Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen, Mary Steenburgen Talk Activism, Arrests and Climate Change

Mary Steenburgen, Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen and Diane Keaton
Leon Bennett/Getty Images

Mary Steenburgen, Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen and Diane Keaton

Jane Fonda says a common misconception about getting older is that few people make time for new friends. The responsibilities of life, work, offspring and "staying safe" (a nod to the current pandemic) often leave little wiggle room for fresh relationships.

"I’m the opposite of this," Fonda explained Friday morning in kicking off a special edition of her Fireside Fire Drill, an offshoot of her climate-focused Fire Drill Fridays initiative in partnership with Greenpeace. "When you’re older, you have be really intentional when you’re making new friends. … Well, my two guests are new friends as of a few years ago and we’re quite intentional about staying in touch."

The 82-year-old actress, activist and icon then introduced Mary Steenburgen, 67, and Candice Bergen, 74. The trio met and became friends while filming Bill Holderman’s 2018 comedy Book Club and they reunited virtually to join Fonda’s latest call to action on behalf of saving the environment. She and Greenpeace have been hosting the events during the pandemic with such guests as Indya Moore, Dolores Huerta, Lily Tomlin, Mary Trump, and others.

It became clear from the jump that while the topics were to focus on activism, celebrity and how to manifest change, the day’s event stayed on theme with the film about a book club.  "You have blessed everyone, Jane, with this book," Bergen told Fonda from her living room in East Hampton where she’s been "hunkered down" with her husband. She was referencing Fonda’s newest tome, What Can I Do? My Path From Climate Despair to Action, out Sept. 8 from Penguin Press with all proceeds benefiting Greenpeace. "It’s a manual for the environment and the problems and the solutions…a case study of how to be an activist."

Added Steenburgen: "There’s a lot to despair about right now. We don’t really need to add to it. We need to find the part of ourselves that knows anything is possible and what we can do to make the world a better place. Every single chapter is so active and so practical and the whole time I was reading, I was inspired to do more and I learned things I never knew. I was feeling very lucky to know you."

They know one other famous woman from the film, Diane Keaton, who was invited to attend the virtual reunion but was unable to attend. Fonda said "she’s on a road trip to Arizona," to complete renovations on an Adobe building she bought. Steenburgen joined the call from Vancouver where she two days in with 12 to go on a "deep quarantine" ahead of filming the new season of Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist.

Her husband, Ted Danson, was in the house but was not seen on camera during the 45-minute broadcast. However, he was discussed often because the environmental activist was among the first to join Fonda at her Fire Drill Fridays events, joining in Oct. 2019. He was arrested in Washington D.C. at the event and Steenburgen recounted the phone call she received from him upon his release.

"I knew by the sound of his voice that something really important had happened to him," she recalled of Danson’s first time behind bars despite decades of activism with a focus on the oceans and "leaving the Earth a better place" after having lived on it. "I was blown away by how moved he was by the experience. He was not the same after that experience — in a good way."

When they were released, Fonda said she hugged him and he took her face in his hands and said thank you. "The fact that Ted Danson, who is a big deal, said this to me, that’s when I knew it was going to work," said Fonda, who has been joined at the events by Sally Field, Sam Waterston, Joaquin Phoenix, Norman Lear, Martin Sheen, Diane Lane, Rooney Mara, and others. "There are few opportunities when we can put our bodies in alignment with our deepest values."

Fonda later said that she will be fighting extra hard over the coming months to ensure that the climate and declining reliance on fossil fuels are top of mind for candidates Donald Trump and Joe Biden. ("I’d rather push a centrist than fight a fascist," she said of the two.)

Fonda then asked her friends to respond to the oft-repeated jab at stars that movie actors and celebrities shouldn’t be heard from on major issues. Bergen gave a rounded answer in that "there are a lot of us that don’t know much," before adding that "there are some who have sullied the cause, so to speak."

"You and Ted [Danson] in your research and your knowledge and your education are unique," she said. "With celebrity comes the duty of responsibility, and I think it’s that simple. If you’re a celebrity you owe it to yourself and to others to be responsible in your life and in what you care about to learn about the issues that matter to you."

After taking a question from the audience that spanned Zoom, Facebook Live, YouTube and other social platforms, Fonda wrapped up the talk and expressed her gratitude to Bergen and Steenburgen. "We are the ones who are grateful, Jane," said Bergen with Steenburgen adding her own book club-endorsed sentiment, "Thank you for writing this generous and informative and inspiring book."