The now-iconic 90s sitcom The Nanny premiered on November 3, 1993, starring Fran Drescher as a down-on-her-luck makeup salesman from Flushing, Queens. She found herself at the Sheffield family’s door after breaking up with her boyfriend in one of those crushing scenes and before she knew it, she was caring for the three children of a wealthy Broadway producer.
Though the show is centered around its eponymous character, Fran Fine (Drescher), the sitcom’s phenomenal cast of both main and supporting characters played a major role in its success. Among those supporting characters is Fran’s mother Sylvia, played by Renee Taylor. Though The Nanny went off the air 24 years ago, Taylor still holds the series close to her heart.
“It was like a real family even though we were playing a family [on The Nanny],” Taylor told The NY Post. “We were all madly in love with Mr. Sheffield and wanted to run away with him and be happily married.”
Believe it or not, however, Taylor almost didn’t get the role of Sylvia! Network executives initially had Sheila MacRae pegged for the role. It was only with Drescher’s help that Sylvia fell into the right hands.
“[Fran] said, ‘Here’s what we’re going to do,’” Taylor explained. “‘We’ll bring you on the show as a guest [star] and let’s just say, ‘Hey, she might be good as the mother!’ And that’s exactly what happened. It was like [the network suits] ‘discovered’ me, like, ‘Oh, yeah, she might be good.’”
Renee Taylor Was a Natural Fit for Fran Fine’s Mom in ‘The Nanny’
Thankfully, producers chose Taylor for the role of Sylvia in the end. The Nanny fit Renee Taylor like a glove. The chemistry between Taylor and Drescher was so strong, one would think they were actual mother and daughter! According to Taylor, Fran Drescher felt the same way.
“Fran had seen my  movie, ‘Made for Each Other,’ with me and Joe [Bologna, Taylor’s then-husband],” Taylor explained. “She and Peter [Marc Jacobson, The Nanny showrunner] were fans from when they were in high school and they used to call themselves ‘Renee and Joe.’ Fran said to me, ‘Renee, someday you’re going to play my mother.’”
Another reason the fit seemed so natural with the on-screen mother and daughter is that Renee Taylor based Sylvia off Fran Drescher’s real-life mom! “I met Fran’s mother who, by the way, is a big flirt,” Taylor recalled. “I sort of fashioned my performance after her and I was inspired by her. She said, ‘Oh, your hair is so high on the show,’ which was funny — because her hair was even higher.”
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