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The Nanny Actors You May Not Know Passed Away

Fans are rediscovering "The Nanny" after it dropped on HBO Max. For years, the classic '90s CBS sitcom wasn't available on streaming, but now that it has a home, people are falling in love with the nanny named Fran. She's got style, she's got flair, and she has a cast of 20th-century legends.

Fran Drescher famously pitched "The Nanny" to CBS exec Jeff Sagansky on a transatlantic flight. "I thought, Carpe diem. This is an opportunity, and he's a captive audience," Drescher told Vogue. "Where was he gonna go? Coach?" The pitch was simple: "The Sound of Music," but with a tough Queens broad instead of an ex-nun.

"The Nanny" drew from a large swath of Broadway, TV, and classic Hollywood legends for its guest stars. Tyne Daly of "Cagney & Lacy" guested on the Season 2 episode where Fran and Mr. Sheffield wind up sleeping in the same bed. Twiggy played Mr. Sheffield's sister, Roseanne Barr played Fran's interior decorator cousin, and Lanie Kazan played her Tante Frieda on several eps. Unfortunately, some "Nanny" actors did not live long enough to see the resurgence of this show. Here are some "Nanny" actors — both guest stars and regular cast members — you may not know have died.

Ray Charles shined as Grandma Yetta's fiancé

Unlike certain '90s sitcoms that presented a lily-white picture of New York, "The Nanny" went out of its way to cast Black celebrities as guest stars. "There was a point where I felt like the show was too white and I wanted to infuse people of color, because it wasn't happening in the '90s," Drescher told Vogue. "[W]e were set in New York in the theater world, and I wanted to bring other elements to it." One push for diversity came in the form of Grandma Yetta's fiance Sammy, played by Ray Charles. Sammy first appeared in the Season 5 premiere "The Morning After." Charles appeared sporadically throughout the rest of the show's run, even occasionally playing the piano.

Ray Charles died in his Beverly Hills home on June 10, 2004, of complications from liver disease. He was 73. Later that year, the biopic "Ray" came out starring Jamie Foxx as the blind musician. Foxx won an Academy Award for his performance.

Years later, Drescher was still singing Charles' praises, captioning an Instagram post "When I invited Ray Charles to join the Nanny cast as Grandma Yetta's fiancé and he said yes, well we were all beyond thrilled."

Joseph Bologna had a behind-the-scenes connection

The passing of Joseph Bologna hit the "Nanny" cast especially hard, as he not only guest-starred as a paramour of Renée Taylor's character Sylvia Fine, he was also Taylor's real-life husband.

Bologna appeared on the Season 6 episode "Maternal Affairs," as the man with whom Fran's mother Sylvia is having an affair. The episode is notable also for being the first appearance of Morty Fine, who had been an unseen character for the previous five seasons. Morty Fine was played by lounge legend Steve Lawrence.

Bologna died of pancreatic cancer on August 13, 2017. He was perhaps best known for playing the Sid Caesar stand-in character King Kaiser in "My Favorite Year." Bologna was nominated for an Oscar in 1970 (along with Taylor) for Best Adapted Screenplay. Bologna and Taylor adapted "Lovers and Other Strangers" for the screen, basing it off the play they wrote for Broadway in 1968, as reported in Bologna's The Hollywood Reporter obituary.

Ann Morgan Guilbert was a beloved presence on the show

Ann Morgan Guilbert was a two-time sitcom legend. Before winning a whole new fanbase as Grandma Yetta, Guilbert played wacky next-door neighbor Millie Helper on "The Dick Van Dyke Show." In the first episode of "WandaVision," Agatha's not-so-helpful neighbor is modeled in part on Millie.

As Grandma Yetta, Guilbert was a constant delight. Her exploits include bunking with CC in the cruise ship episode, helping Brighton cash in on a fake bar mitzvah, and having one of the best threesome jokes in Season 4's "The Bank Robbery." In her first memoir, Fran Drescher recounts how the real Grandma Yetta didn't like Guilbert's portrayal of her. That is, until it helped her get a last-minute hair appointment.

Ann Morgan Guilbert died on June 14, 2016, of cancer. She was 87. Drescher eulogized her TV grandma on Twitter, writing "Such a great actress! I thank you Annie. Thank you for all the laughs! May you be cracking them up in heaven!"

Spalding Gray made use of his memorable voice as Fran's therapist

Famed monologist Spalding Gray played Fran's therapist in Season 4 of "The Nanny." Fran is sent to Dr. Miller because of her obsessive need to find validation from men. In an LA Times profile, Gray is characterized as calling his recurring role a "particularly enjoyable" run in his acting career.

Beyond "The Nanny," Gray is best remembered for his feature-length monologues. Three of them were adapted into films by respected directors: "Swimming to Cambodia" by "Silence of the Lambs" director Jonathan Demme, "Monster in a Box" by documentarian Nick Broomfield, and "Gray's Anatomy" by "Ocean's Eleven" director Steven Soderbergh.

Gray died by suicide in 2004, after struggling for years with ill health and depression caused by a 2001 car crash. His mother also died by suicide.

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ at​ 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.

Allan Rich appeared in a variety of cameos

Allan Rich played several different one-off roles on "The Nanny." He is a pawnbroker in the Christmas episode, when Fran sells her grandmother's watch in order to pay for the Sheffield's presents. In Season 3, he plays a judge when Fran is charged with running an unlicensed business. And finally, he is Uncle Ray in the Season 5 Fine family reunion episode, "From Flushing with Love."

Beyond frequent "Nanny" cameos, Rich is best remembered as D.A. Tauber in "Serpico." It was his first film role, at age 47. Rich had been a Broadway actor in the '40s and early '50s, until he was blacklisted for being an alleged Communist in 1953. "At first he had no choice but to take menial jobs to support his family," Rena Dictor LeBlanc wrote of Rich in the LA Times. "Later, he detoured and became a Wall Street broker, followed by a sharp U-turn to become proprietor of the Allan Rich Art Gallery in Manhattan." Eventually Rich found his way back to acting, and "The Nanny."

Allan Rich died on August 22, 2020 of progressive dementia. He was 94. Rich's wife was Fran Drescher's manager. "He lived large and was quite heroic to many including me when faced with the depths of despair," Drescher said in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter. "He had a great intellect and excelled in everything he set his mind to. He was always on the side of good and right."