The Gay Divorcee
BY Brandon Voss
June 15 2011 11:20 AM ET
Once upon a time, high school sweethearts Fran Drescher and Peter Marc Jacobson got married and moved from Flushing, N.Y., to Hollywood, where they created, cowrote, and coproduced Drescher’s hit ’90s sitcom The Nanny. They lived happily, but not ever after; the couple divorced after 21 years of marriage, and Jacobson soon came to terms with the fact that he was gay. Inspired by this fractured fairy tale, the close friends have reunited as partners behind the scenes on Happily Divorced, which debuts June 15 on TV Land and stars Drescher as a fictionalized version of herself opposite Best in Show’s John Michael Higgins as the hubby who upends her life with his surprise gay awakening. Currently single and looking for his own happy ending, Jacobson opens up to The Advocate about his long walk down the aisle to self-acceptance.
The Advocate: When did you and Fran decide that it might be a good idea to turn your story into a television show?
Peter Marc Jacobson: We were on vacation together in Paris — we went away together because we had mileage or something — and we found ourselves falling back into our old ways of being married, like me getting annoyed that she was late. We said, “This would be a fun movie.” So we started writing it as a movie, but we changed it around a lot — we even made the main character straight — and it never felt right. Later, when we pitched a few ideas for sitcoms in a meeting with TV Land, they said, “If you did something, what would it be?” Fran said, “Well, our story is that my husband came out, blah blah.” And they said, “You don’t have to tell us anymore, because we just bought that. We love it.”
How is it different working together on Happily Divorced than it was working together on The Nanny?
When we were doing The Nanny, which was an amazing experience, I had not yet come to terms with who I really was. I was living a heterosexual life and burying down the real me. I became very controlling with Fran — he way she looked, how she dressed, what she ate — and became very Svengali-esque, which is not a good way to be with someone you go home to sleep with. That’s what eventually tore us apart — not my sexuality, because I wasn’t acting out on it then. Now that we don’t go home with each other, it’s a lot easier. We see each other at work, do our thing, and when we do hang out it’s to do fun stuff. And now that I’ve dealt with who I am, I don’t have the same issues that I had back then. The pressure’s gone, and only the love and the respect for each other’s talents remain.
You never argue?
If there’s something I believe she’s wrong about, I’ll fight her on it, and vice versa. But we don’t sweat the little things as much.
You say you didn’t act on your gay feelings during your marriage. When did you discover that you were attracted to men?
I remember basically being sexually attracted to women until I was 14 or 15. I remember finding this huge pile of Playboys as a kid and thinking I'd hit the motherload. But then it switched around a bit, and I started looking at men and thinking they were also attractive. That was scary to me. Growing up in the '70s in Flushing, you sort of buried that down. And that’s around the time when I met Fran in high school, and I was attracted to her, so I thought, OK, I’m going to put all my energy into this. I buried that attraction to men, but it was still there.
Did Fran know about that attraction?
I told her at some point through our marriage that I had those feelings. But I’d seen a bunch of shrinks who said I wasn’t gay, so I thought, Well, maybe I’m bisexual, but I choose to be with her.
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