Julia Gets Wise with Jane Fonda

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On the premiere episode of Wiser Than Me™, Julia sits down with the one and only Jane Fonda. With a career spanning over six decades, Jane – now 85 years old – hits all the highlights: staying fit at any age, fantasizing about funerals, getting heckled on set by Katharine Hepburn…and something about a fake thumb.

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Jane Fonda, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Judith Bowles

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  01:48

Okay, so I am looking at my high school yearbook. And at my senior page in particular, for those of you listening, I don’t recommend doing this. If you could see this photo of me, it is just so unattractive. It’s so unfortunate. It really is. I’m so somber, I look depressed, while at the same time pretentious. So it’s an interesting mash up of different horrible teenage characteristics. By the way, I’m also wearing a serious sucker type of jacket. And I remember thinking God, this is the shittiest jacket. And guess what? Newsflash, it ain’t. Anyway, underneath, you know, everybody back then I don’t know if people still do this, but you put a quote or something that’s supposed to sort of represent who you are, whatever. And so, the quote I have underneath my picture is from the movie Julia, which was a 1977 film that starred Jane Fonda and Vanessa Redgrave. And in the film, Jane plays Lillian Hellman. It’s an incredible film. I loved it, then I love it now. And I wanted to look at this quote, because I recently saw this documentary about Jane Fonda on HBO called Jane Fonda in five acts. And I was thinking the whole time that I was watching this stock, oh, my God, this woman, Jane Fonda, she has done a lot of shit in her life. I mean, it was it was really riveting to me. And as I watched her, I was really struck by the fact that we just don’t hear enough about the lives of older women. You know what I mean? When women get older, they become less visible, less heard, less seen in a way that really it just doesn’t happen with men. We are ignoring the wisdom of like more than half the population. It is just stunning to me that women, old women and by the way, not even so old, women are so easily dismissed and made invisible by our culture. You no fuck that bullshit. I want to hear from older women. And that’s how the beginning of the idea for this podcast was born. I’m going to talk to old ladies. I want to know how they do it, how they did it. How do they navigate aging and life? Give us some tips from the front lines. And that’s what we’re going to do on wiser than mate. We’re going to talk to women who are exactly that wiser than me. And guess what? Today we’re going to be talking with Jane Fonda. I’m Julia Louis-Dreyfus. This is WISER THAN ME. A show where each week I get schooled by women who are wiser than me. When I tell anybody then I’m doing this podcast thing where I get to talk to women who have lived extraordinary lives and have lived long enough to become truly wise. The first thing people always ask me is, are you going to talk to Jane Fonda? Really? Yeah. I’m going to talk to you. Okay. I’m going to talk to Jane Fonda. I’m talking to Jane Fonda. Honestly, there’s nobody like her. She’s an actual American icon, who has lived a life of passion, artistry, reinvention, controversy, commitment, and advocacy. She was at the absolute forefront of all of these huge cultural movements, the anti-war movement, the environmental movement, women producing their own work in Hollywood movement, the whole earth exercise aerobics thing that was Jane Fonda. And now the climate crisis and a whole new way to think about and talk about aging. Oh, my God. And just mentioning the name Jane Fonda can still really piss certain people off. How cool is that? She’s the model of the kind of person we all need to listen to. I just can’t wait to talk to Jane Fonda who is oh, so definitely wiser than me. Hi, Jane Fonda.

Jane Fonda  06:12

It’s so, it’s an honor to talk to you.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus 06:15

It’s an honor for me to talk to you. I just oh my god.

Jane Fonda  06:19

I love I’m watching you on Veep. And my grandkids are watching you on early Seinfeld. And you know it, you crossed generations. And when I told them I’m sorry, but I’ve got to go upstairs. I’m doing a podcast with you. They freaked out. They were so excited. Isn’t that great?

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  06:38

Yes. It’s fabulous. I’m so pleased. Yeah. I think young people are watching Seinfeld right now. Which is Yeah. completely bizarre. So are you comfortable? If I say you.

