In 1993, Fran Drescher became a household name as the star of what would become one of the most popular and quirky sitcoms of the era, The Nanny, which she also co-created with writer Prudence Fraser and her then-husband Peter Marc Jacobson. The show would also prove to be a big break for the rest of The Nanny cast, whose careers have only grown to become almost as big and booming as Drescher’s signature, world famous laugh.
The plot of the hit sitcom, which lasted six seasons on CBS, is explained in full by its lavish ear worm of a theme song, complimented by a brightly animated title sequence. After losing her job and getting dumped by her boyfriend, New Yorker Fran Fine (played by Fran Drescher, of course) at first becomes a door-to-door cosmetic saleswoman until she is unexpectedly given a second chance in the form of becoming the live-in caretaker to the three children of a widowed Englishman named Maxwell Sheffield (Charles Shaughnessy). She also becomes close with Mr. Sheffield’s butler, Niles (Daniel Davis), but not so much with her employer's business partner, C.C. Babcock (Lauren Lane).
With sitcoms being resurrected left and right, Fran Drescher has hinted at a possible revival of The Nanny in recent years. However, in early 2020, the actress claimed she could not confirm or deny a return for the TV show, adding that it would not happen until after her stage musical adaptation hits Broadway. That being said, it appears we may have a while before that happens, so for now, let’s just take a look at what the original The Nanny cast has been up to, beginning with the real Fran.
Fran Drescher (Fran Fine)
Before her titular role on The Nanny earned her two Emmy nominations and two Golden Globes nominations, Fran Drescher’s main claims to fame were her acting debut in 1977’s Saturday Night Fever opposite John Travolta, and a small part in the mockumentary classic, This Is Spinal Tap, in 1984. Her most notable TV follow-up before her current role on NBC’s Indebted was the TV Land original sitcom Happily Divorced, inspired by her split from ex-husband Peter Marc Jacobson, who also co-created the series with Drescher in 2011, before she voiced Eunice in Hotel Transylvania and its two sequels.
The year 2020 also saw Drescher star in the LGBT holiday Lifetime movie The Christmas Setup and reluctantly put her Broadway adaptation of The Nanny on hold. However, fans still hope to at least see how Fran and Max are doing on TV one day.
Charles Shaughnessy (Maxwell Sheffield)
Speaking of Max, British actor Charles Shaughnessy played Fran Fine’s employer turned lover Maxwell Sheffield on The Nanny - his most recognizable role following an Emmy-winning stint on Days of Our Lives, which he would return to off and on in later years. People who grew up on Disney Channel original movies may also remember him as the fanged antagonist of Mom’s Got a Date with a Vampire, which first aired on the children’s cable network in October 2000.
Outside of his many subsequent stints in theater and with voice acting, the 66 year old has reunited a few times onscreen with Fran Drescher, appeared in TV guest spots and recurring roles in the Mad Men cast or on Syfy’s The Magicians. He also played Prince Charles in a Lifetime movie about Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, and his sci-fi flick Final Frequency with Stargirl’s Lou Ferrigno Jr. is set for an August 2021 release.
Lauren Lane (C.C. Babcock)
Before Fran Fine and Maxwell Sheffield were married, competing for his affections was his business partner, Chastity Claire “C.C.” Babcock, played by Lauren Lane. She was previously best known for inheriting the female lead role on the cop show Hunter in its final season, and for a recurring spot on legal drama L.A. Law, before she was cast as the de facto “villain” of The Nanny.
Outside of appearances on a Lifetime network Nanny cast reunion or Fran Drescher’s short-lived talk show, the now 60-year-old has only acquired three screen credits following the hit sitcom, two of which are short films made 18 years apart, as she has mostly kept busy on the stage. Lane's active on social media to stay connected with fans and the Nanny cast, such as with the virtual table read of the pilot they performed April 2020.
Daniel Davis (Niles)
Also sure to participate in the Nanny cast reunion was Daniel Davis, whose character, the butler Niles, also shared an interesting romantic arc with Lauren Lane’s C.C. Babcock, after initially starting off as rivals. Before gaining a following in the Nanny cast, the 75-year-old Arkansas native was well known among Tom Clancy fans for playing Captain Davenport in The Hunt for Red October.
Daniel Davis also had a following with Trekkies after two appearances opposite the Star Trek: The Next Generation cast as a digital copy of Sherlock Holmes villain Moriarty brought to life. Coincidentally, one of the Tony-nominee’s more recent TV guest appearances was on the final season of Elementary, along with AMC’s sci-fi series, Dispatches from Elsewhere, in 2020.
