Mr. Sheffield's back... only now he's Mr. Sherwood. Twelve years after The Nanny went off the air, series stars Fran Drescher and Charles Shaughnessy are reuniting on Fran's new TV Land sitcom, Happily Divorced. But don't expect romance this time around, as Charles' character has a wandering eye aimed at Fran's gay ex-husband, Peter. Charles gives us a preview of Happily's hilarious August 17 season finale.
TV Guide Magazine: Hey Charles! Who's this new guy you're playing?
Charles Shaughnessy: Fran and Peter are trying to get back into the dating scene, so I'm one of those dates. I play Gregory Sherwood, an internationally famous gardener who writes books and travels the world on book tours. He meets Fran at a book signing. We go out on a date and then back at the flower shop I meet Peter, and it turns out Gregory is a lot more friendly all around.
TV Guide Magazine: The name Sherwood sounds pretty similar to Sheffield. Not a coincidence, I assume.
Shaughnessy: There are a lot of rather fun nods to The Nanny. In fact in rehearsals, Fran was saying (mimicing Drescher's nasal voice), "Oh, Mr. Sherrrwood." The first time our characters meet I ask her who I should make out my autograph to and she says, "Fran," and I say, "Fine," so it comes out as Fran Fine. This show sort of reminds me of The Nanny. It's charming and funny.
TV Guide Magazine: Did Fran reach out to you directly about coming on the show?
Shaughnessy: Yeah, I think she did. Frannie is one of the most loyal people in the business. When I called to congratulate her on the pick-up, she said I would have to come on and do a show. I said I'd love to. I'd also been on her sitcom, Living with Fran, and an episode of her talk show. It's nice to reconnect on Happily Divorced — just this once though. I would guess it would be a mistake to have me recurring. It's great as it is.
TV Guide Magazine: The Nanny ended in 1999, the same year that Fran's real-life marriage ended to Peter Jacobson, who co-created Happily Divorced with her. The series is based on Peter's coming out of the closet. Were you privy to their whole behind-the-scenes soap opera?
Shaughnessy: There was clearly tension between them, but you have to realize they were wearing so many different hats — producers, writers, actress, director, and at some point, it's going to be hard. We thought the tension was connected to the emotional turmoil of the show coming to an end, so it was a surprise that there was this other issue going on.
TV Guide Magazine: You were surprised that Peter was gay?
Shaughnessy: Yeah. There were certain indications, but I certainly wasn't going to go up to Fran and say, "I think your husband's gay." (laughs). Sexuality in show business is often difficult to decipher. My gaydar is pretty good, but there is a kind of theatricality that could often be mistaken for being gay. But it's not always so. A lot of people think that I could be gay. I do a lot of musical comedy and have a developed feminine side. There's something in the air...
TV Guide Magazine: Would you like to make an announcement to TV Guide Magazine?
Shaughnessy: (laughs) No, I'm very clear as to who I am. I'm not very good at that whole American male back slapping, "How 'bout them knockers?" banter, but I enjoy women enormously. I feel very comfortable that I am definitely heterosexual, but I also feel very comfortable singing Oklahoma.