HE MADE us laugh as the posh, smart-mouthed British butler Niles in The Nanny for years — but there’s one thing Daniel Davis just never understood about the show.
After six wildly successful years between 1993-1999, the series ended neatly with titular character Fran Fine (played by creator Fran Drescher) married to her boss Maxwell Sheffield (Charles Shaughnessy), and Niles settling down with his former arch rival — and Mr Sheffield’s colleague — C.C. Babcock (Lauren Lane.)
But it’s the latter love story that Davis could never quite grasp.
“That’s the only part that I never really bought, to tell you the truth,” he told news.com.au.
“C.C. and I had been so oil and water — I didn’t buy that we would end up married. But I had to play it, because that’s what they wrote … I don’t think I’ve ever expressed that to anyone before!”
The 70-year-old originally thought that the odd pairing may mean an extended future for C.C. and Niles.
“The only reason I thought it could have worked would be if they were planning a spin-off, like The Niles and C.C. Show, which I would have loved — but they didn’t go with that idea.”
He may not have liked it, but Davis can still understand why the writers felt the need to have the butler and C.C. live happily ever after.
“I guess they were just wanting to tie up the loose ends.”
All six seasons of The Nanny are available to stream on Binge which is Australia’s new streaming service.
Niles and C.C. had great chemistry, but Davis doesn’t believe they’d have ever gotten married.
The characters’ on-screen chemistry was undeniable, and their subtle ongoing feud quickly emerged as a cornerstone of the series — so it may not surprise fans to learn Davis and Lane actually had a history before landing the roles.
“The luckiest thing that could have possibly happened was that we knew each other for six years before The Nanny. Once I realised she was going to play that part [C.C.], it was just so natural. We had an ease so we just were the perfect fit, right from day one.”
Niles was famous for his quick quips and one-liners, and a lot of that wit was actually inspired by the actor himself.
“The writers watched me carefully in the early days of the show,” he explained.
“They started to write in my voice. And because I have a wicked side to my humour, they picked up on it.”
During its six-year run, The Nanny boasted an impressive catalogue of guest appearances — from Whoopi Goldberg, Elton John, Bette Midler, Jay Leno to Joan Collins — but there was one star that had the whole cast starstruck.
Fran Drescher with guest star Joan Collins.
“We were all tongue-tied when Elizabeth Taylor came on — we were all in awe,” Davis revealed.
“But she made it easy for us to work with her — she said, ‘Look kids, we’ve all got to work together so forget that I’m Elizabeth Taylor and just think of me as an actress who’s come to work on your show’.”
While Davis — who is also known for his role as Professor Moriarty in Star Trek TNG — remembers his time on The Nanny fondly, there is one former cast member who doesn’t have such happy memories.
“It wasn’t a fun experience,” Madeline Zima, who played little Gracie Sheffield, told The TV Page in 2013.
“There was just a kindness and a sensitivity that didn’t exist on the set of The Nanny. They treated me more like a prop than like a human being.”
Madeline Zima (front and centre), who played Gracie, was an ‘unhappy child’, according to Davis.
It was a disappointing thing for Davis to hear about the show he loved so much, but he believes it simply boiled down to Zima’s natural attitude.
“There was always the sense with Madeline that she was just an unhappy child — it was her nature. It was noticeable,” he explained.
“I think the writers picked up on her unhappiness, and they wrote it into her character … It’s why Gracie always seemed unhappy and was in therapy.”
Regardless, considering the ongoing re-runs of the show nearly 20 years on from its end, The Nanny’s popularity doesn’t appear to be waning anytime soon.
“I think The Nanny will live for a lot longer than we [the cast] do,” predicted Davis.