By Ruth Kinane
March 24, 2017 at 06:07 PM EDT
Netflix
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Storming out of a double family gathering in a slow-motion strut, Grace and Frankie ended season 2 with a shocker: The duo was starting a company to sell vibrators to elderly women. “After that grand exit, they really have to face the music,” showrunner Marta Kauffman says of season 3, streaming now on Netflix.

This next chapter finds the ladies getting back into the groove with their new venture while juggling romantic entanglements with the same old hilarity that made the comedy a hit. Grace (Jane Fonda) welcomes the change while Frankie (Lily Tomlin) fumbles. “Yes, they’re doing it partly to save face after the way season 2 ended, but Grace also really wants to be a business woman and is very good at it, unlike Frankie,” Fonda tells EW. “She’s the main hitch because Frankie, being what she is, is just not good business; she’s difficult to reign in and I end up having to tell her what to do because she just blows it all the time.”

That causes a problem or two in the ladies’ already tumultuous friendship, but the foundation is ultimately unshakeable in the aftermath of their ex-husbands Robert (Martin Sheen) and Sol (Sam Waterston) coming out as gay. “What happened in the first season was very, very hard on Grace, but with Frankie’s help she’s starting to get stronger,” says Fonda. “She can get wound pretty tight and Frankie can get her out of it; she needs her. Deep down, despite all the annoyances, we really love each other and it’s both fun and important to play women who aren’t bickering at each other all the time — you know, the stereotype.”

It doesn’t hurt that they find a common enemy in charming business tycoon Nick (Peter Gallagher), who challenges the double act as they dive head first into their new industry and face setbacks. “He’s a slick operator for sure,” Fonda says of Gallagher’s character. “But he’s so handsome you can’t hate him.”

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Are Nick’s looks enough to wow Grace? Fonda won’t spill, but as is the case in previous seasons, romance takes a backseat to the show’s main theme of female friendship. “The thing I get the most feedback about is women — not just older women, but college-aged millennials as well — tell me they love the show because it makes them feel hopeful about the future,” says Fonda. “They like seeing these two older women who are healthy and rambunctious. I love the fact that so many women say that the relationship between Grace and Frankie makes them feel hopeful, and I really like that younger people tell me it makes them less afraid to get old.”

The new season also offers some action beyond that hilarious “fallen-and-can’t-get-back-up” moment in the trailer. “There’s a really funny driving scene, and in another we go up in hot air balloon for a big surprise!” she shares.

Fonda doesn’t promise a smooth ride in season 3, but she can guarantee inspiration. “You can really screw up in life, but there’s always a chance for a fresh start,” she says. “That’s what the show’s all about.”

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