny’s” audience. It instigated a lot of interest and ticket sales.

I wasn’t supposed to do it here because there’s an actress who’s playing that character on the national tour, but she developed a knee problem and needed to get knee surgery, and they called me and asked me if I would do the six weeks in L.A. I really deliberated because I’m newly married and I was using this time in L.A. as quiet time to really build a foundation for our marriage upon which we’ll build all of our lives. Because he’s as busy as I am and has as big of a life as I do. When you come together at this age with so much already in place for you, you really have to make a conscious decision to blend, to merge, to learn how to be an “us” again.

Had you done much theater prior to this?

I’ve done theater, all Off Broadway, except for a short stint at Lincoln Center in “Camelot” for PBS. This was my first Broadway show, and I’ve never played in a major theater in L.A.

Do you tailor your performance differently for the larger space?

I’m very larger-than-life. I’m no shrinking violet. I play to the back row of the uppermost balcony. I want everybody to have a good time. I think my gestures are large. My costumes and hat were designed for me, and they’re amazing, larger-than-life and extremely glamorous. The audience, in whatever seat of that house they’re in, feels like they got a lot of bang for their buck.

How do you prepare differently for a stage role than a television or film role?

The difference is you’re really flying without a net. There’s no take two. If you screw up or miss a line or say the wrong line, somehow you have to navigate your way back to get back in to where you’re supposed to be. Things go wrong all the time for you, for other people. It’s live! Therein lies the rub.

Theater is almost like zen meditation. You must be very focused on what you’re doing, because if you start thinking about something else, you’re going to go up on the lines, and you can’t do that. When you meditate, the whole objective is to bring your focus to one point, to be single-minded.

I’m a gun for hire, and I try to do my job as best as I can.

Why is “Cinderella” so popular right now?

When times get particularly tough or scary and the world is in a state of unrest and anguish and violence, you either submerge into fantasy or you get very religious. You’re seeing both of those. You’re seeing a lot of shows that are religious in nature, and you’re seeing a lot of fantastical stories being told. They’re both escapes in their own way.

Would you ever consider doing a movie musical?

That would be great for me because somebody else could sing for me. I’d love to, if somebody else sang, the way they used to do it in the old days.

Do you not enjoy singing?

I enjoy singing. I sing all the time at home. But I don’t think I’m anywhere on the level of these amazing professional singers that I’m working with. Fortunately, I have a very small singing part, which mostly gets spoken, and I have the largest speaking role in the show, which works out well for the Franny.

If you could do any musical, which would it be?

If I could do any musical, being who I am, where I’m at and my age and everything, it would probably be “Gypsy.” I could probably do “(Hello), Dolly.” That’s not my strong suit. I have a lot of strong suits. That ain’t one of them.

What’s next for you?

I’m in development on two projects. One is a feature that I will direct, and that’s been on my bucket list. One is a Broadway musical that I would be a writer and producer on. Neither of which I’m ready to pitch.

For the first time in my life, I’m relaxed and comfortable accepting that I made it, I’m here, and I can relax a little bit. I don’t have to work so hard all the time. I can step off that hamster wheel now and again and enjoy my life that I’ve been so blessed with having. That’s relatively new for me, quite frankly.

I’m at the point in my life where I accept that I am famous and I can take some breaks here and there and relax. And I can still, whenever I’m ready, conjure something up, because I’m in that place in my career. I have very loyal fans and I’m very active on social networking. I continue to do things, like keeping my brand healthy to support the work that I do through my organization, Cancer Schmancer, all for the greater good.

What inspired this attitude change? What made you feel ready to take a break?

It’s a healthy part of me that has learned to really experience living as others do, rather than have the inner child wanting to keep driving the engine saying, “Look at me!” Everyone looks at me. I’m very present and I’m all over everything constantly.

I have to say I have a lot of dear loved ones who are now octogenarians, and I remember when they were my age. I say to my husband, “How many good years do you think we really have?” At some point, we’re going to start getting tired, we’re not going to want to travel as much. So while I feel like I’m young enough to do anything still, I want to really inhale, devour, experience it with my husband.

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