Jane Fonda  06:48

I’m 85. Yep.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  06:50

Hey, how old do you feel?

Jane Fonda  06:53

I feel 85. In my body, and mentally I feel much, much younger. But yeah, going back to when I was much younger, wasn’t so happy. So I don’t really want to say that. Mentally. I’m younger. I’m not. It’s just that in spiritually and mentally. And psychologically, I’m way younger than 85. But you know, one of the things that I’ve learned as I’ve gotten into serious old age, is when you’re inside it, as opposed to looking at it from the outside. It’s not nearly as scary. That’s one thing. And the other thing is that num, the number the chronology of age is not what’s important. It’s health. You know, for example, my dad died at 76. You know, I’m on my way, just to 86 now, and I’m much, much, much younger than he was, he was so old, at 76 because he was sick, he had a heart disease. You know, I’m fine. I’m healthy. I’ve had cancer, but it’s in remission. And you know, if you’re healthy 85 can be quite young. Especially if you stayed fit. And you know, and I move a lot. I just finished a workout.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  08:05

What kind of workout do you do, by the way?

Jane Fonda  08:11

That’s, you’ll find out. That’s the operative word. I do kind of the same moves. But slowly and with less weight. I say, yeah.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  08:19

I wanted to show you something, because I think you’re gonna get a kick out of this. While you might I say that, but you see that picture? And it’s my senior page. And the reason I’m showing you this is because on everybody’s senior page, you put a quote, and guess what my quote was? It was words that you spoke in the exquisite movie, Julia, that you spoke as Lillian Hellman. And I put it on my senior page. And now here I am talking to you. Well, here, we’re going to pull it up right now. And then I was hoping that you might read it.

Jane Fonda  09:01

Yes. Old paint on canvas, as it ages sometimes becomes transparent. When that happens, it’s possible in some pictures, just see the original lines. That is called penty mental, because the painter repented, changed his mind. Perhaps it would be as well to say that the old conception replaced by a later choice is a way of seeing and then seeing again, the paint has aged now and I wanted to see what was there for me once and what is there for me now. Well, that’s quite a mouthful for your senior book.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  09:47

For an 18 year old I have to say. And maybe a little bit horrified because it’s somewhat pretentious for an 18 year old to put that on her senior page.

Jane Fonda  10:03

No, I’m not leaving. I’m looking for a quote that I liked better.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  10:08

Good. But shit, I wish I’d known you back then. Because then I would have used the quote you like better on my page.

Jane Fonda  10:15

All right, here it is. This is TS Eliot little getting from Four Quartets. We shall not cease from exploration. And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  10:35

That’s a much better quote from my senior page, Jane, I should have used it. God dammit, what a missed opportunity.

Jane Fonda  10:45

And it’s a quote that I use at the beginning of Act Three in my memoir, because what I discovered, as I prepared for my third act, was you spend your life exploring as I have. And what you realize is, you go back to your girl hood, and you become all the things that she was supposed to be that you never knew what the time was really who she was, because you were trying to be what other people thought she should be. That to me was, was what why I quoted that.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  11:23

That’s been your journey. Can you define what the third act is?

