Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin’s Off Screen Friendship Led to ‘Grace & Frankie’

Jane Fonda Lily Tomlin
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Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin have been friends for many years. Which made their decision to link arms for the Netflix comedy “Grace and Frankie” an easy call for both.

Fonda told the crowd at the Television Critics Association press tour on Sunday that she gets great joy just by being with Tomlin. “Grace and Frankie” bows its second season on May 6.

“I come from a long line of depressed people,” Fonda said, to a big laugh. Tomlin “has a true funny bone. I get to spend time with someone who’s take on everything comes from a place of funny,” she said.

Fonda and Tomlin demonstrated their rapport throughout the panel that also featured co-star Sam Waterston, and series exec producers Marta Kauffman and Howard Morris and Tulea, a shaggy white-haired dog who spent the panel snoozing next to Fonda.

A few minutes in to the session, Fonda let it be known that Kauffman had promised to pay them $100 apiece every time they made the tough TCA crowd laugh. The Fonda-Tomlin banter — which included a reference by Fonda to Ted Turner as “my favorite ex-husband” — ensured that Kauffman had a big check to write.

“You can see why we wanted to do a show with these people,” Morris joked.

Kauffman was asked whether “Grace & Frankie” was preparing for a “9 to 5” reunion episode with a guest shot from Dolly Parton, who co-starred with Fonda and Tomlin in the hit 1980 movie comedy. Parton shouldn’t hold her breath.

“Season two is not the right time,” Kauffman said.  “I feel like we’re still creating a world, and the world is ‘Grace and Frankie,’ and characters you want to know and invest in. The minute you bring in Dolly Parton — who I love — then it’s ‘9 to 5’ and you’re taken out of the show.”

Kauffman reiterated apropos of the current nostalgic mania for 1980s and ’90s pop culture nostalgia that “there will never be a ‘Friends’ reunion movie.”

Waterston, meanwhile, is likely to be part of any “Law & Order” revival should the much-discussed project come to pass at NBC. Waterston said he’s had a conversation with exec producer Dick Wolf about his willingness to return to the prosecution bench as Jack McCoy — yes, he’s in — but he cautioned that the subject remains in the what-if stage and no formal dealmaking is afoot.

“I’m expecting any day for the rumors to come true, but I’m also expecting them not to come true,” Waterston said.

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