Fran Drescher and Peter Marc Jacobson were married for 18 years before Fran decided, in the midst of shooting “The Nanny,” that she wanted her freedom, felt tied down and sought a divorce. After spending a great deal of time in therapy and self-examination, Peter realized he was gay and has since come out of the closet. After an estrangement filled with anger and hostility, Peter rallied to Fran’s aid when she was diagnosed with cancer some years ago. Since then they are once again best friends and business partners and their relationship inspired the TV series they co-created, “Happily Divorced,” now beginning its second season on TV Land. Fran stars and Peter is executive producer, writer and directed the first two episodes of the season.
“Happily Divorced” centers around Los Angeles florist Fran (Drescher) as she deals with dating after finding out her realtor husband of 18 years (John Michael Higgins) is gay. The show focuses on how she juggles her new relationships and her ex-husband post-divorce, and how Peter is adjusting to his new lifestyle, while still living under the same roof. The cast is rounded out by Fran’s best friend Judi (Tichina Arnold), her parents Dori and Glen (Rita Moreno and Robert Walden) and her flower delivery employee Cesar (Valente Rodriguez). Additionally, Fran’s recurring love interest, Elliot, is played by D.W. Moffett.
Check out The Qu’s exclusive interview with Peter!
Interview by: Tony Soto
Qu: You have been working in the entertainment business for some time, what was it like getting started and after you made it what was the ride like?
PMJ: I actually started when I was six. I was chosen along with a few kids to be in a jello commercial. The advertising agency told my parents that I should do more. But my mother said she’d rather I wait until I was 18. Then when I was 18 I started doing commericals again. It took me a year to get my first one and little by little I started building my resume with small parts in movies and guest spots on TV shows, with a pilot here and there.
It wasn’t until The Nanny that I found monetary success. And at that point Fran and I were so much in debt, financially, that we were thinking if they just make the pilot we can live for another two years. Or at least pay the minimum on our credit card.
Qu: You were married to Fran Drescher of 18 years, what was married life like? Especially since you also worked together.
PMJ: Married life was great. We had great times and times where we fought like every other couple but I think towards the end of our marriage, since I was living in denial of who I really was and buried any feeling I might have had about being gay deep down, I would get very frustrated and controlling of Fran instead of dealing with my own issues and that’s ultimately what ended the marriage.
Qu: Were there pressures on you and your relationship after realizing The Nanny was such a hit?
PMJ: There’s always pressure trying to keep up the quality, the ratings, but those are good problems to have. I’d be a fool to complain about that. We were very grateful that people watched and were enjoying the show.
Qu: You and Fran were divorced in 1999 after a long separation. Did your estrangement from her happen as a result of the divorce or you realizing you were gay.
PMJ: I didn’t want the divorce. She did. Because I was being so controlling and she was unhappy. At the time, I was living a straight life and wanted to continue to but she didn’t want to and I was angry about that because obviously that meant I had to face who I truly was.
Qu: Tell us about when you came to the realization of your homosexuality. Critics would say that you had to have known that you were gay the whole time, was that the case?
PMJ: I knew that I was attracted to men but I buried those feelings. I had seen a few therapists who said it wasn’t uncommon for men to have these fantasies, these thougths but because I didn’t want to act on them, that sufficed. Eventually, I came to the conclusion that I was bi-sexual and even that was hard for me to admit to but since I didn’t want to act on it and was in love with Fran, she was happy, I was happy and the marriage continued until it didn’t.
Qu: Were you closeted because of the business you were in?
PMJ: No. I think I was closeted by the way I was borught up and where I was brought up. It was the 60’s when I was a kid and in a borough of New York where I honestly didn’t know what a gay person was. You grew up, bought your girlfriend a big ol’ honking ring, had a big wedding and moved to Long Island.
Qu: Is there pressure in the business from a producer/writer/director stand point to remain in the closet?
PMJ: I don’t think behind the scenes, there’s any pressure for a writer/producer/director to be in the closet. There may still be some pressure for leading men or women but behind the scenes, I don’t think anyone cares in this day and age and it seems to be getting better in front of the camera as well.
Qu: You and Fran found your way back to each other following her diagnosis with uterine cancer, could you tell us how you felt when you reunited?
PMJ: You know I think when two people are soul mates and you see each other even after a long separation it’s like no time has passed. And not to say that we didn’t have a road ahead of us to repair old patterns and restablish a new relationship, but there was always a deep connection between the two of us that will always be there no matter what.
Qu: What is your relationship like now with Fran?
PMJ: It’s great. We can be creative together. We set each other up on dates. We yell at each. We laugh at each other. It’s honestly like we’re still married, except for ya know…
Qu:Tell us about Happily Divorced, which is going into it’s second season!
PMJ: Well they say write what you know and we have not seen this relationship with a divorced couple where the husband is gay explored yet. So, after a trip to Paris, where the two of us started falling into old married patterns we looked at each other and said this would make a great movie. But when Fran pitched the idea to Keith Cox at TVLand he said it would make a great TV show. And I guess he was right.
Qu: Was it difficult to kind of share your story in this way?
PMJ: No, it was kind of liberating. When you basically come out on Oprah in front of the world, even though it was 11 years later, there’s nothing to hide and you feel free to just be.
Qu: The character that represents you in Happily Divorced is adjusting to his new lifestyle. What was your adjustment like?
PMJ: All I ever knew was being a married man. I moved to NY, a great place to reinvent yourself. I met some friends who were gay and kind of showed me the ‘gay ropes’. They were very gentle about it, no pun intended. They let me figure out who I was without ever juding me and I am very greateful to them for that.
Qu: What is some advice that you can give to husbands who may be gay and closeted, or to newly out homosexuals on how to face their new lives?
PMJ: You know everybody’s journey is individual. And I’d hate to tell anyone how or what to do because it was very difficicult for me. It obviously took me a long time to figure it out but I will say when you are finally able to accept who you are and embrace it and knowing that it’s okay you are able to breathe easier. And those who truly know how to love will be there to support you.
Qu: Thank you so much for chatting with The Qu, we wish you continued success with “Happily Divorced” and any future endeavorers!