In “Grace and Frankie,” Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin are two feisty octogenarians who see old age not as a death sentence, but as a victory lap. In the show, the two women became friends only after their husbands (played by Martin Sheen and Sam Waterston) reveal that they were in love with each other, and are getting married. Hilarity ensues, but the show’s humanity endures.
Fonda said, “We both have been told by women who have faced terrible things that watching ‘Grace and Frankie’ has kept their head above water, given them hope.”
Tomlin and Fonda are great friends in real life, but they’re not exactly like the women in the play. For instance, Fonda doesn’t drink nearly as much as Grace.
“Grace and Frankie” premiered in 2015, and has just wrapped its seventh and final season, making it the longest-running original series on Netflix ever.
Back in the ’70s, Tomlin’s road act was her widely acclaimed one-woman show, “Appearing Nightly.” When Fonda went to see it, she’d just started working on an idea for a movie that would become “9 to 5.”
They’ve been friends since, together on set, and occasionally on the protest lines. In 2019 the pair, who both have a long history of social activism, were arrested together on the steps of the U.S. Capitol during a demonstration over climate change.
According to Fonda, political activism is in her blood. “I think a lot of that comes from my father,” she said. “You know, as an actor, he either played an underdog or he played people who stood up for the underdog. That was, like, in his DNA. He didn’t like bullies. He believed that we had to fight for less fortunate people. And, you know, I inherited that from him.”
Off-screen, Henry Fonda was said to be an intensely private man, and Jane said she inherited some of that, too: “I’m my father’s daughter. I could be in a car with him for three hours, and he wouldn’t say a word. So, you know, it’s hard for me to be social. It’s very hard for me to go to parties and all of that. I’m not comfortable at all. So, any excuse to be by myself”
But she always seems to show up when she’s needed. Fonda started making her famed workout tapes to raise cash for the causes she believed in. She sold close to 17 million copies of her “feel the burn” tapes, and she gave most of her profits away.
Still, Fonda’s lifetime of exercise has had benefits beyond merely financial; at 84, she looks great. They both do.
Fonda said, “I’m super-conscious that I’m closer to death. And it doesn’t bother me that much. “The fact is if you’re alive and relatively healthy at an older – I mean, I’m almost 85,” Fonda said.