The word is all over town. After leading SAG-AFTRA to an historic new deal with the Hollywood studios, Fran Drescher has leverage, rediscovered fame and momentum.
Could she use all that to transition into a political career?
“This has been a great launching pad for her. So it wouldn’t be unusual for her to try to make that leap,” said Jorge Flores, a Los Angeles-based political consultant who has run campaigns for Congress and state offices.
“Certainly she has raised her profile significantly, and has developed a base with certain constituencies across labor,” he noted. “I could see her potentially running for Congress on the sort of issues that she’s been dealing with in SAG-AFTRA. Macro issues as far as cost of living, equity issues, is where I think her platform would be aligned with a member of Congress.”
Matt Klink, president of the International Association of Political Consultants, agreed that Drescher could be a good fit for political office. “If the right office in the right district were to open, she has the wealth, the life experience and the personality to make a solid run,” he told TheWrap.
Drescher herself laughed off the idea of running for president last week when asked about it. “I don’t want that job. Oh boy,” she told The Hollywood Reporter, adding that no less a personage than Meryl Streep raised the idea to her.
But even with that dismissal, it sounds very much like Drescher hasn’t ruled out politics as a next move. “I do think that we’ll see. Time will tell,” she teased in the interview.
What’s clear is that Drescher garnered strong support for her leadership during the 118-day strike and many have remarked on her rousing Norma Rae persona that has all the hallmarks of political leadership — plus the soft touch of a plushie toy. The broad support of a guild full of famous actors could propel a career into politics, experts told TheWrap.
Her supporters certainly think so. “Having watched the last couple of years, I am a huge fan and I’ll follow wherever she goes,” actress Shari Belafonte of “The Morning Show,” and the guild’s VP of Actors/Performers, told TheWrap last week.
Still others noted that Drescher has political experience from her work in fighting for government research to combat cancer. As a survivor of cancer she lobbied for the 2006 Gynecologic Cancer Education and Awareness Act.
Drescher, 66, was elected elected SAG-AFTRA president in 2021 and handily won reelection in September in the midst of the actors’ strike.
The guild is a political launch pad
There is a rich tradition of Hollywood actors transitioning to politics, including leaders of the guild.
Ronald Reagan, who went from SAG president to California Governor to POTUS, remains the most high profile politician to get his start in Hollywood.
Arnold Schwarzenegger put his action films on hold for eight years to become “The Governator.” Clint Eastwood served as mayor of Carmel-by-the-Sea. Wrestler-turned-actor Jesse Ventura added Governor of Minnesota to his resumé and singer and variety show host Sonny Bono served as both the mayor of Palm Springs and a California Congressman. Former “Saturday Night Live” regular Al Franken was elected to the Minnesota Senate in 2009, but stepped down in 2018 after being accused of sexual misconduct (he called some of the allegations “simply not true” and said he remember others “very differently.”)
In the U.K., double-Oscar winner Glenda Jackson retired from acting in 1991 to chart a powerful second chapter as a staunch Labour Party member in Parliament.
TheWrap caught up with several members of SAG’s negotiating committee, all of whom said they were firm Drescher supporters.
“Fran had the secret sauce,” gushed Samantha Mathis, who served as the guild’s Vice President of Actors/Performers from 2015 to 2019. “She really brought some special magic to this process. I was in awe of how ambitious she wanted to be with this package.”
When asked if she’d vote for Drescher if she ran for office, Mathis smiled and said: “Fran for President? Fran and her plushie? Why not? She’s an extraordinary leader and I am in awe of and have such deep respect for the fact that she did this [SAG negotiation] on her terms. This country certainly needs to have its first female president, so why not Fran?”
Like her “Nanny” character Fran Fine, Drescher was raised in Flushing, Queens and studied cosmetology after graduating from Hillcrest High. She made an impression in her first film, “Saturday Night Live,” in which she asks John Travolta, “Are you as good in bed as you are on that dance floor?” before going on to create and star in her career-defining sitcom, “The Nanny,” which ran on CBS from 1993 to 1999.
Could “the flashy girl from Flushing” make it all the way to the White House? Being an actor was more a help than a hindrance for Reagan, despite jabs at his 1951 movie “Bedtime for Bonzo,” in which his costar was a chimpanzee.
Reagan biographer Craig Shirley, who’s written four books about the 40th president, noted that when incumbent governor Pat Brown tried to use Reagan’s career as an actor against him, it backfired. Among those who resented the anti-actor sentiment was “Bonanza” star Dan Blocker, who withdrew his support from Brown after the ill-advised campaign. Newly minted Republican Reagan, who successfully courted the conservative vote, ended up winning by a landslide.
Klink, said that Drescher’s anti-capitalist rhetoric — she was dubbed the “anti-capitalist icon” by The Cut in 2017 — could cut back her options.
“Fran Drescher’s political viability for elected office is rather limited,” he said, as she does not have broad name recognition of mega-stars like Schwarzenegger.
Drescher’s net worth, as of 2023, is $25 million, according to Parade. She does not, however, earn a salary as SAG President as she is an unpaid volunteer.
Towanda Underdue, the “House of Cards” actress who represents the union’s Washington-Mid Atlantic local, told TheWrap, as did every other SAG negotiating committee member TheWrap spoke with, that the guild would never have made it over the goal line without Drescher. “She has the ability to be cutting-edge and compassionate at the same time and I think it took the AMPTP and CEOs by surprise,” Underdue said. “We got here because of her leadership.”
A known quantity in DC
Drescher is already known in D.C. circles. The actress, who wrote about her battle with uterine cancer in her 2002 book “Cancer Schmancer,” successfully lobbied four year later for the Gynecologic Cancer Education and Awareness Act, known as Johanna’s Law — and has two commendations in the Congressional Record. She later launched the Cancer Schmancer Movement, a non-profit organization to help ensure that women’s cancers are diagnosed earlier.
Although Drescher endorsed Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, in 2008 the George W. Bush administration appointed her a Public Diplomacy Envoy for Women’s Health Issues, thanks to her efforts on behalf of women’s healthcare.
SAG’s New York local president Ezra Knight mentioned her non-profit as proof she has expertise beyond the SAG negotiating room. “She’s been very adept at dealing with legislatures and getting people together for a cause that she’s representing,” Knight said.
But not all her fellow SAG executives agree she should throw her hat in the political ring. “I don’t know if that’s what she would want,” SAG Secretary-Treasurer Joely Fisher said. “They’re all sort of thankless jobs, right?” Belafonte added. “We are trying to fix the world one little section at a time.”
Underdue responded to the question with a laugh. “Well, I’m not a publicist for Fran, it’s up to her.”
Knight admitted several actors initially had their doubts about Drescher’s qualifications to lead the guild. “When we first elected her president, there were a lot of unknowns,” he said as the committee celebrated their win. “Is she up for this? Can she do this? The answer’s pretty clear.”
Flores added that Drescher has come out of the strike on an incredibly strong note. “I think she earned the respect of a lot of people both in labor and outside of labor in the way she handled herself during the entire experience,” he told TheWrap.
Tina Daunt contributed to this story
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