Lily Tomlin talks to Awards Daily about Netflix’s ‘Grace And Frankie, working with Jane Fonda, and what she binges in her down time.
This past season of Netflix’s Grace and Frankie continued to see the title characters deal with aging. In true Grace and Frankie style there was plenty of humor and just the right touch of drama. Aging and death both played a part this season, but when heart and humor at the core of the show, it’s always a joy to watch. It’s even more delightful to see Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin deliver those performances.
Tomlin received another Emmy nomination this year for her performance on the show as Frankie. “At first, Jane and I started trying to figure out who would have bought the house. We worried about that for a while but we didn’t know.” Tomlin says of the season finale. “They always have an interesting cliffhanger. We liked the idea of having us go up and down.”
Tomlin reflects on the show’s success as the writers head back for a fifth season. “Maybe it’s because it’s like some fresh skin that we’ve sailed through these seasons. We’ve finished all these seasons and we don’t know our ratings, but wherever we go, we are constantly stopped by people who tell us they love the show and you see how they’re all different types of people.” She adds, “I think we all respect each other as actors. Martin and Sam are wonderful actors, I get such a kick out of them. They’re so charming. Their stories seem particularly good. We feel like we are a family, going along and resolving the conflict we go through. We triumph eventually and I think that’s one of the things people love about the show, it gives them another view into aging and many people say the show gives them hope. I think because Jane and I look pretty well. We say, ‘You don’t have someone lighting you every place you go.’ We do by and large work younger than our years.”
Tomlin talks about her friendship with Fonda that goes back well beyond the show and 9-5. “She came to see me at my show at the Ahmanson in 1978 or something. I was a fan of hers before then. I rocked her hairdo for two years. She had planned to do 9-5 and we all became friends and have stayed friends all these years.” Tomlin gushes, “Jane and I are not terribly aware of it, but a lot is said of our chemistry. People will always ask if we’re really friends and if we get along. We do. I’m crazy about Jane. She’s always been like the 8-year-old in ballet class to me. She was going to get the gold star if she worked hard. No matter what she’s immersed in, she is absolutely passionate about it. She’s totally committed.”
Fonda started the GCAPP (Georgia Campaign For Adolescent Power & Potential) in 1994 and Tomlin says, “Years ago, I remember visiting her in Atlanta and teenage pregnancy has dropped dramatically in Georgia because of her organization. She was trying to get me to do a piece for my show. She wanted me to do a piece,she wanted it to show there was a young girl being compromised by a young girl to show how early it could happen and that you should be forewarned and you have regard for yourself so it should never happen to you. I’ve always been so impressed by her and all she does. Right now, I’m working with her lobbying for One Fair Wage. We’re going to San Francisco next month to do some lobbying for it. She’s so bonafide real to her commitments.”
Tomlin talks about Grace and Frankie and how she likes the routine of reporting to work every day and putting on the Frankie clothes.”You get into a routine and it saves you from a lot of other commitments. When you’re free, people can access you and you can end up filling up your calendar. The show is almost more your life because it’s routine, it’s organized and you’re fulfilling it.”
This past season saw Lisa Kudrow join the series for a multi-episode character arc. It reunited Tomlin with her Web Therapy co-star. “That was so wonderful. I had done Web Therapy with her and it was one of my favorite things. So much of it was improvised. I was her mother and her mother was more narcissistic. She was scandalously irresponsible as a mother and exploitative. She would just ruin her daughter’s life by competing with her. She was going to have a session on the internet with her patients. I loved doing that and I got to do such foolish things. It was so funny, foolish and outrageous.” She says of her character Putsy Hodge. “So, I had this history with Lisa. We were happy to have her on the show and it was fun.”
When Tomlin is away from the set, she finds herself enjoying and bingeing other TV shows, “I like risky and dangerous.” She says. She rarely watches comedies and finds herself tuning into HBO, Showtime and Netflix for her drama bingeing.
“I tend to watch a bunch of shows, but I tend to watch dramas. I’ve so many. I’m waiting for Ray Donovan to come back. He’s done so many rotten things with his brothers. I watch Billions and Big Little Lies.” She continues, “I first got into bingeing with Glenn Close’s show Damages. I ran into a few guys at an art gallery and one guy told me he worked on Damages and I was so taken with that show. Mary Kay Place and I were working on something else at the time and she was with me. I lept on the guy and I was just insane. I wanted to know what was going to happen. I was mad about it. I actually ended up getting a part on that show. Anyway, now bingeing is part of the landscape. I watch Orange Is The New Black. I watched House of Cards. I loved Homeland. I’ve totally abandoned any kind of commitment to the intellectual rationale. I love Carrie who’s a bit strung out and gets into all kinds of trouble because she has a mental disorder that has to be managed.”
Tomlin prides herself on being a feminist and fighting for women’s causes. Even though changes have been made, Tomlin says, “Women have made some strides, but it takes so damn long. It’s unbelievable. I’ve been around so long and I’ve been a feminist for so long. I don’t get flabbergasted over any progress made, I just try to stay visual against any reversal.” She says.
Earlier this year it was announced that the 9-5 sequel was in the works and all three original cast members will return. “Creator, Pat Resnick came to us with an idea and we all got on board. We got Dolly to commit, but we’re just waiting for the written product. I think there’s such anticipation. We’re all excited about doing it, getting back and revisiting it.”
Asked who her real-life Grace is, Tomlin fondly calls her own partner, Jane Wagner the Grace to her Frankie. “Jane is. Jane and I call her Jane I and we called Jane Fonda Jane 2. Jane is different from me. When she’s Frankie, I’ll be her Grace and vice versa. We have the latitude to be anything we want.”
Grace and Frankie streams on Netflix. Tomlin is Emmy-nominated nominated for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series.