She's known worldwide for her nasal voice, New York accent, and starring role in the sitcom "The Nanny," but now actress Fran Drescher has recast herself as a high-profile foreign envoy, fierce political candidate and potential TV talk show host.
Drescher, 52, a cancer and rape survivor, told ABC News she considers herself a "visionary" who's trying to change attitudes about women, cancer, and health care around the world – and on Capitol Hill.
"I think women need to use their vote to change the way government, big business and the medical community – as well as themselves – think about their bodies, their health, the role they play in society, and the best medical practices," she said.
On her first official mission in September 2008, she toured Romania, Hungary, Kosovo and Poland. She recently visited Australia and is planning trips to Vienna, Austria, in April, and South Africa later this month.
"We have a significant impact when we go," Drescher said. "'The Nanny' is wildly successful all over the world… They know me, they love me, there's trustability. I'm a survivor of rape, I'm a survivor of cancer. I'm a woman that's come up front and center to talk about it and give women strength to get to the other side of their pain."
In 1985, Drescher was violently raped and robbed in her Los Angeles home. Fifteen years later, she was diagnosed with uterine cancer, underwent a hysterectomy, and has been cancer-free ever since. Drescher wrote about both experiences in her book "Cancer Schmancer," telling women to embrace difficult experiences and "turn negatives into positives."
The Queens, N.Y., native says she has also been pondering a 2010 challenge to New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who was appointed to replace Hillary Clinton when she became secretary of state. But Drescher says she is still determining if and when to run for political office.
"I do have a voice, a public voice," she said. "I have my stakes on being an elected official down the road. I don't have to do it in 2012 or 2010 in New York. I just need to really see where I'm most proactive."
Drescher: Partisan Gridlock the 'Ruin of Our Nation'
If Drescher decides to join the race, she'd face what's already shaping up to be a contentious Democratic primary between Gillibrand and perhaps former Tenn. congressman Harold Ford Jr. who is contemplating a run for her seat.
Drescher, no stranger to Democratic politics, campaigned for Hillary Clinton during the 2008 Democratic presidential primary and says she remains a close friend of Clintons.
She has also been a vocal proponent of the Democrats' health care overhaul legislation that has recently become stalled in congress. "No matter how limited it becomes from what it started out, we must take this step," she said of the bill.
Drescher described the partisanship divide over health care reform as detrimental to the future of the country.
"I like to call it a battle of the balls, because I think that there's a lot of big balls in Congress," she joked. "All too often sides are taken and it becomes a test of will. If something doesn't give with this, it will be the ruin of our nation because nothing gets done."
Drescher has made health care advocacy the focus of her celebrity since "The Nanny" went off the air in 1999.
In 2007, Drescher founded the "Cancer Schmancer Movement" to raise awareness for cancer prevention and recently launched more than a dozen so-called "Fran Vans" to the streets of low income neighborhoods in L.A. and New York. The converted cargo vans tout the importance of cancer screening and offer free breast cancer tests with the vans' on-board medical equipment.
She believes disease prevention is not emphasized enough by the American health care system or the policymakers that shape it.
"The concern about how money gets spent seems to have superseded the value of a life," she said. Drescher has been critical of the new breast cancer screening recommendations by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force in November 2009.
Those guidelines state women over 50 should have mammograms only once every two years instead of annually -- and that most women age 40 to 49 should not have them at all.
"To who's benefit is that?... I don't know why someone would even try to prove that you don't need screening as often as you're getting it if it was in the best interest of the medical consumer. Don't say to women there isn't a need to check their breasts."
Drescher Plotting a Return to TV?
For Drescher, a return to television might be a logical next step in her emerging role as a high-profile activist. She says she is in development for a talk show, though she would not confirm the network.
"The deal isn't in place yet, so saying which network should probably wait," she said. "I'm thinking I might be more useful to the greater good if I'm able to be on television every day than be in Congress."
So, would a Drescher show be overtly political?
"Not entirely… but a little bit, it would be more about my love for America and for Americans – done through humor. We'll try to get through some positive optimism and good thoughts," she said.