Jane Fonda  11:29

Yeah, well, I was married to Ted Turner, I was on a ranch in New Mexico. And I realized that I’m about to be 59. And holy shit. In a year, I’m going to be 60. And for some reason, for me, figuring I’m probably not going to live past 90, next year is the beginning of my last act, first 30 years, second, 30 years, last 30 years. And you know, you’re an actor, you know how important third acts are, they can make sense out of the first two, right? They’re very important. It’s kind of a legacy that you’re going to leave behind. And so I thought, I have no idea what I want to do with my third act. And then it hit me, I know what I don’t want to have happen. I know that I don’t want to die with regrets when it’s too late to do anything about it. So one thing that I want to do and my third act is make sure that when I do die, I’ve cleaned up everything. I mean, you always have some regrets, but it’s not going to like make me feel bad when I die. And then the other thing is, you can’t really know how to go forward, if you don’t know where you’ve been. Yeah, so I spent the year between 59 and 60, researching myself, very objectively, like, it wasn’t really me, it was somebody else. And what I discovered was that I’m really brave. I didn’t know that before. I’ve been brave all my life. And that made me feel it gave me a lot of confidence. I was a much more confident person at the end than I was when I started this research. So anybody that’s approaching 60, think about doing what I discovered later, it’s a thing it’s called a life review. psychologists, psychiatrists gerontologist, encourage older people to do this, especially older people who are depressed, because one of the things that happens is that you discover, you know, a lot of who we are and how we behave. And everything is because of how we were parented, or not parented. And we always because that’s what kids do, we always assume that whatever happened, it was our fault. And what I discovered and what people do discover when they do a life review was Guess what? It had nothing to do with you.

Jane Fonda  13:46

Yeah. My father whom you met. A charismatic guy, but also a narcissist. Which I think we have that in common. And yeah, our fathers. But a wonderful man, in a lot of ways. Anyway, it was it was it was his birthday or something. And he already passed, and my mom wrote me a note saying, you know, oh, because they were divorced, and had been my entire life. And she wrote me this note saying, I know, this is, you know, a day for you, that you mark and so on. And, and I wish that there were ways that we could talk about what happened, you know, I, II and our family and so on. And I brought her back and I said, what’s keeping us from it? And so when I was like, 60, she and I went into therapy together.

Jane Fonda  14:31

Wow. Yeah. That is so great. What did that do for you?

Jane Fonda  14:38

It was a release as a lot of things fell into place. There was an understanding I understood where she was coming from. She came from a fraught family situation. And she understood what I was living through in my childhood with her and my father and my stepfather and my stepmother and so on. And it was just was like, something opened up. I mean, I guess that falls under life review to a certain extent it certainly falls into the regret heading. So when you’re talking about regrets, what are the regrets that you’ve worked through yourself? I mean, it sounds like you’ve forgiven yourself, which is great.

Jane Fonda  15:19

Not there’s a few things that I haven’t forgiven myself for. That I can’t really work. I was not a very good parent, what can I say? And I talk to my kids about it, or I try to Yeah, and I and I, I try to understand why I did. What are the things that I did? And I try to show up for them now in ways that I didn’t back then. So that’s the main way that I deal with regret.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  15:45

Are you a good grandparent?

Jane Fonda  15:47

I am. Yeah, yeah, I am. I like being a grandparent. But I can always walk away.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  15:54

Yeah, I know. That’s a sort of the perfect relationship in that sense. So um, would you say from your third act, vantage point, what advice would you give to someone who’s in their second act, or in their first act for that matter?

Jane Fonda  16:09

Okay, let’s start with the first act.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  16:11

Yeah, let’s talk about that.

Jane Fonda  16:12

It’s really, really hard to be young. People always think it’s hard to be old. No, it’s hard to be young.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  16:21

Oh, amen. Oh, I agree with you more. It’s, it is so hard.

Jane Fonda  16:26

And I personally think that it’s important to let young people know it’s not you, honey. It’s just really hard and middle Ages where you try to become an operative person. And it’s, it’s very charged when you get older, it’s like, Oh, I’ve been there done that didn’t kill me.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  16:48

Okay. Okay. Dear listeners, this is Julia. And I’m cutting in here. Because the wildest thing happened right here when we were taping this, and I have to explain it to you. So Jane and I are having this lovely conversation, bah, bah, blah, right? Well, you might remember a while back in California, we had what they called a bomb cyclone, which means a big ass storm with an atmospheric river. And that storm hit right at this moment. And the power at my house where I was on the Zoom call with Jane went out. Listen to this. Oh, no. Lose power. Wait, it’s connecting. It’s trying to connect? Why aren’t my lights coming back on? God dammit. Fuck. So the power was out. And I couldn’t communicate with anyone. And as you can hear, I was freaking out. And I didn’t know though that I was being recorded, by the way, because the tape recorder has a battery backup very clever. But what I also didn’t know was that the power was still on for Jane. So she’s still talking to no one because my power was gone.

