Two-time Oscar-winning actress Jane Fonda’s career has occasionally been overshadowed by her opinions political and otherwise, but the focus always comes back to her creative expression. She worked with her legendary father, Henry Fonda, and Katharine Hepburn in the 1981 movie On Golden Pond, which won her dad his first Academy Award. In the 1980s she found legions of new fans with her workout videos. At 77 she looks half her age and has been candid about her plastic surgeries and knee and hip replacements. Currently she is starring in the Netflix series Grace and Frankie with Lily Tomlin, about two friends whose husbands have left them to be together.
One of the best scenes in “Grace and Frankie” is when you are about to get in bed with a man for the first time since your husband of decades left, and you lift your arm up and wiggle it in the mirror. Did they ask you to do that or was it your idea?
I came up with it.
If Jane Fonda, with the perfect body and all the resources, has jiggle, what hope is there for us?
It’s life! I thought it would be kind of universal, and I like sending myself up like that.
Were you always able to make fun of yourself?
Yeah, I think so. Maybe I’m fooling myself, I don’t know, but I like to think so. I never thought all that much of myself so it hasn’t been too difficult [laughing].
There is a lot for you to relate to in the Grace character. Did you recognize that right away?
For all kinds of complicated reasons that we won’t go into now it took me — I did not get it at the very first. For that reason, I think the second season will be better for me. I resisted seeing myself in Grace for complicated reasons [laugh]. I now realize we have a lot in common.
Can you see your strengths and accomplishments more clearly now?
Yeah, I have worked hard to be able to do that. I have always been able to list my weaknesses, my foibles. Writing my memoirs was part of what helped me to be able to say these are my strengths. It took a while.
What do you get out of acting now that you didn’t earlier in your career?
I think that I’m more willing to take great risks and leaps of faith, which I did in an Italian movie that has not come out yet called Youth, directed by Paolo Sorrentino. He won an Oscar two years ago for The Great Beauty. It’s a very small part. I have one major scene that is about seven minutes long. It’s something I probably wouldn’t have been able to do earlier. I don’t know, I am more able to take risks. I don’t think that is evident in Grace and Frankie. It doesn’t require that, but in general I would say that is true.
The show also deals with something you don’t see done much, which is friendship.
Yes, I like that a lot. You know, you work so hard in a TV series. Sometimes 14 or 15 hours a day, learning a lot of lines and with different directors it’s not easy, so to be working with someone who you love and trust makes it a lot, lot easier.
It’s funny, you have played Lily Tomlin’s character — the hippie/Zen woman — in other movies.
[Laughs] Yes. Peace, Love and Misunderstanding.
Now you are playing the opposite.
[Laughs] Yes, and I have a little of both in me, frankly.