On their new Netflix series “Grace and Frankie,” Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin make a case for adding a new pair of names to the vaunted roster of comedy duos. Playing elderly women whose husbands leave their wives to marry each other, Fonda and Tomlin are a new take on Felix and Oscar.
At Wednesday night’s premiere of the series, though, Fonda wanted to make it clear that the show isn’t the average comedy when it comes to handling the subject of aging. “It doesn’t just make it funny, it makes it real, which includes surprises and hope and joy and play and sex and all kinds of interesting things,” Fonda said. “It’s not the stereotyped view of what it is to be an older woman, which is why I like doing it.”
Tomlin nodded in agreement, adding that their recent experiences have informed their performances. “We live the life of a woman at that age,” she said.
Fonda and Tomlin’s co-stars were unanimous in their admiration for the actresses. Many of them said the prospect of working with those leads was what made the project appealing.
“I figured that if these kinds of people were associated with it, it was probably going to be really good,” said Sam Waterston, who plays Tomlin’s newly openly gay husband. “I will never forget the first day, sitting down and finding myself in a row with Jane Fonda on one side, Lily Tomlin on the other and Martin (Sheen) over there, thinking, ‘How did I get so lucky?’”
Comedienne June Diane Raphael, who plays Fonda’s daughter on the show, said she’s been a fan of the duo since they appeared together in “Nine to Five.” “As a comedy fan, to see them do an ‘Odd Couple’ is a dream,” Raphael said.
Raphael’s feelings were reiterated by Ethan Embry: “They’re effortless masters,” he said of Fonda and Tomlin. “They’re the coolest.”
Ernie Hudson plays Tomlin’s love interest on the series and had nothing but raves. “She’s the most generous actress that I’ve gotten to work with,” Hudson said. “She’s so kind and so lovely. She made it so easy.”
The executive producers behind “Grace and Frankie” expressed their pride in the series’ subject matter. “The fact that I’m getting older and I want to tell stories about older women and older men and that experience, a different way to age and embrace your life as you get older, absolutely was a huge draw,” executive producer Marcy Ross said.
Exec producer Dana Goldberg was excited to see how different demographics would respond to the show. She was optimistic that younger audiences would tune in despite the age of the show’s main characters. “Good characters that are both funny and make you cry are ageless,” she said.
After screening three episodes at L.A. Live’s Regal Cinemas, attendees headed across the street to WP24 for cocktails and swanky Chinese food. Fonda held court at a corner table, surrounded by her friends and her small white dog.
“Grace and Frankie” hits Netflix May 8.