Excerpts from Georgia resident of 19 years, Jane Fonda, addresses older female sexuality
Jane Fonda, Grace and Frankie and your recent movie Book Club both portray older female sexuality, which has traditionally been treated either as a joke or ignored in film and TV. Why do you think the subject is being mined for story now?
FONDA [Our] culture doesn't like people with wrinkles to be talking about sex. And kids don't like to think about their parents doing it, either. But the fastest-growing demographic in the world is older women, and a lot of them are doing it very pleasurably. I wrote a book about it and I gave it to the writers. When I was in my 40s, I said before I die I want to be part of giving a cultural face to older women, and I can't tell you how much feedback Lily [Tomlin] and I get from older women who say it's given them hope — and not-so-old women who say, "I now see another way forward." I mean, I wouldn't have been talking about vaginal dryness in Barbarella. (Laughter.)
(On playing Grace Hanson) It took me a long time to figure out [my relationship to this character]. I had a nervous breakdown during the first season and I discovered it's because the very first episode our husbands tell us that they are going to leave us after 40 years and marry each other and that triggered abandonment … oh, this is not a good thing to talk about (chokes up a bit). It was a big trigger, and I didn't realize that a character in a comedy could actually trigger something very profound. And so, I love her, and I learned to invite her into the room. After the first season, I couldn't have written a backstory for her; and then I wrote 30 pages without ever stopping. But I don't really want to have to be anything like her. We have too much in common as it is.