It’s been over two decades since we heard the woman with an obnoxious voice and loveable personality. The comedy, which aired for six seasons on CBS from 1993 to 1999, made a lasting impact on American TV and pop culture. The fantastic cast and signature brand of humor made us want to tune in week after week.
But for some reason, the show has fallen under the radar and become – for most of us – a forgotten gem of the past. The characters and the oh-so-‘90s fashion are not just nostalgic. Let’s take a trip down memory lane and revisit the cast, the memories, the reason the show was canceled, and take a look at the secrets Fran Drescher kept during her time on the show.
Charles Shaughnessy Aka Max Sheffield
Charles played Maxwell Sheffield, a widowed Broadway theatrical producer who started out as Fran’s boss but eventually became her husband (her dream did, indeed, come true).
The British actor was practically born into show business. His father, Alfred Shaughnessy, was a TV writer (Upstairs, Downstairs) and his mother, Jean Lodge, was an actress. He studied law at the University of Cambridge before deciding to pursue his own career in entertainment.
He made his TV debut in 1993 on BBC 1’s drama series Jury as Julian Spears. That same year, he played John Rennie on Agatha Christie’s Partners in Crime. When he was 28, he moved to Los Angeles, and, just a year later, he got his breakthrough.
Charles Shaughnessy Now
His big break came when he played Shane Donovan on Days of Our Lives (1984 to 1992). He played one half of the soap-opera power couple with Patsy Pease. After The Nanny, he devoted himself to voice acting in particular, lending his voice to characters in animated series, including Stanley and The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack. Charles also made appearances in The Mentalist, Mad Men, Hannah Montana, and Saints & Sinners.
In 2005, he reunited with Fran Drescher to play her ex-husband on her spin-off Living With Fran. More recently, he has landed major roles on both Masters of Sex and The Magicians. He even briefly returned to his soap opera roots when he reprised his role as Shane on Days of Our Lives. Charles is now in his mid-60s.
Lauren Lane Aka C.C. Babcock
Lauren Lane will forever be best known and remembered for her role as C. C. Babcock, Maxwell’s business associate, and the show’s antagonist. We just loved watching the pompous blonde who managed to add even more wit and humor to the already beloved sitcom. Lane appeared in a total of 144 episodes.
Lane was born in Oklahoma but grew up in Texas. She graduated with a Fine Arts degree and later on earned an advanced education degree at the American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco. She was married to David Wilkins from 1998 to 2009. Before The Nanny, Lane started appearing in films around 1984. Her TV career began in 1991 when she landed the role of Sgt. Chris Novak on NBC’s crime drama Hunter.
Lauren Lane Today
Two years after The Nanny was canceled, Lane decided to leave the world of television. Since 2000, she has performed on stage at Zachary Scott Theatre in Austin, Texas. She has starred in theatre productions such as Judevine, Dinner With Friends, Harvey, and 2011’s God of Carnage.
Lane has chosen to dedicate her life to theatre and teaching. She is now a full-time lecturer at the Department of Theatre and Dance at Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas. In 2010, however, she was a guest on The Fran Drescher Show. Lane likes to use her skills and experience to help other actors along their journeys to success in the industry. Lane is now approaching 60.
Daniel Davis Aka Niles
Daniel Davis is one of those actors who will forever be synonymous with one popular role. Niles is that role. The actor first appeared on TV in 1980, racking up credits on Texas, Dynasty, and Star Trek: The Next Generation. But playing Niles, Mr. Sheffield’s loyal butler, has clearly been his most famous role. And that’s because of his perfectly on-point faux English accent and his hilarious one-liners.
Davis appeared in all 146 episodes of the show. And no, he’s not British. He was actually born in Little Rock, Arkansas, and starred on a children’s series on a local TV network. He performed as a comedian, singer, and dancer.
Daniel Davis Today
Davis later graduated with a degree in Fine Arts from the Arkansas Arts Center. After that, he worked as a stage actor, starring on Broadway and at the Shakespeare Festival in Stratford. After The Nanny, he went on to play Judge Barton Wolfe on The Practice in 2000 for three episodes.
Davis has also appeared on Frasier, Ugly Betty, and in Christopher Nolan’s magician film The Prestige. Also, in 2000, Davis earned a Tony Award nomination for his role in Wrong Mountain. More recently, he has made guest appearances on shows like Gotham and The Blacklist. In 2010, he was part of the Celebrity Autobiography series, performing alongside another Nanny alum, Lauren Lane. Davis is now in his mid-70s.
Nicholle Tom Aka Maggie Sheffield
Nicholle Tom played the preppy Maggie, Mr. Sheffield’s eldest child. She appeared in all 146 episodes. Before her role as Maggie, Nicholle appeared in Beverly Hills, 90210, as Scott Scanlon’s sister, Sue. In 1992, she landed the role of Ryce Newton in the Beethoven movies. After her breakthrough on The Nanny, Nicholle made a handful of film appearances.
