Fran Drescher takes center stage as the captain of the Actors Union

The stage was different, and so was the tone. But the sound was unmistakable.

Fran Drescher, the owner of a pronounced nose, with a Queens accent, made her name in Hollywood for her starring role in the sitcom “The Nanny.” On Thursday, she appeared before dozens of cameras as the chairwoman of the actors’ union that voted unanimously earlier in the day to strike, making a fiery argument portraying the risks of the decision.

“The eyes of the world and especially the workers are on us,” said Mrs. Drescher. “What happens to us matters. What happens to us happens in all areas of the business.”

She shook her fists indignantly. “I was shocked at the way the people we were dealing with treated us!” I continued. “It sucks. Shame on them!”

Ms. Drescher is the latest in a long line of familiar faces–including Ronald Reagan, Patty Duke, and Charlton Heston–to run SAG-AFTRA, the union that represents tens of thousands of screen actors. But it amounts to a surprising plot twist in her long career.

As Thursday’s press conference made clear, she is now a leading face of an up-and-coming labor movement nationwide. How you deal with it in the coming weeks, and possibly months, could help determine the fate of 160,000 actors.

The actors’ strike, which will take effect on Friday, marks a crisis point for Hollywood, which has already been rocked in recent years by the pandemic and sweeping technological shifts with the rise of broadcasting and the steady decline of cable television and the box office. yields. Hollywood writers have been on strike for months, and with two actors now joining them — the first time since 1960 that both have been on strike at the same time — the industry will basically come to a halt.

Ms. Drescher, 65, has spent decades acting in Hollywood, both in television and film. Since starring in “The Nanny” in the 1990s, by far her most notable role, she has appeared sporadically in television and feature films. She recently starred in a short-lived NBC sitcom, “Indebted,” which ran 12 episodes before it was canceled in 2020.

She has long expressed her concerns about corporate greed, captioning photos with slogans like “STOP CAPITAL PARTNER NOW.” It was enough for New York magazine to put up a file Headline in a 2017 blog postYour new favorite anti-capitalist icon is Fran Drescher.

A few years later, in 2021, Mrs. Drescher wins election for union president in a closely contested race against actor Matthew Modine. They represented different factions: Ms. Drescher for the Unite for Strength party, and Mr. Modine for a start-up group, Membership First.

The race became so bitter that Mr. Modine accused Mrs. Drescher of spreading falsehoods about him and It said“I am ashamed of Fran Drescher, I am disappointed. But she will be judged by the people of the world after she is gone, or by whatever god she worships.”

Unlike screenwriters, who went on strike many times over the decades and were historically unified, actors were known more for their internal conflicts. Hollywood had been preparing for the writers’ strike since the beginning of the year — but few top executives and producers were prepared for the actors to have the resolve to go through with it.

When Mrs. Drescher came to power, she vowed to unite the Union and to end to “the dysfunctional division in this union.”

When the representatives agreed to leave to strike, it received 97.9 percent of the vote—a staggering number that even exceeded the large permission granted by the writers to strike. last month, membership first, opposition party, supported Mrs. Drescher’s re-election bid.

However, some of her public statements and actions in recent weeks have confused many actors.

In late June, days before the actors’ contract expired, Ms. Drescher and the union’s chief negotiator, Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, released a video that struck many viewers as surprisingly optimistic given the high stakes of the negotiations.

“I just want to assure you that we are having very productive laser focused negotiations on all of the critical issues that you told us are most important to you,” she said, wearing a military jacket. “We stand strong, and we will make a basic deal!”

A few days later, more than 1,000 representatives, including Meryl Streep and Jennifer Lawrence, signed a letter expressing concerns to the union leadership that they had not considered their desire to strike. “We hope that you will meet this moment on our behalf and not miss it,” the message read.

Mrs. Drescher added her signature to the letter, which was curious given her position.

On Monday, days before the actors’ contract expired, Ms. Drescher drew attention on another front: She was attending the Dolce & Gabbana fashion show in Puglia, Italy, where she posed for pictures with Kim Kardashian. Ms. Kardashian told her 362 million Instagram followers about Ms. Drescher: “To my fashion icon! Always on my mood board! I seriously love this woman!”

The reaction was quick and fast. “General Hospital” actress Nancy Lee Grahn wondered if the photo was a joke. “I hope that’s not true. It can’t be. No one can be that stupid books on Twitter.

In a statement, a spokeswoman for the actors’ union said Ms. Drescher was serving as a “brand ambassador” for Dolce and Gabbana, and that the commitment was “fully known to the negotiating committee.” Mr Crabtree-Ireland described the criticism of Ms Drescher’s fashion show appearance as “outrageous” and “despicable”.

Ms. Drescher spoke about the issue at Thursday’s news conference. “It was an absolute job,” she said, adding that she continued to communicate with negotiators from abroad. “I’d wear my hair and make-up three hours a day, walk in heels on cobblestones. Doing things like that, which is work. Not fun.”

While Mr. Crabtree-Ireland was speaking at the press conference from an observant, Ms. Drescher spoke off the cuff.

“Wake up and smell the coffee,” she said of the studios. “We demand respect! You cannot exist without us!”

“They are on the wrong side of history at this very moment,” she continued, pointing her finger aggressively towards the cameras’ cameras. We stand united in unprecedented unity. Our union, our sister unions, and unions around the world, stand by us.”