Jane Fonda  18:12

You know, you have a perspective. And you discover you know, you know, people are thinking and saying you’re over the hill. But then you realize, oh my God, but there’s whole new vistas over the hill, other hills. Other views that you just keep going and growing.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  18:29

Meanwhile, back at my house. This is happening. That’s my alarm going off. Yeah. Okay, so to recap, I’ve got no power. I’ve got no Wi Fi got no cell service, everything had gone completely to shit. Oh, but my alarm seems to be working just fine, even though nobody’s breaking in. And my very first podcast is a complete disaster. Except at Jane’s house where everything is great with Jane talking to nobody.

Jane Fonda  18:59

Do you know what I mean? As you get older, you realize the importance of being intentional. Really. That’s why doing a life review was important. Understanding what things have meant in your life. You know, that’s how you become wise.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  19:14

And so here’s where Jane realizes what’s up.

Jane Fonda  19:17

I think I’ve lost her.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  19:19

That’s our producer Rachel who swooped in. And Jane was just so cool. It’s not anything

Jane Fonda  19:36

She didn’t hang up on me?

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  19:41

Yeah, so Jane Fonda is completely smooth and chatting about Lululemon while I’m freaking out. And when we realized the power was absolutely not coming back on anytime soon. Jane very generously agreed to record the rest of the interview another day, which we did, and you’ll hear that after the break.

Jane Fonda  22:09

Hi, Jane.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  22:13

Hey, I got power back.

Jane Fonda  22:14

Thank God, I was worried that you were going to starve to death and freeze. Isn’t that amazing what happened?

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  22:22

Most amazing think it was so bizarre. Anyway, thanks for taking the time to come back and continue our conversation. So can we talk about body and self-image? And I mean, you’re this incredible aerobics pioneer, I don’t have to tell you this. You know this. And so much of your life has been about fitness. Talk about your body now, if you don’t mind. And what has surprised you about your aging body? I’m curious to know, because as I mean, I’m not a young person anymore. And I’m surprised by what the hell’s happening to my body. For real. It’s really, like you’re kidding. And I’m wondering what your experience is?

Jane Fonda  23:09

Well, I’ll tell you one thing, I am really grateful that I spent not all my life but a good chunk of my life getting strong, right? Because I have muscles, even at 85 I’m strong, and yet even so getting in and out of those really high up cars. Picking up my 3.5 year old grandson is hard. And yet still, you know, I’m surprised at how hard things get even when you are strong. But I have made peace with my body. It has gotten me a long ways it stood up for me. So I appreciate my body. I don’t criticize it and hate on it anymore.  But I live alone. See, Julia, I don’t have to show it to anybody. Yeah, I’m vain enough so that it would be hard for me to get naked in front of not if I lived with somebody 50 years, which I wish it had been my fate. But you know, I wouldn’t be able to get undressed in front of a new lover. Really? No, I’ve got too many Nixon, you know, scars and holes and all kinds of things. I’ve gotten to fix up and affect me in a fake shoulder and even a fake thumb. Fake thumb.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  24:23

How do you get a fake thumb? What are you talking about?

Jane Fonda  24:26

I couldn’t even hold a pencil they removed a bone in it and replace it with a cadavers cartilage now it works fine. Look at that. I’m sorry that I did get plastic surgery I am. I wish that I had been able to grow old and peace with my face. But I wasn’t able to. And I don’t feel good about it. That’s it’s not real. I said, but I can’t do anything about it now.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  24:58

Well, I think you look marvelous. I was at a dinner once with Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft. Before she passed away, yeah. Did you ever get to know them?