But the most notable of them was as Supergirl/Kara Kent, where she voiced the main character. She got involved in the DC animated TV universe, contributing to shows like Superman and Justice League Unlimited. In the last decade, she’s had guest roles on popular shows like Master of Sex, Gotham, Survivor’s Remorse, Castle, The Mentalist, Criminal Minds, Without a Trace, and Burn Notice.
Nicholle Tom Today
Did you know that Nicholle Tom has a twin? She has a twin brother named David, who plays Billy Abbott on The Young and the Restless. Nicholle also has an older sister, Heather, who became famous after her role as Katie Logan on The Bold and The Beautiful. Nicholle earned nominations for a number of awards during her career, including Leading Young Actress in 1993.
As of 2019, her net worth was estimated to be around $400,000. Her highest-grossing movie was Beethoven, which earned $147.2 million. Nicholle has admitted to almost quitting acting, but she hung around. Her last roles were in 2018 in Hollywood Darlings and F the Prom. Nicholle is now in her early 40s.
Benjamin Salisbury Aka Brighton Sheffield
Before portraying the mischievous middle child on The Nanny, Benjamin Salisbury’s acting career started in 1992 when he starred in the movie Captain Ron (with Kurt Russell and Mary Kay Place). Benjamin was a household name by the time he turned 13, but, despite his acting success, he still decided to retake his high school finals when he turned 19.
Salisbury is best known for his role as Brighton Sheffield. Benjamin is an accomplished dancer who treated the show’s studio audiences to random dance routines when the cameras weren’t rolling. After The Nanny, the actor mainly stayed out of the public eye. However, he did make an appearance on the show Numb3rs back in 2005.
Benjamin Salisbury Today
Instead of pursuing show business as his fellow cast members did, Benjamin moved to Washington D.C to study journalism. His last acting credit was in a short film called On the Brink in 2006. Also, in 2006, he appeared in several Domino’s Pizza commercials as well as in The Nanny’s reunion. As of 2017, he has been working at Universal Studios Hollywood as Director of Operations for the park.
Benjamin is now a husband and father. He’s been married since 2006 and lives in California with his wife and their two kids. Salisbury used his former fame for good in 2009 when he was photographed for the campaign NO H8, a campaign aimed at promoting equality. Benjamin is now approaching 40.
Madeline Zima Aka Grace Sheffield
Madeline Zima played Grace, the youngest and smartest Sheffield child for all six seasons. She’s also been in shows like Gilmore Girls, 7th Heaven, and Grey’s Anatomy, but The Nanny was her big break. Zima’s run on The Nanny happened during a very early and critical stage in her life – from ages six to 13. After all, she was still developing.
She recalled the experience “life-changing,” one in which she was able to receive “the first-hand masterclass in sitcom comedy and professionalism.” Her most memorable role after The Nanny was as Mia Lewis, an intelligent 16-year-old on the show Californication from 2007 to 2011. Zima also starred in Heroes and Betas from 2013 to 2014.
Madeline Zima Today
In 2017, she worked with director David Lynch on two episodes of the returning season of Twin Peaks, where she played the character of Tracey. More recently, she starred in the thriller Painkillers. In that role, she played a wife and mother who tragically lost her son. She was praised for the role.
She recently wrote and directed her first film called Warm Human Magic. The film starred one of her sisters named Yvonne Zima. It all goes to prove that her exposure to show business from a young age helped shape her career. We can also see how she became one of the most famous of the Nanny bunch. Zima is now in her mid-30s.
Renee Taylor Aka Sylvia Fine
Renee Taylor played Fran’s equally obnoxious mother, Sylvia Fine for 94 episodes. Even before The Nanny, she had already made a name for herself in the industry. Renee and her late husband, Joseph Bologna, were both nominated for an Oscar for the 1970 film adaptation of the Broadway comedy they wrote called Lovers and Other Strangers.
Renee’s early credits include Last of the Red Hot Lovers, The Producers, Made for Each Other, Lovesick, and The End of Innocence. In 2001, she came back to the Broadway stage with her husband in their two-person show, If You Ever Leave Me…I’m Going With You! After The Nanny, she appeared in a number of series.
Renee Taylor Today
Renee shared the screen with Drescher again in Happily Divorced, and she played the role of Mrs. Matsen in How I Met Your Mother. Over the past two decades, she’s guest-starred on Everwood, Bob’s Burgers, Shake It Up, and on Fran Drescher’s Happily Divorced. She has also appeared in The Do-Over with Adam Sandler and in the 2017 comedy How to Be a Latin Lover.
