In a day and age in which we’re constantly talking about the impact of art and how it relates to activism, Jane Fonda is undoubtedly the blueprint. When I heard I had the opportunity to talk to the actor and activist, I was floored. I’ve had the great fortune of crossing paths with Jane during moments that, quite honestly, you’d probably expect, whether it be an organizing event or a night celebrating powerful women. But this was my first opportunity to be able to sit with her and dive deep into her career, how she developed such a deep passion for everything she does, and how she ensures that her platform is always being used for the greatest good.
We also discussed in detail her Netflix show, Grace and Frankie, and how it has broken barriers for the way we view aging in Hollywood, the importance of self-prioritization, her first Glamour cover in 1959, and her tireless work with Fire Drill Fridays and the newly launched Jane Fonda Climate PAC. I had such an incredible time talking to her and learning from her. I hope you enjoy our conversation just as much as I did. -Glamour
When I saw that cover from 60 years ago, the first thing I was reminded of is how things have changed. I wasn’t famous. In those days, magazines just put models on the cover and I was a model. And then I thought, If somebody had told me that, at almost 85 years old, I’d still be working as much as I am and feeling as good as I do, I wouldn’t have believed them. At that time in my life, I doubted I would live past 30. Just thinking about that filled me with hope. I didn’t give up. I kept going. I tried to get better. I did. -Jane Fonda
Grace and Frankie was created by the writers, not by Lily Tomlin and me. In fact, I had very, very little to do with the creation of the scripts as we went along. A number of years prior to making the series, I had written a book that became a best seller called Prime Time about getting older, and it included everything including very detailed information about sex, and so I gave it to the writers and I could weigh in quite a bit. Not on the writing—just because you can write a book doesn’t mean you know anything about how to write a comedic sitcom—but about sex, about the problems of sex when you’re older and the joys and the possibilities and vibrators and all of that, and I think that maybe that helped inspire them. -Jane Fonda
Injustice. Things are all connected. I became an activist because of the Vietnam War, and I learned about why it started and what it meant. Then what does colonialism mean? Then what does racism mean? Then what? And suddenly the onion gets peeled back and you realize how the war is connected to everything else. We’re dealing with the climate crisis, but we’re also dealing with the need for a new mentality, the need to look at everything as interconnected cosmos. We all depend on each other and we have to protect each other—and that’s not just verbiage. This is an actual reality. We can’t live without the earth and we have to protect it. If we’re going to really solve the climate crisis, we also have to think and run our societies differently. -Jane Fonda
To challenge fossil fuel sycophants. We have to be able to get them out of office and replace them with climate champions, and we have only four more election cycles to do it. The science tells us: You see, burning fossil fuels creates a blanket of pollution around the globe, and that pollution holds the heat in, and that heat warms the planet, it warms the ground, it warms the oceans, it warms the air, and the scientists know that if the warming gets too hot, things are going to begin to die, and the ecosystems upon which we humans depend for life begin to die, and that process is going to reach a tipping point by 2030, at the end of this decade. So we have eight years. This is an emergency. It’s all we should be talking about. -Jane Fonda
My only mentor that was older than me was Katharine Hepburn. I was in my 40s while we were making [the 1981 drama] On Golden Pond, and she didn’t like me. She let me know that. She said she learned to admire me but she didn’t really like me. She took me under her wing in a certain way and that was important. But really, most of my mentors are way younger than I am and have had way more trauma in their lives and have managed to turn those wounds into plowshares into power, and they’re the people who give me hope. -Jane Fonda
I didn’t have very much confidence in myself, and it never occurred to me to give myself any kind of label that was positive. Also, I tended to gravitate toward people who were smarter and braver and morally stronger than I was. I always aspired to be more like them, but I never could imagine that I was like them. -Jane Fonda