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Meet the Real Artist Behind Lily Tomlin’s Paintings on ‘Grace and Frankie’

Grace and Frankie” stars Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin, but there is another star of the series whose face has never been seen onscreen. That person is Nancy Rosen, the real-life artist who provides all of the paintings on the series for Tomlin’s character, who is a painter and art teacher.

The Chicago-based Rosen has provided paintings for every season of the Netflix series, but her love of art goes back to her childhood. “I’ve been painting since I was five,” Rosen told Variety. “I didn’t have any choice about that. That’s just what it’s always been. It’s always made up my entire life. It’s kind of what wakes me up in the morning and I do every day.”

Rosen is an old friend of Robbie Tollin, an executive producer on the series. “Her and her family have been collecting my work since I was a little girl,” she said. “So when everyone was throwing work in to figure out Frankie’s work, she threw mine on the table and they picked it.” While that sounds like a dream come true for many artists, Rosen said her work for the show has not been without its challenges.

“What I have discovered in working with Hollywood is they don’t give you much time,” she said. “They call you on a Sunday and say ‘We need something for Tuesday.’ So it’s been wonderfully challenging. They’ve thrown me all sorts of wonderful challenges over the last three years that have taken me out of my comfort zone.”

According to Tomlin, she was unaware of Rosen’s work prior to joining the show, but quickly came to appreciate Rosen’s style and the way it jived with the unconventional nature of Frankie Bergstein. “Nobody knew what kind of painter Frankie was,” Tomlin said. “[Rosen’s work] seems eccentric, and a little manic, and wonderful, and dark at times and very comedic at other times. It’s just right.”

Series co-creator Marta Kauffman echoed that sentiment, even revealing that she now has one of Rosen’s works hanging in her office after it was featured on the show. “There was something. I just saw it and I said, ‘Oh my God, this is it. This is exactly what I want it to be,”’ Kauffman said of seeing Rosen’s paintings for the first time. “It’s quirky. It’s bold. It’s many things. And then when something like that happens and it just starts to fit, it just explodes. You can’t go back.”

Season 3 of the show begins with Frankie enjoying a solo art show displaying her work. Rosen provided all of the pieces featured in the scene, and even got to appear as an extra. “It was a really funny experience to stand there for four days and get paid to look at my own artwork,” she said with a laugh.

Grace and Frankie” Season 3 drops at midnight on March 24 on Netflix.

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