Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin on Aging, Exes and 'Grace and Frankie' Appeal

Co-creator Marta Kauffman also shot down any near-term hopes of a '9 to 5' reunion.
Melissa Moseley/Netflix
Grace and Frankie

When the cast and crew of Grace and Frankie took the stage Sunday at the Television Critics Association’s winter press tour, they did so with money on their mind.

Partway through the session, star Jane Fonda revealed that anyone on the panel who could make the cavernous ballroom of reporters laugh would get paid $100. “We were told you were very serious and don’t laugh very much,” the actress joked, racking up an easy $100. Over the course of the lively panel, her Netflix co-stars Lily Tomlin and Sam Waterston found themselves cleaning up, too.

In between the laughs, however, came poignant insights about what made their comedy about two seventysomething women whose husbands have fallen in love with each other resonate. "I think people are astonished by this show," said Waterston. "They don’t expect such delicate, difficult and hard subjects as late-life sexual orientation changes, divorce, death itself and aging to be funny at all." Fonda added that the series likely gives its older viewership hope as well. 

Among the show's season-two additions is actor Sam Elliott, who will play Fonda’s love interest. ("The sex was good," she cracked.) He had been on hand earlier in the day to promote The Ranch, and told reporters he had a crush on Fonda from 1971's Klute. Asked to comment, the actress earned another quick $100. “Who wouldn’t have had a crush on me back then?” she deadpanned. Fonda then returned the compliment, recalling a time when Elliot came to Montana to visit her and the man she calls her “favorite ex-husband,” Ted Turner. When they took Elliott to the office, Fonda suggested “every woman was panting.”

Grace and Frankie co-creator Marta Kauffman used the TCA platform to tease additional guest stars and different “delicious” pairings for the series’ second season, which returns in May. What won’t happen at that time: a 9 to 5 reunion. Though Fonda and Tomlin have pitched an idea for how to get their 9 to 5 co-star Dolly Parton to guest on the series, Kauffman acknowledged she simply wasn’t ready. “We’re still creating a world, and the world is Grace and Frankie,” she explained. “And the minute you bring in Dolly Parton, who I love, it’s 9 to 5 ... and you’re taken out of the show.”

At several other points during the half-hour, the discussion veered away from the series, focusing instead on Fonda and Tomlin’s robust post-75 careers and longstanding friendship. “We have a special bond,” said Fonda. “I come from a long line of depressed people, and [Lily] has a true funny bone.” Asked later what their secrets were to aging as gracefully as they have, Fonda tossed out terms like “health” and “attitude.” Showcasing that funny bone (and pocketing another $100), Tomlin chose another: “denial.”