'Awards Chatter' Podcast — Jane Fonda ('Grace and Frankie')

The 78-year-old legend opens up about her Netflix comedy ("the second season is way better than the first"), her upcoming reunion with Robert Redford and "what really happened in Hanoi" 44 years ago.
Getty Images
Jane Fonda

"I think the second season is way better than the first," says Jane Fonda, the legendary actress of Grace and Frankie, the Netflix comedy series in which she stars opposite Lily Tomlin, as we sit down to record an episode of the 'Awards Chatter' podcast on the Paramount lot in Hollywood.

The 78-year-old has just participated in a read-through of the first episode of the show's recently announced third season, and she thinks the show — the co-creator and showrunner of which is Marta Kaufman (Friends) — is only getting better. Though always in-demand, Fonda says she intends to stay with Grace and Frankie for "as long as it'll take us."

(Click above to listen to this episode now or click here to access all of our episodes via iTunes. Past guests include Steven SpielbergAmy SchumerHarvey WeinsteinLady GagaWill SmithKristen StewartSamuel L. JacksonBrie LarsonJ.J. AbramsKate WinsletRidley ScottJane Fonda, Michael Moore and Sarah Silverman.)

Over the course of our conversation, Fonda engages on a wide range of topics about the past, present and future. She speaks candidly about growing up as the daughter of a famous father (Golden Age actor Henry Fonda) and a mentally unstable mother (who committed suicide when Jane was just 12). She recalls the debilitating lack of confidence that nearly kept her from pursuing acting ("I couldn't stand up for myself because I didn't know who 'myself' was"). And she explains how she only found real meaning in her life and work after becoming an activist, which accounts for her onscreen evolution from "girl next-door kind of characters" to "being a kind of sexy person" (see: Barbarella) to someone who told stories "that had something to say about the times we were living in" — from They Shoot Horses, Don't They? (1969), for which she garnered her first Oscar nom, to Klute (1971) and Coming Home (1978), both of which brought her best actress Oscars, to Fun with Dick and Jane (1977), The China Syndrome (1979) and Nine to Five (1980).

Fonda also ventures into a number of topics she doesn't often discuss, including "what really happened in Hanoi" in the summer of 1972 when she was photographed atop an anti-aircraft gun, and the "myths" and "ignorance" that have bubbled up since. She discusses how she and her father found a measure of peace and understanding through their collaboration on On Golden Pond (1981) and why, back in 1984, she disregarded the "rule" that movie stars don't work on TV and made The Dollmaker as a TV movie. She also reveals the real reason why, following the release of 1990's Stanley and Iris, she retired from acting for 15 years only to return again at age 65 in 2005's Monster-in-Law.

Now in her third act, Fonda says she has fallen in love with acting all over again and feels Grace and Frankie is the perfect vehicle for her.

"Hollywood is not particularly kind to older actresses," she notes. "I wanted to give a cultural face to older women." She does that on Grace and Frankie — and, she says with a smile, she'll do it again next fall with Redford when they make their fourth film together, a romance called Our Souls at Night.