Renee has also done voice acting. She was Mrs. Start in Ice Age 2: The Meltdown and Principal Gottlieb in Allen Gregory. In 2018, she started a new role in the autobiographical play called My Life on a Diet, which was based on her 1986 memoir. She and Bologna co-wrote the play before his death in 2017. Renee is now in her late 80s.
Ann Morgan Guilbert Aka Grandma Yetta
With her famous gray hairdo and cigarette in hand, Ann Morgan Guilbert was one of the most memorable characters on the show, appearing in a total of 56 episodes. Ann started her career as a singer back in the 1950s and soared to fame after her role as Millie Helper on The Dick Van Dyke Show. She never stopped acting, appearing in Curb Your Enthusiasm, Seinfeld, Love, Law & Order: SVU, and The Andy Griffith Show.
The accomplished Broadway actress wowed audiences with her performances in The Billy Barnes Revue and A Naked Girl on the Appian Way. She won the Robert Altman Award for her part in the film Please Give. She passed away in 2016 at the age of 87 after a battle with cancer.
Rachel Chagall Aka Val
We all remember Val, Fran’s ditzy best friend since elementary school. The two, with their thick accents, were both from Queens and worked at a bridal shop together. Val loved to visit Fran at the Sheffield mansion all the time, where they would catch up over tea and snacks.
Rachel Chagall is clearly best known for her part as Val. She appeared in 79 episodes of the show. After that, she went on to make some appearances on Just Shoot Me!, Strong Medicine, and What I Like About You. In 2004, she appeared in The Nanny Reunion: A Nosh to Remember. Rachel is now in her early 60s.
And last but definitely not least….
Fran Drescher Aka Fran Fine
Before becoming the unforgettable Fran Fine, Drescher appeared in movies like Saturday Night Fever (1977) and Stranger in Our House (1978). She then stepped into the comedy sphere during the ‘80s when she appeared in movies like UHF (1980) and The Hollywood Knights (1980). During her time on The Nanny, her career reached new heights.
She earned two Emmy Award nominations and two Golden Globes for Best Actress in a Comedy Series. In 1996, she was in the film Jack with Robin Williams. In the 2000s, she went back to sitcoms, playing two roles in Living with Fran and Happily Divorced (which she created with her ex-husband Peter Marc Jacobson). Both shows only lasted two seasons.
What Killed the Show
If you ask Drescher, she’ll tell you that it was her on-screen romance with Charles Shaughnessy that killed The Nanny. In an interview with Studio 10, Drescher finally revealed why The Nanny was canceled more than two decades ago. Their TV romance was the major factor because it set up the premise to go one way, which essentially made the show predictable and took away any element of surprise.
The show drew large audiences, but after Fran and Mr. Sheffield became an item, it basically marked the beginning of the show’s demise. The Nanny was canceled shortly after Fran, and Mr. Sheffield put their unreleased sexual tension behind them and officially became a couple.
A Priceless Lesson
While it did pretty much kill the show, it can also serve as a priceless lesson for other shows. According to Drescher, the lesson is: never change the dynamic of a show if the original dynamic is what attracted millions of viewers in the first place. Directors and writers need to stay true to the script if longevity is what they’re after.
Drescher said that as soon as their characters got together, the viewers lost interest. It makes sense. What also makes sense is the fact that the showrunners felt the need to please fans and stray from the main storyline. Drescher claimed that she warned them multiple times, but they didn’t listen.
The Truth Behind Fran’s Fine Look
The iconic 90s sitcom star modeled some of the decade’s most desirable designer creations, but Drescher said her slender frame was unfortunately due to post-traumatic stress. Her famous slim form has some sad truths behind it. “I’d been the victim of a violent crime about 10 years before The Nanny, and I hadn’t really dealt with that,” Drescher revealed.
In a discussion at NYC’s The Wing, she explained that in 1985, she was sexually assaulted at gunpoint during a home invasion. “I had to deal with it once I became famous and it came out… Thank God I was in therapy! Honestly, I just loved going to work and being Fran Fine, because she was nothing but funny and light, and my life was kind of a mess. I think that was part of why I was so thin.”
Burning the Candle at Both Ends
She recalled how she would sometimes look back at episodes and remember what was really going on behind the scenes, “and it wasn’t pretty.” When the show started filming, she was 142 pounds. By the fifth season, she was 110 pounds. “I was burning the candle at both ends,” she admitted.
With time, Drescher eventually returned to a healthy weight. The star, now in her early 60s, also battled and defeated uterine cancer. For Drescher, it’s all about honoring her body. And no, she doesn’t miss her old physique. She did, however, manage to snag some of her favorite pieces from the show’s wardrobe. But, “most of them don’t fit anymore. And I’m really okay with that. I couldn’t be that thin anymore and still, look good.”
What’s This About a Reboot?
