'Grace and Frankie' Set Visit: Behind the Scenes of Netflix's Love and Friendship Comedy

Photographed by Koury Angelo
Behind the scenes of 'Grace and Frankie'

"It's always easy," Jane Fonda tells THR of working with Lily Tomlin, whom she shares a 36-year history with since working together on 'Nine to Five' in 1980.

Lily Tomlin is having a moment. Outside, it's a sunny Thursday morning on the Paramount lot, but inside, on the set of Netflix's single-camera comedy Grace and Frankie, a cloud threatens to overshadow a scene at the beach house where Grace (Jane Fonda) and Frankie (Tomlin) have resided since their respective husbands, Robert (Martin Sheen) and Sol (Sam Waterston), left them for each other. But it's not Grace's former husband or her new roommate making trouble for Tomlin, who earned an Emmy nomination for her work on the series' first season. It's the timing of a line.

After one take, she pounds her fist on the table and yells, "Damn it!" On another, she furrows her brow and curls her lip. However, a minute before rehearsals start up again, Fonda gently places her hands on Tomlin's shoulders. She leans in, whispers in her ear, and suddenly that signature smile splashes across Tomlin's face and laughter erupts.

That's not just the two years they've spent working on Grace and Frankie at play, it's the 36-year history the 70-something actresses share going back to their 1980 smash comedy film Nine to Five.

"It's always easy," Fonda tells THR of working with Tomlin. "Yesterday — and I said this to Lily — she was so funny, it was hard to keep a straight face and work with her." And they're not the only ones getting in on the fun.

"Working with those actresses is one of the great pleasures of my life," says series co-creator Marta Kauffman of the two stars, who also serve as executive producers on the show. "Besides being icons, they're smart, they're professionals."

Case in point: Moments after their private chuckle, the veterans don't waste time getting back to work. After speaking with the episode's director, Arlene Sanford, Fonda stands in her purple power suit raring to go. She hears a lull on set and quickly seizes the moment: "Ready? Action!"

This story first appeared in a special Emmy issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.