LOS ANGELES — Fran Drescher believes that the strikes shutting down Hollywood have to do with something much larger than the actors’ guild she leads, the writers striking with them, or the entertainment industry.
Drescher told The Associated Press that the moment is all about business, and there is a greater stance towards corporate leaders who value shareholders more than the people who create their products.
“At one point you don’t need to say more,” said former “Nanny” star Drescher, who is now president of the Screen Actors Guild-Federation of American Television and Radio Artists, in an interview at the union’s headquarters Wednesday. “I think it’s taken in a broader context, greater than the sum of its parts. I think this is now a talk about the culture of big business and how that culture treats everyone up and down the ladder in the name of profit.”
Drescher, 65, has been president of the players’ union since September 2021, when he defeated “Stranger Things” actor Matthew Modine in the union elections.
But for many members and observers, the day he truly became president was July 13, when Drescher delivered an exciting, impassioned and inspiring speech at the press conference, announcing that the talks had been cut off and that the strike was about to begin.
He attacked the leaders of the studios and broadcast services: “Shame on them. They’re standing on the wrong side of history.”
Drescher told the AP that he had no intention of stepping on the soapbox that day. He was required to read a written explanation and then answer questions.
“I took a quick look and said, ‘You know, I can’t say that, I really feel like I need to speak from the heart,'” she said. “It kind of just came out of my mouth, and I’m glad I was able to express myself in such a succinct, candid and authentic way. And I think people are very sensitive when you speak from the heart. Because I think a lot of people who don’t see it do see it.”
Drescher is the guild’s first president to preside over a film and TV actors’ strike since 1980. At that time, only one woman led the union. Now there are seven, including three of the last five.
The Screen Actors Guild (merged with AFTRA in 2012) has had many famous presidents, from James Cagney to Ronald Reagan to Charlton Heston.
But few in recent years have had a name, face, voice or smile as recognizable as Drescher. He made his film debut with a small role in the 1977 John Travolta disco classic “Saturday Night Fever” and, after many similar small but memorable roles, almost always as dashing New Yorkers, starred in the sitcom “The Nanny” for six seasons. From 1993 to 1999.
In the series he co-created, Drescher played Fran Fine, the babysitter of an upper-class Manhattan family. The similarities between her and her character went beyond her name: someone who was born and raised in Queens, New York, is outspoken and ends sentences with a snort.
He said the business has changed drastically since then.
“I’m so grateful that I got my big break at that time and not this time,” Drescher said. “When I started ‘The Nanny’ on CBS, it was still a family business. You knew who the owners were and could talk to them. And everything has changed.”
Today she has a very different perspective, in a very different role of caregiver.
“You now have a business model where CEOs connect more with shareholders, not with the people who produce the product they sell,” he said. “I think you have an unsustainable collapse.”
The Alliance of Film and Television Producers, the group that represents employers, recently resumed talks with the Writers Guild of America, whose members have been on strike for nearly four months. Negotiations did not yield much results. Drescher said the AMPTP has yet to reach the SAG-AFTRA leadership on the resumption of negotiations.
“I really don’t understand what the silent treatment is,” Drescher said. It might be a tactical strategy to see if they can wait for us until we lose our resolve and then get a better deal for them.”
Drescher said there would be no such thing.
“This is a turning point,” he said. “I don’t think anyone responsible for AMPTP fully understands this. “This is unlike any negotiation in the past. We’re in a whole new ball game. And if things don’t change radically, I honestly think they’re going to suffer a lot from this strike eventually.”