It seems as though ‘90s reboots are “in” right now, which has made fans of The Nanny wonder if they’re going to be given a special treat as well. A reboot was being discussed, and the idea was that it would be a prequel to The Nanny. But just as fans were starting to expect a reboot in the near future, Drescher dropped a bomb. “It’s not true,” she confirmed. “I mean, never say never, but…”
She explained that what she did say was that she and her ex-husband Jacobson (The Nanny’s co-creator) were working on “a very exciting project that I think the fans will be very happy with — when we’re ready to announce it.” She also mentioned that since the show ended with her character marrying Mr. Sheffield, a reboot would mean necessary and major structural changes. “I’m not looking to revisit Fran Fine because, first of all, it wouldn’t be the same show. It can’t be The Nanny — I’m Mrs. Sheffield now!”
Some Things We Didn’t Know
During the show, and afterward, Fran was simply a fashion icon. So much so that Barbie made use of her style to issue a line of Barbies inspired by Fran’s style. As for Mr. Sheffield, apparently, there was considerable discussion about his accent. British viewers – and many of them – felt that his accent was insincere.
They suggested that he stop his “bad accent” and copy Niles’ instead. The irony of it all is that Charles Shaughnessy was born in London, whereas Daniel Davis was born in Arkansas. Another less known back story from the show is that the writer and producer were married. That’s right, Drescher wrote it, and Jacobson produced it.
What’s in a Name?
Fun fact: despite their divorce, they still chose to use the names they had planned to use for their future children as the names for the kids in the series. Speaking of monikers, the names Sylvia, Morty, and Nadine also have a back story. They are the names of members of Fran’s family, both on the series and in real life. Drescher liked the authentic feeling that came with using names that she could genuinely identify with.
On an unrelated note, Renee Taylor gained about 50 pounds during the show’s run. It became a health concern, and she eventually consulted with her doctor. Her doctor even sent a letter to the show’s production team asking them to provide low-fat foods in order for her to avoid future health problems.
A Bunch of Laughers
Stemming from her horrible experience in that home invasion in 1985, Drescher requested that the show provide prescreened audiences. The request was due to her fear of having random people show up to the production. Understanding her need to feel safe, the network agreed to meet her request. They hired Central Casting to find a cast of professional “laughers” to be recorded during taping.
The audio tracks made by these laughers were then added to the episodes in post-production. Lisette St. Claire, the show’s casting director, became the world’s first “laugher wrangler.” It was a new type of service that would go on to be used on other shows. Who knew?
The Nanny’s Humor
The comedy on the show was formulated with many running gags – something that contributed heavily to the show’s success. It was mainly character-based. All of the major characters had their own specific traits or quirks that served as a source of parody for the other characters. Occasionally, the characters would break the fourth wall and comment on situations, or Fran would even say something to the audience or look directly into the camera.
There were a bunch of running gags using Beatles songs, Fiddler on the Roof and My Fair Lady. A lot of the humor Fran used was aimed toward a Jewish audience. For instance, she used Yiddish words and taught the Sheffield kids to be like “stereotypical Jews” (by not paying the retail price, or going after men like doctors).
Becoming the Infamous Fran
After The Nanny, Drescher starred in two sitcoms: Living with Fran, from 2005 to 2007, and Happily Divorced, from 2011 to 2013. She also lent her voice to Hotel Transylvania as the character Eunice. She recently debuted on Broadway as the evil stepmother in Cinderella. But before Fran even became Fran, she was a young girl competing in beauty pageants in Queens, New York.
It was during her high school days in Jamaica, Queens that she met her future husband Jacobson. Oh, and you might be interested to know that one of her fellow classmates was comedian Ray Romano. Funnily enough, though, the two funny people never even met until their 20th high school reunion!
Married, Divorced, and Still Friends
After graduating high school in 1975, she and Jacobson married in 1978, when she was only 21 years old. The two went to Queens College only to drop out in their first year. Apparently, “all the acting classes were filled.” Then, they both enrolled in cosmetology school. The couple divorced in 1999, but they have remained supportive of one another.
Drescher and Jacobson remain business partners as well as friends. “We choose to be in each other’s lives in any capacity. Our love is unique, rare, and unconditional, unless he’s being annoying.” He was there for her professionally as well as emotionally, even during her cancer scare in the early 2000s.
In 2000, after a couple years of symptoms and misdiagnoses by not one but eight different doctors, Drescher was diagnosed with uterine cancer. She underwent a radical hysterectomy, and she wrote about her experience in her book Cancer Schmancer. She said that she wrote the book to raise awareness for both men and women.
She hoped that her book would help people “become more aware of the early warning signs of cancer, and to empower themselves.” A few years later, in 2006, she received the City of Hope Spirit of Life Award from none other than Hillary Clinton. In 2010, Drescher was the guest of honor at the Dancer against Cancer charity ball in Austria. There, she received her first My Aid Award for her role in support of cancer prevention and rehabilitation.