Jane Fonda is still in awe of what happened last week at the Golden Globe Awards, as Hollywood focused on something more than just handing out kudos.
“I thought it was the best Golden Globes ever,” Fonda said of the focus on the Time’s Up and #MeToo movements. “It was glorious. One of the great things is all of the actresses involved have been conscious to the fact that we’ve got to reach out our arms to women in other sectors. Restaurant workers, hotel workers, farm workers. It’s really moving.”
Fonda spoke to Variety’s Cynthia Littleton on Wednesday at the NATPE convention about “Grace and Frankie,” aging in Hollywood and her busy schedule as an activist. The actress is no stranger to the issue of women’s equality and pay inequality — having even dealt with the issue as recent as 2015 with “Grace and Frankie,” when she and Lily Tomlin were initially paid the same as the show’s male supporting actors.
“These are deeply ingrained problems and they take a long time to address,” she said. “We have arrived at a moment that really is a historic turning point. I don’t think things will be the same after this.”
Fonda pointed out that she still remembers when she started working in Hollywood in the late 1950s, there were no women in any position of power. “It’s hard when there’s no one who looks like you to lean on their shoulder. It’s different now, very diverse.” (On “Grace and Frankie,” executive producer Marta Kauffman, half of the writing staff and more than half of the directors are women.)
Fonda lauded the women who helped found Time’s Up, the movement borne out of Hollywood’s recent sexual harassment and assault scandals: “These aren’t just stars, these women, they’re fierce warriors. They’re so much more advanced than I was at their age.”
She added that “every single good friend I have was abused as a child… people don’t realize this is an epidemic.”
Fonda also pointed out that although the movement received mainstream attention after famous white women spoke up, they stood on the shoulders of the “brave women of color” who did it before them, including Anita Hill.
The actress’ activism is currently focused on fair wages for tip workers, who often earn below minimum wage. She pointed out that 70 percent of the 13 million people who work in the restaurant industry are women. So far seven states have done away with a two-tier system for tip workers, with more states putting it on the ballot. Fonda and Tomlin recently campaigned in Michigan in support of one bill.
“When women achieve pay equity they don’t put up with [harassment],” she said.
Fonda credited her “Grace and Frankie” workload with giving her the time to focus on issues that she cares about.
“It’s 13 episodes, so I have six months with nothing to do except being an activist,” she said. “It’s a lot easier being an activist with a hit TV series.” Fonda doesn’t campaign for candidates, however. “It doesn’t matter what party we belong to, we have to save the planet and save our democracy.”
The HBO documentary “Jane Fonda in Five Acts” premieres at this year’s Sundance, and Fonda is proud of it — although she said watching moments from her past was “intense.” But she also said she feels like she’s in her prime at age 80.
She took a “leap of faith” in doing TV, but adds, “that’s how I stay fit, taking leaps of faith.”
Fonda also credited former husband Ted Turner for “giving me back my humor and my confidence,” and shaking her of an unhappiness that kept her out of Hollywood for 15 years.
As for the future of “Grace and Frankie,” Fonda said she’ll keep doing it “until I can’t talk anymore. Which is a very long time… Women come up to us all the time and say ‘you’ve given me hope.’ Young people realize it’s OK to get older. And they’re surprised to learn that their grandmothers use vibrators.”