Grace and Frankie’s Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda’s IRL and Onscreen Chemistry


Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda are Hollywood legends. They have had long, fulfilling careers that include 9 to 5, the film in which they starred together in the 1970s.

Last year they reunited to star in the Netflix series Grace and Frankie, which is having its second season premiere this Friday. The show, about two women who find out their husbands are not only law partners but also lovers, displays the actress’ immense talent, with acting that goes from dramatic to hilarious in the blink of any eye. Their friendship transcends from reality to the script and the show also conveys the message that it’s never too late for reinvention. This is a topic the two women know a lot about and staying relevant in Hollywood is a vital ingredient of success.

Ahead of season two, I sat down with Fonda and Tomlin and a few other writers. We asked them several questions about the show, their friendship and what it’s like for an aging actress in Hollywood. The conversation was lengthy, candid and memorable, and of course it was clear that their chemistry was fierce, as expected.

Tell us about the first time you met.

Jane Fonda: It was because of (the play) The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life that 9 to 5 became a comedy. Then I saw her…

Lily Tomlin: No, I saw her. It was my plan.

Fonda: I just couldn’t do it without her playing a secretary.

What’s it like working together again? Does 9 to 5 feel like yesterday?

Tomlin: I can see us getting out of that old bus or a make up truck.

Fonda: We had our own motor home, that’s where I got made up.

Tomlin: I don’t remember any luxury like that. Dolly (Parton) came to work made up.

How do you both manage to stay looking so young?

Fonda: My body doesn’t feel younger, but my mind does. I feel way younger.

Tomlin: I’ve never grown up.

There are so many emotional situations in the show, along with comedic ones. How do you jump from one to another?

Tomlin: It’s what an actor does. If you’ve lived a long time, you have so many things to draw from.

Chatting About Grace and Frankie, Season 2

Does the show present any challenges?

Tomlin: One challenge is keeping Jane happy, she’s so morose. (laughter) I think you know what I’m talking about. The challenge is more than just working hard, the long hours. You have to trade off stuff.  But we’ll be done soon for a few months.

The show’s very much about “what about me,” especially when the men first leave. Can you relate to the show’s premise?

Tomlin: I can relate to everything…whether I’ve lived it or not. I can live it through another person. But the thing about what about me is applicable in lots of areas. You don’t have to lose a husband, or a partner.

Your show has really helped young moms relate to their moms. Did you expect that to happen?

Fonda: In my wildest dreams, I’d hoped. That’s a mitzvah. I’m thrilled. I just shot a scene where my daughter is accusing me of not giving her unconditional love. I’m calling my daughter tonight! There are a lot of people like me. I wasn’t a good mother. For some people, it’s the fulfillment but it wasn’t for me.

Grace and Frankie season two premieres this weekend on Netflix.

Disclosure: I’m a member of Netflix’s social media team called StreamTeam and was their guest on the set.

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