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'Happily Divorced' star Fran Drescher on marriage, show's second season

By Nicki Gostin, Special to CNN
updated 12:08 PM EST, Fri March 9, 2012
"I wield power and have money so my success can be threatening to a lot of men," Fran Drescher says.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • "Happily Divorced" starts its second season Wednesday at 10:30 p.m. ET on TV Land
  • Fran Drescher: We're going to go deeper into Fran being a single, middle-aged woman
  • Drescher: I don't date while I'm working on the show because it keeps me awfully busy

(CNN) -- In "Happily Divorced" Fran Drescher plays Fran, a Los Angeles florist who is learning to navigate the dating scene after her husband (named Peter) announces he is gay after nearly 20 years of marriage.

In real life, Fran was married to her high school sweetheart, Peter Jacobson, for just over two decades and after they split he told her he was gay.

The show starts its second season Wednesday on TV Land and CNN caught up with the Flushing, Queens, native while she was in New York busily promoting the show.

The 54-year-old actress may have a strong New Yawk accent and an, um, unique bray, but in reality she isn't anything like the TV Fran. In person she is thoughtful and articulate, a New York Times best-selling author and the visionary behind the Cancer Schmancer Movement. She also has been instrumental in getting laws passed regarding women's health.

Drescher talked to CNN about moving on after her divorce, her dating status and how much some folks are willing to pay for her laugh.

CNN: So, new season of "Happily Divorced."a

Fran Drescher: We're going to go deeper into Fran being a single, middle-aged woman and what that's about, how difficult it may be, trying to make peace with the chapters in her life she may have missed and we'll meet Peter's brother and we're going to expose a part of my body in the premiere episode which has never been seen before.

CNN: Which is...?

Drescher: Well, should I tell you? (Laughs) It's a little risqué.

CNN: Are you using real life experiences for the second season?

Drescher: Always, I'm the one that kind of runs the story writing room and the scripts all have origins in real emotions or actual experiences and then we kind of build a sitcom story around it. So yes everything is formed by a base of truthfulness.

CNN: You were with your ex for a long time.

Drescher: We met when we were 15, we married when we were 21 and divorced when we were around 41, so yes we were together for a long time.

CNN: Peter came out to you after you had divorced.

Drescher: Yes and he didn't want the divorce. He was very opposed to it and was very mad at me but when he was told I had been diagnosed with cancer, one of the silver linings was that he let go of his anger and we started to rebuild our friendship.

CNN: Did you have any idea he was gay during the marriage?

Drescher: He was going to therapy and told me he had discovered he was bisexual but had never acted on it. He told me he wanted to be with me, he loved our life and he loved me. I just kept on going forward with him but it was a couple of years after that (confession) I began to feel suffocated in the relationship and I felt like I couldn't find who I was or what I really wanted with him. I needed to be on my own to hear myself think.

CNN: So he was very controlling.

Drescher: Yes, and in hindsight I think that he realized that was a manifestation of him suppressing his true orientation.

CNN: How is your relationship now?

Drescher: We're the best of friends. We're in a wonderful place. We're business partners, we're very close friends and you know we believe we're soul mates. Let's hope that you get more than one soul mate in life.

CNN: Are you dating anyone now?

Drescher: I'm not currently. It's been a couple of months since I broke up with somebody after 3½ years together and now I'm back in the meat market. I don't date while I'm working on the show because it keeps me awfully busy, but I do rely on setups and blind dates as a means for meeting people. I certainly can't go on Internet dating sites, so it makes it a little more difficult, coupled with the fact that I'm a celebrity. I wield power and have money, so my success can be threatening to a lot of men.

CNN: That must be hard.

Drescher: It is a handicap. I have learned the hard way that I need to now date really exclusively men that are more successful than myself.

CNN: That's a small market.

Drescher: I guess it helps narrow the pool. I don't do married men, I don't do gay men and I need a man who's successful in his own right.

CNN: You also have a children's book called "Being Wendy."

Drescher: It's about a little girl who lives in a very provincial town called Boxville and everybody in Boxville thinks inside of the box and she just can't do it. Her interests are too diverse. At first she's ostracized for being that but in the end her parents realize her specialness is unique and should be celebrated.

CNN: Is that how you felt as a kid?

Drescher: I think so. I was an over-achiever and ambitious and had big dreams and I grew up in a place where mostly everybody was really not thinking beyond the town we grew up in. I wanted to travel the world and be a journalist and actress and writer and politician and kinds of things.

CNN: Your laugh is really one of a kind.

Drescher: I know! Sometimes we sell my voice at charity auctions to be somebody's answering message. I think the highest bid was around 15 or 20 thousand dollars.

CNN: Isn't that amazing?

Drescher: I was told a lot when I was pursuing acting in high school that I couldn't make it with that voice and the first time I met Peter, I said, 'Hiii,' and he thought I was joking but in the end we figured out a way to monetize it and poke fun at it first so other people would feel comfortable laughing along with me.

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