Nicholle Tom (Maggie Sheffield)
Outside of playing the eldest of Maxwell Sheffield’s three children, Maggie, Nicholle Tom was best known as the eldest of the Newton children, Ryce, in the first two Beethoven movies in the 1990s. Near the end of The Nanny’s run, she would be cast as the voice of Supergirl on Superman: The Animated Series, which she would also reprise in some Justice League: Unlimited episodes starting in 2004.
Tom would later play the relative of another DC character - specifically Miranda, the daughter of Peter Scolari’s Commissioner Loeb - on Gotham, which is one of many TV guest spots she has done since The Nanny ended. She most recently wrote and starred in the short thriller, Blink, which was directed by her older sister, soap opera star, Heather Tom.
Benjamin Salisbury (Brighton Sheffield)
Nicholle Tom played the onscreen older sister of Benjamin Salisbury, who was 13 when he joined the Nanny cast as Maxwell Sheffield’s son, Brighton, in 1993. He made his acting debut a year earlier as the onscreen son of Martin Short in Captain Ron - a comedy also starring Kurt Russell as dangerous man in an eye-patch not named Snake Plissken - and later starred in the third installment of the Mighty Ducks movies, D3, in 1996.
Outside of showing up for the Nanny cast virtual table read in 2020, Salisbury has not acted since his 2005 guest spot on CBS’ Numb3rs and a 2006 Domino's Pizza ad. However, he still, technically, has a career in show business as Universal Studios Hollywood’s Director of Operations since 2017.
Madeline Zima (Grace Sheffield)
Since starring on The Nanny as young Grace (after debuting in the 1992 thriller The Hand that Rocks the Cradle), Madeline Zima has not exactly acquired household name status. Yet, from playing a victim in the 2009 cult horror film The Collector, to a teenage seductress on Californication, and small roles in David Lynch’s Twin Peaks revival and the hit Netflix series You, I would argue the 35-year-old has led the most versatile career of any of the Sheffield siblings.
Madeline Zima more recently appeared in the Oscar-winning Fox News exposé Bombshell, and the Amazon Prime original sci-fi movie, Bliss. She will next star in the upcoming crime thriller Marzipan, which is now in post-production.
Renée Taylor (Sylvia Fine)
Casting Renée Taylor as Fran Fine’s mother, Sylvia, on The Nanny was a pitch-perfect choice, which the Emmy voters showed they agreed with by giving her an Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series nomination - her third in total. Previously, Academy Award-nominated actress, writer, and director was best known for The Producers (from writer and director Mel Brooks) or starring opposite Frank Sinatra in The Detective (based on the book which preceded the novel that inspired Die Hard).
Taylor would later have a recurring spot on her onscreen daughter’s later sitcom Happily Divorced, play Ted Mosby’s elderly next door neighbor on How I Met Your Mother, and appear in How to Be a Latin Lover in 2017. In 2020, the 87-year-old actress reprised her role as Linda’s mother, Gloria, on Bob’s Burgers and, in 2021, produced and starred in the dance comedy Tango Shalom.
Ann Morgan Guilbert (Yetta Rosenberg)
It was also an inspired choice to cast Ann Morgan Guilbert on The Nanny as Fran Fine's chain-smoking, hopelessly senile grandmother Yetta Rosenberg, whom Fran Drescher based off of her real-life grandmother. While Yetta is, arguably, at the top of her list of best-known TV roles, Guilbert was already a sitcom legend from playing Millie Helper - the next-door neighbor on The Dick Van Dyke Show, which Kathryn Hahn’s Agnes in the first WandaVision episode clearly borrows from - in the early 1960s.
Ann Morgan Guilbert even joined the Home Improvement cast for an episode in 1993 as Wilson’s mother, fittingly so, and would later land a major role on HBO’s medical comedy Getting On and star in two episodes of CBS’s Life in Pieces. Unfortunately, she was unable to participate in 2020’s virtual Nanny cast reunion due to her death in 2016, after a long cancer battle, at the age of 87.
Clearly the love for The Nanny has yet to go away after more than two decades since its final curtain call, and not just through the hope for its TV revival or the anticipation for its Broadway premiere. Even the surviving cast members who rarely act anymore or have retired from the profession altogether were game to return for the virtual reunion out of appreciation for the careers they have since led.
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Jason has been writing since he was able to pick up a washable marker, with which he wrote his debut illustrated children's story, later transitioning to a short-lived comic book series and (very) amateur filmmaking before finally settling on pursuing a career in writing about movies in lieu of making them. Look for his name in just about any article related to Batman.
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