During a SAG Awards promotional screening and panel event in Hollywood on Sunday, “Grace and Frankie” co-stars Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin talked about saying goodbye to their Netflix juggernaut hit after seven seasons and 94 episodes. They discussed emulating the characters they portrayed so memorably and playfully sparred before an audience of a few hundred fans and voters after screening the seventh and eighth episodes of the final season that dropped on the streamer in April. While the talk moderated by series co-creator and executive producer Marta Kauffman (“Friends”) was generally light and fun, it got a little heavy when Kauffman asked Fonda (who turns 85 on December 21) and T0mlin (83) if they think the show has changed the Hollywood landscape for older actors – women in particular.
“Yes, absolutely,” Fonda said. “There’s a lot going on (in Hollywood) that makes it a little bit easier for older actors, but I definitely think our show has played a very important role there – and made the idea of getting older less scary. What I hope and what I think is partly true is (we’ve made) people less afraid of getting old. So many women have said to both Lily and me how much hope the series has given them.” After a brief moment of seeming indecision onstage, Fonda added, “There was somebody who was wanting to commit suicide, and her sister made her watch ‘Grace and Frankie’ and she got over it.”
The golden years comedy – the longest-running series in Netflix’s comparatively brief history – starred Fonda and Tomlin as two women who form an unlikely friendship after their husbands (Sam Waterston and Martin Sheen) fall in love. It focused on characters forced to restart their lives following four decades of marriage. Grace Hanson (Fonda) is a sharp-tongued retired cosmetics mogul, while Frankie Bergstein is a quirky artist and hippie. Both actors have earned three SAG Awards nominations (in 2017, 2018 and 2019) without a win. Tomlin also earned Emmy nominations in 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 and a Golden Globes nomination in 2016, Fonda a single Emmy nom in 2017.
Both women shared that having such a positive creative experience end was difficult. “We were a very close group,” said Tomlin. “We were familial. Jane and I could count on them to light us, which is like the miracle of all time. We just loved going to work and having that job. So we miss it a lot.” Added Fonda: “We were very sad to say goodbye to the characters.”
Kauffman asked if it was a different experience playing the same character over a period of years than it is for a one-off in a movie. “Oh yeah, it’s different,” Fonda replied. “When you live with a character that long, it goes deep. If you’re an activist like I am, and you have a hit series like ‘Grace and Frankie’ that everybody loves behind you, boy it’s easier to be an activist. People like you. The show comes into their living rooms and you become a part of them, so people aren’t so scared of me anymore, and I love that.”Another thing that pleased Fonda about the show was all the ways they were permitted to address disease and aging in such a realistic fashion, particularly during the final season. “Older women are the fastest growing demographic in the world,” she said, “and so those issues relate to a whole lot of women. And it’s not like men are exempt, either. I just wish we had done a show about the fact that when you hit a certain age, your hair takes a forced march from your pubic region.” Fonda was then reminded by Kauffman that in fact they covered pubic hair disappearance in the show, underscoring how forgetfulness often comes with age – though both Fonda and Tomlin clearly are defying most laws of it.
Check out the entire panel discussion below.
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