“Grace and Frankie” premieres its entire second season on Netflix on May 6, and on April 14 stars Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin were in New York to preview the first two episodes of the new season at the Tribeca Film Festival. During a Q&A moderated by Gayle King, the legendary actresses discussed the show, their characters, binge-watching, aging, feminism and more.
“It is such a strange experience,” said Fonda about making TV for the web. “[The first season] started streaming on a Thursday night at midnight, and we flew the next morning to LA. By the time I got home, I was getting calls and emails from people who had seen the whole season.”
But despite the success of the series – season two is forthcoming, and season three is soon to begin filming – Fonda still found herself experiencing self-doubt. “She doesn’t think she’s funny,” Tomlin observed, and Fonda concurred.
“At the end of season one I got back into therapy and got an acting coach,” Fonda explained. “Painters have canvas and paintbrushes, and musicians have instruments, but we [actors] have ourselves, and if we’re screwed up for various reasons … it’s really hard to act well.”
“I come from a long line of depressed people,” Fonda added, “so I don’t really have a natural funny bone, but [Tomlin] totally has a funny bone … I like to hang around her because it rubs off.”
“Grace and Frankie,” which follows the lives of its title characters after their longtime husbands fall in love with each other, is a rare TV series to focus on the lives of older women, and Fonda has received feedback from fans in that age group who told her, “‘I watch the show because it gives me hope.’ That is so great because life isn’t easy,” she said. “That’s what’s good about being old: you look back over your life and you think, ‘I survived it. Been there, done that. It’s not going to kill me.’ And also giving a face to older women – and older men, but there’s always older men. Older men get away with everything.”
Age is often a barrier in youth-obsessed Hollywood, but it’s not the only one. Asked about their experiences as women in the industry, Tomlin answered, “Jane was a star when she was 19, so she had an early start. And there’s pressure on women, especially young women, to be of a certain behavior and a certain sensibility … I didn’t have the same kinds of battles that I’m conscious of because I’m a comedian, and I made up stuff to do.”
Fonda added that strides continue to be made for women in society, but “It’s a long battle. The system we’re trying to change is patriarchy, and it’s several thousand years old, and it’ll take a while. It’ll be the last one to go.