Hail to the Chief: Fran Drescher Takes Her Post-Strike Victory Lap

“We all cried,” says Fran Drescher, recalling the moment that SAG-AFTRA reached a tentative agreement to end the actors strike on Wednesday night. “It was such a relief and a release. I felt like one of those tennis stars, like Djokovic when he won the US Open and fell to his knees and wept on the court.”

For the last 30 years, Drescher was best known for her role as sweetly brash working woman Fran Fine in the classic 1990s sitcom The Nanny. That changed on July 13, when Drescher, in her role as SAG-AFTRA president, announced that the actors would be going on strike. In her familiar, adenoidal Queens accent, she hurled scathing invective at the entertainment studios and streamers represented by the AMPTP—“a greedy entity” that she deemed to be “on the wrong side of history.” 

Suddenly, she had transformed herself into a Hollywood labor leader—someone who, alongside SAG national executive director and chief negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, would hold out for 118 days to get the guild’s membership a deal that might help actors survive the chaos and industry contraction of the next few years. Over the course of the strike, she made waves by calling out Disney chief Bob Iger, and she provoked gossip by reading out Buddhist quotes and bringing a heart-shaped plush toy into negotiations.

The strike officially ended in the wee hours of Thursday morning, though SAG-AFTRA’s members have not yet ratified the contract. Drescher says she is confident that her guild negotiated “an amazing deal” that includes a new mechanism for streaming compensation, increases actors minimum pay, and puts guardrails around the use of AI. Sounding a little hoarse after all the excitement, Drescher talks to Vanity Fair about taking on Hollywood’s CEOs, rallying A-list celebs, reading Buddhist words of wisdom in the negotiation room, and getting a deal done.

Vanity Fair: I imagine it has been a pretty exhausting 24 hours.

Fran Drescher: It’s everything. I’m relieved, I’m exhausted, and I’m triumphant. The stress has been lifted off me. I don’t know how much more any of us in the negotiating committee could have taken. And the fact that we got a historic deal just makes it that much more delicious

What feels like the biggest win?

Definitely putting barricades around AI. That was very important because we’re at a historic moment with all of this technology, and if we didn’t get it in a contract that protected our members right here right now, it was going to get so far ahead of us that it would be just outside of our grasp. Now we got our full proposal, and we’re going to meet with the AMPTP members twice a year to keep our finger on the pulse of how it is advancing.

What didn’t you get that frustrates you?

For the first time, after fighting for 20 years, we got performance capture. Which is a great thing, but they didn’t want to talk about facial or motion capture. That has to get in there, and it will next time. We needed desperately to get revenue for streaming platforms and we got that. Was it what I had imagined way back when? No, it’s something else…a bonus that goes into a fund, and then we can figure out how it gets distributed. We also spent a lot of time talking about self-tapes for auditions and interviews, which monopolized the casting industry during Covid. There were no real regulations—everybody just told actors that they had to do them if they wanted the privilege of trying out for the job, so that had to be regulated. Now, did we get everything we wanted with that? No. Did we get some really good things? Yes. Are we already making a list of what’s gonna come next? Of course!

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