Arts & Culture

Looking Back at Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin's Decades-Long Friendship

The Grace and Frankie stars have been close since the '80s.
IMAGE GETTY IMAGES / JONATHAN LEIBSON
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On the Netflix hit Grace and Frankie, Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin play rivals-turned-unlikely-friends thrust together when their husbands announce that they've been having an affair and plan to get married. But in real life, the two women have been close for decades. In honor of the show's fifth season (and plans for a sixth!), we're taking a look back at their incredible friendship.

THEY MET ON THE SET OF NINE TO FIVE.


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Dolly Parton, Lily Tomlin, and Jane Fonda at the premiere of Nine to Five.

In fact, it was Fonda, a co-producer on the film, who wanted Tomlin for the film. "One night I went to see Lily in her one-woman show Appearing Nitely," Tomlin told Stephen Colbert. "And what can I say, I was smitten, and I said I don't want to make a movie about secretaries unless she's in it."

But Tomlin wasn't such an easy get. "It took a year to convince her," Fonda said, because Tomlin was looking to work on something a little more serious. But eventually, she was swayed, Dolly Parton was brought into the mix, and a legendary trio was born.

"When you and I and Dolly made Nine to Five, we laughed so much; we found we had so much in common," Tomlin said. "Here she is, like Hollywood royalty; I'm like a tough kid from Detroit; she's a Southern kid from a poor town in Tennessee. And we found that we were so in sync as women."

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AND THEY'VE BEEN FRIENDS EVER SINCE.

The pair stayed close after their hit film together. "I am fascinated by her," Fonda said of Tomlin on Jimmy Kimmel's talk show. "She always says something really funny. I cannot believe the funny-bone that she has, and I have loved her since the moment I saw her."


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Tomlin, Fonda, and Reba McEntire at an event in 2004

Over the past 39 years, Tomlin and Fonda have appeared at various events together, and when the opportunity to reunite onscreen came up, they jumped at the chance. In fact, it all happened because of a "gorgeous fluke." The show's co-creator Marta Kauffman heard that both women were interested in doing television. Per Indie Wire, "Thinking they meant together, [Kauffman] had her agent check. 'They do now,' was the reply." And so, Grace and Frankie was born.

OFFSCREEN, TOMLIN AND FONDA INCLUDE EACH OTHER IN THEIR SOCIAL ACTIVISM.

Both women have been seen standing in solidarity with the people of Standing Rock, protesting big banks, campaigning for fair wages for restaurant workers, and walking in the Women's March together.


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Fonda and Tomlin at a protest in solidarity with the people of Standing Rock

THEY EVEN DID A TED TALK TOGETHER CELEBRATING FEMALE FRIENDSHIP.


The conversation offered insight into their decades-long relationship.

"I look for someone who has a sense of fun, who's audacious, who's forthcoming, who has politics, who has even a small scrap of passion for the planet, someone who's decent, has a sense of justice and who thinks I'm worthwhile," Tomlin said, clearly defining what she sees in Fonda.

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For her part, Fonda said her female friendships, like the one she shared with Tomlin, "make me stronger, they make me smarter, they make me braver. They tap me on the shoulder when I might be in need of course-correcting."

Watch the full special here:

Grace and Frankie season five is available on Netflix. Watch it at the link below:

WATCH NOW: Grace and Frankie, netflix.com

*This story originally appeared on Townandcountrymag.com

*Minor edits have been made by the Townandcountry.ph editors

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Caroline Hallemann
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