'Grace and Frankie' Offers Fresh Look at Aging, Says Stars Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin

Lily Tomlin Jane Fonda - H 2015
AP Images

Lily Tomlin Jane Fonda - H 2015

Aging might as well be a four-letter word in Hollywood. But that's something Grace and Frankie hopes to change.

"There's a lot of fear," executive producer Marcy Ross told The Hollywood Reporter at the series' premiere.

The comedy centers on two women in their 70s, Grace (Jane Fonda) and Frankie (Lily Tomlin), brought together after their husbands suddenly announce that they're leaving their wives for each other and that they plan to tie the knot.

"There are more older women in the world. It’s the fastest growing demographic in the globe, and so it's good to tell a more realistic and upbeat story about older women," said Fonda, who also serves as an executive producer on the Netflix original series. "The whole question of same-sex marriage is in the news, so it's great we're tackling that as well."

The series handles the predictable challenges of being newly single — like bad dates and family drama — with humor and, yes, grace. It also addresses aging-specific concerns like the death of a close friend and breaking a hip, both of which are tackled head-on. "It doesn’t just make it funny. It makes it real," said Fonda. "Its not the stereotyped view of what it is to be an older woman, which is why I like doing it."

That element of the series made the project especially relatable for Tomlin, who also serves as an executive producer. "We live the lives of a woman of that age," said the actress. "[Frankie's] not in show business and Grace is not in show business, but I think we feel it more deeply."

Ross is hopeful that this is just the beginning of more shows aimed at the growing demographic. "There's a lot of people out there with nothing to watch for them. There are no characters that look like them on television, and if there are, they're the brunt of a joke," said Ross. Grace and Frankie "will not be the brunt of the joke. They will be creating the joke onto someone else."

Those jokes are the key to Grace and Frankie's ability to bounce back after finding out their husbands have been cheating on them for 20 years. "You also have to laugh at stuff in life, and that’s such a way to get through," said star June Diane Raphael. "These two characters and their friendship, and their ability to laugh at each other and laugh at themselves, is how they survive this ordeal."

The duo's attempts to survive and move on also will appeal to those outside of the cast's demographic, said executive producer Dana Goldberg. "One of the things Jane Fonda loves to say is, 'You're not looking at the last chapter of your life. It’s a staircase. You should keep just moving forward.' And that’s the story we wanted to tell," said Goldberg.

After the screening, guests — including Casey Wilson and Paul Scheer, among others — celebrated the series at WP24 at The Ritz-Carlton, Los Angeles.

The entire first season of Grace and Frankie premieres May 8 on Netflix.