Actress and author Fran Drescher and real-life ex-husband Peter Marc Jacobson have made the best of what had to have been an awkward situation: The two are using their post-divorce relationship as the inspiration for their new sitcom.
“Happily Divorced” stars Drescher as a Los Angeles florist whose 18-year marriage ends when her husband Peter announces he’s gay.
Wait, there’s more.
He can’t afford to move out, so they have to live under the same roof while she navigates being single and he navigates coming out.
In real life, Drescher and Jacobson got married in 1978 and together they became successful, with Drescher acting and Jacobson acting, writing and producing. Both are best known for their work on the hit sitcom “The Nanny,” which starred Drescher and was created, written and produced by Jacobson.
Around the same time “The Nanny” ended its successful run in 1999, the two divorced.
Jacobson said that, unlike the way the breakup plays out on “Happily Divorced,” it took a while after the real-life divorce before the two of them reconnected.
“In the real version, we didn’t speak for a year because I didn’t want it to end,” he said. “I was still not dealing with the fact I was gay. I thought the problems we had that broke us up could be dealt with. But they really were stemming from the fact that I was not being who I truly am. So my anger and control issues would come out in other ways because I was burying the fact of who I was. I didn’t want to get divorced but she knew that it was time for us to become individuals. We were together since we were 15 and never spent much time apart. I was very angry about that because of course I loved her and I was losing my family. I was an orphan. Moving to New York and having to start my life all over again, through that next year, I decided I should deal with my attractions to men. A year later she had gotten sick. She had cancer and someone called me to tell me. Immediately once I found that out, I just wanted to be there to help her. She was already seeing another guy at the time. Then we started to slowly rebuild our relationship.”
Drescher and Jacobson eventually realized their professional chemistry was still strong and began collaborating on various projects, one of which would become “Happily Divorced.”
“We were writing it as a movie,” Jacobson said. “She had a meeting with TV Land to develop some television shows and they said if you were doing a TV show, what would you want to do? She said, ‘My relationship with my ex-husband is an interesting relationship.’ That’s how it happened. We always found humor as the best way to deal with any situation when we can. So we were at a point in our relationship where it was very easy to do.”
Despite the gay twist to the show, Jacobson said “Happily Divorced” is a family sitcom.
“Our roots are in sitcoms,” he said. “That’s what we do. That’s our passion. When TV Land said let’s do a traditional family sitcom, we though this would be a nice way to reach people. Love is love and that is what the message of the series is. It’s a traditional family sitcom with a contemporary edge to it.”
Starring alongside Drescher in the TV show is a stellar cast featuring Tichina Arnold (“Everybody Hates Chris,” “Martin”) as Fran’s best friend Judi, Rita Moreno and Robert Walden as her parents Dori and Glen and Valente Rodriguez as her flower-delivery employee Cesar.
Jacobson said the goal for casting on the show was to get the best talent they could.
“TV Land was really supportive of that,” he said. “They said we don’t care about big TV names, we just want the best actors. [Moreno] came in and knocked it out of the park. She’s a brilliant actress. Valente is a very trained talented stage actor. Tichina has been on Broadway. John Michael Higgins, who plays me, is one of the funniest men around. So, yes, we have a class ‘A’ cast, which makes the material sing. We have a really good show and I hope people will tune in and give it a chance.”
“Happily Divorced” debuts 10:30 p.m. June 15 on TV Land.