How I'm Living Now: Jane Fonda

Jane Fonda speaks onstage at Greenpeace USA Brings Fire Drill Fridays To California at San Pedro City Hall on March 06, 2020 - Getty - H 2020
Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images

With the novel coronavirus keeping the star at home in Los Angeles, Fonda opens up about shifting her Fire Drill Friday activism online, enjoying her alone time and bingeing 'Curb Your Enthusiasm' after a bad experience with 'Tiger King.'

With production grinding to a halt in the face of the novel coronavirus, the entertainment industry has found itself navigating uncharted territory. To offer a better sense for how, The Hollywood Reporter is running a regular series that focuses on how Hollywood's top writers, actors, directors, executives and more are living and working in these challenging times.

Jane Fonda was in production on the last season of Grace & Frankie and at the beginning of her national Fire Drill Fridays tour when coronavirus concerns shut both projects down. Stay-at-home orders have not stopped the star's climate protests, however, as she's moved her Fire Drill Friday rallies online via Zoom and will launch her first youth-centered event this week with support from Norman Lear, Chelsea Handler, Marisa Tomei, Piper Perabo and Amber Valetta. Quarantined at her home in Los Angeles with her assistant and dog, Fonda tells THR of how she's keeping busy with exercise, writing and virtual activism, all while keeping her signature red coat close by.  

So, what does your day look like now?

I get up, I live in a small community that has a small gym, and I go to the gym with gloves and a mask and wipes and I work out for an hour. And then I come back and I either participate in Zoom meetings, of which there have been many, or I will write articles for various magazines, write my blog or some social media. And then I either read or I work on Fire Drill Friday stuff.

What’s been the easiest adjustment during this time? And the hardest?

Well, the easiest adjustment is to be quiet and alone — I'll be upstairs, my assistant will be downstairs. I'm used to being upstairs on my own because I like that and I do a lot of writing, so that's been very easy. What's hard is not being able to go see my young grandson, Leon, and to not see my friends and to go to the movies.

What’s the best advice you’ve given or received about staying sane right now?

I haven't gotten any, people are asking me for advice! I kind of roll with things, you know. I've been doing a lot of filming, videoing and posting requests for support for domestic workers, tip workers, nurses, things like that, and I urge my friends to do the same to support the people who are the most vulnerable right now. We out here in Hollywood, in California, in this business, above-the-line people, are very blessed. Most people aren't like that and so we have to help them and support them and fight for them.

What have you learned about yourself in this period?

That I am resilient, that I have a lot of inner resources, and one of them is that I don't mind being alone. And that I don't get bored — I don't think I've ever been bored in my life. 

The older demographic is known to be most vulnerable to the coronavirus — has that factored into your movements and how you're coping?

No, I'm 82 and a half, I don't want to get the virus, but I'm not any more or less careful than the people that I see and my friends that tell me what they're doing. I'm disturbed to hear that a young child died recently of it — in other words, nobody is immune.

What are you watching, reading, playing or listening to as a reprieve?

I'm reading a must-read book called Democracy in Chains by Nancy MacLean. It's a very important book. I watch Rachel Maddow and Chris Hayes religiously, that's my news. I read two papers every day, The New York Times and the L.A. Times — in my hand, materially, I need to hold the pages. I do that every morning before I work out. I watch Curb Your Enthusiasm, I watch Better Things, I watch Homeland. I started to watch Tiger King and was disgusted.

What have become your go-to comfort foods during the quarantine?

Tapioca pudding. Didn't expect that, huh? 

How would you describe your coronavirus era wardrobe?

Sweatpants, sweatshirts, yoga pants, pullovers. That's kind of it.

In these times, what cause is most important to you?

The climate crisis and what we need to do to prepare for it. Of course, a lot of what we have to do to prepare is what we should have done to prepare for this pandemic. COVID-19 overlaps with what we need to do in the face of the climate crisis — a very strong, robust health care system with equipment and the ability to foresee pandemics when they're coming and have emergency standby shelters and equipment and things like that. [Pandemics] are going to be coming, there's no question of, "Are they going to come?" There's going to be more as the Arctic ice sheet melts and more and more insects and animals come out from where they usually live because of deforestation and shorter, warmer winters and earlier springs and everything is being disrupted. Vectors, things that carry diseases, are going to be coming into contact with humans much more than before. The SARS, the MERS, Ebola, AIDS and now COVID-19, all of them are related to climate change. So, the hope is that with all these bailouts that are happening, they can do two things at once because we don't have the time to do them separately: deal with the pandemic and deal with the other pandemic, which is the climate crisis.

And what’s atop your to-do list once this is all over?

Keep doing what I'm doing, only Fire Drill Fridays will become in-person rather than virtual.

What is the setup of your virtual Fire Drill Fridays going to be? Will they be similar to those in Washington and Los Angeles? 

It's going to be as close to those as we can do. The first Friday of every month we do a much more produced virtual rally; we're going to have a greenscreen and we're going to have images and we're going to focus on what's been planned for Earth Day on April 22. This is the 50th anniversary, and the young people had been planning to do things for the three or four days all around Earth Day. Of course, everything now has to be rethought, so we're going to be talking with some of the young climate leaders — members of the Sunrise Movement, for example — and others about what they're planning, what they're asking people to do to support them. They're calling on [California] Gov. [Gavin] Newsom to combat the climate crisis and protect public health with the same level of urgency that he's combating the COVID crisis; he's providing real leadership up against the coronavirus and many lives are going to be saved because of his leadership. Now, we want him to also be a climate leader and save millions more lives here in California and around the world by stopping any new fossil fuel expansion and starting a phase-out, a gradual phase-out.

Without being able to protest and rally, what's the best way for people to have their voices heard right now?

Calling our elected officials, and they don't necessarily have to be the people who represent us. But calling senators and members of the House of Representatives, demanding that the next go-around, the next bailout — there's going to be a fourth bailout — doesn't ignore the climate crisis and does better for workers, including nurses and doctors and equipment. That's one thing that we talked about last Friday and that we'll talk about again in the Fridays to come. Calling and emailing, but calling especially, elected officials is really important. Let them know what's on your mind and that you're going to work against them if they don't demand what you're doing. People can go on the Fire Drill Friday website and you'll see things that you can do.

Have to ask — are you still wearing your signature red coat, even though you're at home?

Yes I am.