Jane Fonda Calls for Hollywood to Be Leaders in Diversity: "There's a Story We’ve Been Afraid to See and Hear"

Jane Fonda Norman Lear
NBC (2)

While accepting the Carol Burnett Award, Norman Lear meanwhile expressed his respect for the award's namesake creator: "I am convinced that laughter adds time to one’s life and no one has made me laugh harder."

Jane Fonda called for Hollywood to "expand that tent" of who is allowed to tell stories in the industry, while Norman Lear thanked a series of creators he has worked with over his decades-long career while accepting the Cecil B. DeMille and Carol Burnett awards, respectively, at the Golden Globes on Sunday night.

During her fiery acceptance speech for the Hollywood Foreign Press Association's highest film honor at this year's virtual ceremony, Fonda said live from the ceremony's stage at the Beverly Hilton, "Stories, they can really change people. But there's a story we’ve been afraid to see and hear about ourselves in this industry, a story about which voices we respect and elevate and which we tune out, a story about who is offered a seat at the table and who is kept out of the rooms where decisions are made."

She called on "all of us, including all the groups that decide who gets hired and what gets made and who wins awards" to "expand that tent" to allow more stories to be told and added, "After all, art has always been not just in step with history but has led the way, so let’s be leaders. Okay?"

The actor and activist also used her speech to shout out several titles from this year that she was particularly affected by, including Nomadland, Minari, Judas and the Black Messiah, Small Axe, The U.S. vs. Billie Holiday, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, One Night in Miami (several of the latter films which "‘have deepened my empathy for what being Black has meant," she said), Ramy, I May Destroy You, All In: The Fight for Democracy (which “reminds us how fragile our democracy is") and David Attenborough: A Life On Our Planet.

Fonda additionally spoke to the power of storytelling in rough times: "We are a community of storytellers, aren’t we? And in turbulent, crisis-torn times like these, storytelling has always been essential," she said. "You see, stories have a way... they can change our hearts and our minds, they can help us see each other in a new light, to have empathy, to recognize that for all our diversity, we are humans first."

Backstage, after she accepted the prize, Fonda was asked how her father Henry Fonda would feel about her win. "He’d be very proud of me. He won this award.  I feel he is here. I can feel his spirit," she said.

In its announcement of this year's selection for the prize, the HFPA cited the 83-year-old actor's "breadth of work," "unrelenting activism" and "undeniable talent."

That unrelenting activism extended to advocating for great inclusivity among the body that votes for the Globes, according to a recent report in the Los Angeles Times.

After Times expose reporting that the HFPA has zero Black members, Fonda told HFPA members during a Zoom roundtable on Wednesday, “I must say, get more women. I’m only the 17th time that a woman has won [the Cecil B. DeMille Award]. And also, we need to help you get more Black members,” according to the Times.

While accepting the Globes' most prestigious TV award, for his part, Lear said, "I’ve had a lifetime of partners, performers, associations and creative talents for which I am eternally grateful" and that "there would be an entirely different Norman Lear tonight" had it not been for those collaborators.

Lear thanked writer Ed Simmons, his former writing partner Bud Yorkin, producer Roland Kibbee and TV creator Mark E. Pollack who he said "brought me to this very moment." He also thanked writers including Mike Royce and Gloria Calderón Kellett, among many others. Of producer Brent Miller, Lear said, "It’s his back I rode in on as he rode in on mine to get here tonight." Lear also thanked Sony Pictures and his family.

As for the namesake of the award he accepted, Lear said, "I am convinced that laughter adds time to one’s life and no one has made me laugh harder… than Carol Burnett." He added at the end of his speech, "Thank you, Carol Burnett… as I think about you and laughter and the joy of our parallel careers, so glad we have this time together."

Lear is the third recipient of the award, which was previously bestowed upon Burnett herself and Ellen DeGeneres. The 98-year-old TV creator was honored for "progressive approach addressing controversial topics through humor" and titles that "revolutionized the industry," the HFPA said in its announcement of this year's recipient.

Prior to the ceremony, Lear joined the stars who tweeted out a message calling attention to the Hollywood Foreign Press Association's lack of Black members. Using a placard from Times Up that reads "Not a single Black member out of 87," Lear tweeted, "Tonight on @nbc at 8est/5pst. #timesupglobes" he wrote. He did not mention the Los Angeles Times expose that triggered the social media campaign in his speech.

This year's Golden Globes ceremony, co-hosted by Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, aired coast to coast on NBC at 5 p.m. PT on Sunday night.

The Golden Globe Awards ceremony is produced by Dick Clark Productions, a division of MRC, which is a co-owner of The Hollywood Reporter through a joint venture with Penske Media titled P-MRC.