The scene isn’t unfamiliar: two seventysomething women catching up on old times over soup and salad.
But instead of exchanging photos of grandkids, Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin are swapping indie-film recommendations and debating the merits of taking peyote. Which may explain why a publicist looms nervously, as though Fonda, 77, and Tomlin, 75, were unpredictable loose-lipped starlets, instead of acting legends starring on a new TV show that reunites them on screen for the first time since their 1980 blockbuster, 9 to 5.
In their latest project, Netflix’s Grace and Frankie, out May 8, the pair are rivals–turned–unlikely allies who lean on each other for support when their husbands (played by Martin Sheen and Sam Waterston) come out as gay and leave them to be a couple together. EW crashed a brunch between the decades-long friends to find out what’s currently on their always fertile—and always unfiltered—minds.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: It’s my fantasy that you have been meeting for brunch every Saturday since you wrapped 9 to 5.
LILY TOMLIN: She’s out of town so much.
JANE FONDA: Oh, come on, you’re the one!
TOMLIN: I call on the phone and we eat together on the phone. Truly!
When you aren’t filming, do you only get together when you’re presenting awards to each other?
FONDA: No! Well, actually, that’s kind of true. [Laughs]
TOMLIN: We’re so busy. I can only show up for the first 15 minutes of anything and then I have to leave.
Do you remember the first time you met?
FONDA: I went to see her in Appearing Nitely on Broadway. I was already developing 9 to 5, and when I saw her it blew my mind. I thought, “I don’t want to make this movie without her.” I got the idea of including Dolly Parton because I heard her on the radio and thought, “Boy, that would be cool.” Dolly, Lily, Jane. It took me a year to persuade them!
Was that the hardest part of getting that movie off the ground?
FONDA: It’s probably harder [to do] now than it was then. It’s so hard to get a movie done and distributed, especially when you’re older. For older women, it’s mostly about independent movies. By the way, you should see her new movie, Grandma. Oh my God, it’s so good. I’m so jealous.
TOMLIN: Oh, sweetheart.
FONDA: But TV is where the good writing is, and where you gravitate to.
Had you been looking to do a show together when [Grace and Frankie -co-creator] Marta Kauffman approached you?
FONDA: We’ve been friends, but we weren’t actively looking for a project together.
TOMLIN: No. But it’s always been in the backs of our minds, of how we could get together again.
Did you think it was going to be TV?
FONDA: We had hoped so!
TOMLIN: Yes, because a movie would be too short-lived!
I’d never seen anyone smoke pot until I saw 9 to 5. Now you’re taking peyote in the very first episode
of Grace and Frankie. Did you go Method on that?
TOMLIN: To prepare for the peyote trip? Oh, yeah. We just put the preparations in place and then followed them.
Wow. Perhaps in a cozy bungalow in Malibu?
TOMLIN: We did!
FONDA: Actually, yes, Marta has a very lovely beach house. Our house on the show was modeled after it.
I got so excited seeing all the different guest stars throughout the season.
FONDA: In future episodes I have a boyfriend, and Frankie helps me with vaginal dryness that I have with Craig T. Nelson. It’s fun!
Did you ever think you’d be doing a TV series that tackled vaginal dryness?
FONDA: No, I did not. I just said this to Lily yesterday: I want the show to be really successful and go on for so many years that we’ll be in adult diapers for real.
TOMLIN: If you like the real moments in this season, imagine them when we’re 96.