Jane Fonda  25:11

I mean, I’ve made a movie with her called […] And I knew her because of the studio [..].

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  25:18

it was sort of at the towards the end of her life. But I didn’t know she was sick. And I said to her, and you’re such a magnificent actress, which of course she was. And I said, we don’t get to see you anymore. Why are you not out there? You’re so wonderful. And she said to me, I can’t look at this. She said, and she was referring to her face. And I thought, first of all, the most exquisite woman practically ever, in my view, absolutely gorgeous. And the fact that she was saying that, I think aging is hard for a woman in ways it is not for a man.

Jane Fonda  25:57

I mean, Greta Garbo retires at an early age, among many, many other great beauties. For the same reason that […] talking about, you know, and yet the guys go and they, you know, their gels are hanging and there’s all kinds of and nobody cares.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  26:13

Nobody cares. It’s been hard for me to watch myself age on screen, that’s for sure.

Jane Fonda  26:19

I haven’t even noticed it.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  26:22

Thank you very much. So now you’re single. Do you think you have to be single to be your own authentic self?

Jane Fonda  26:29

It totally depends on your early childhood. I mean, I unfortunately, don’t think that I can totally be myself in a romantic relationship with a man. I’m not willing to try again. The last time I tried was about eight years ago, and I just can’t do it. I don’t have an inmate to really be myself with a man.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  26:56

And then when you were trying to do it eight years ago, what happened that made you realize I can’t do this again.

Jane Fonda  27:03

I don’t know. Since my very beginning of my life, I think I was conditioned to not be who I am in order to make a man love me. And I just don’t want to do that anymore. I don’t have time.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  27:18

Do you miss having sex with a man?

Jane Fonda  27:20

Yes. But I tell you after the season of Grace and Frankie, where Frankie and I created a vibrator for older people. Everybody in the world sent me vibrators. I got a drawer full so it’s great.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  27:34

What’s your favorite vibrator? Do you have a fave?

Jane Fonda  27:37

The rabbit. The famous rabbit.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  27:40

The famous rabbit, right. Okay. When did you know that? It was like time to call it quits? When did you come to that conclusion time to call it quits with a man.

Jane Fonda  27:54

I usually know that the relationship should end when I begin fantasizing about their funerals. I’m not kidding. I plan their funerals. And then I realized what am I doing?

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  28:05

You plan the funeral? Are you speaking at the funeral?

Jane Fonda  28:08

Yeah, I’m the main speaker. Now for some reason when my relationships and I always think of death, and it is kind of like dying to have an important relationship. And I remember when I was working with the lawyers on my divorce with Tom Hayden, I put into the document that he’s not allowed to speak at my funeral. See, in that case, I thought I was the one that was dying. And I didn’t want him speaking at my funeral.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  28:38

Wow. Do you have anybody who wants speaking at your funeral now?

Jane Fonda  28:43

I’m making a list. Yeah, not only that, but the music that I want played. I’m going to be buried under a shroud. I’ve already I know wear in the same wildflower wild grass filled. No headstones feel that Tom Hayden is buried in because I don’t want the children to have to go to two different places to talk to us. And think about us. It’s all arranged. I’m going to be wrapped in a sheet and put in a hole.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  29:10

And who’s speaking at your funeral? Ideally?

Jane Fonda  29:15

I’m not going to tell you.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  29:20

I’m so fascinated that you have the plan. I just love it. So I get the sense you’re not afraid of dying?

Jane Fonda  29:28

No, not at all. I kind of look forward to it. It’s like a new adventure.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  29:33

Yeah. You know, it’s a new adventure. I have a friend actually who just lost her mother and her mother was so looking forward to leaving this earth. And because she had been in a lot of pain, actually. And just about 20 minutes before she died. She said how excited she was to go. And then she says, oh my god, I haven’t put my lipstick on.

Jane Fonda  29:59

Oh, It’s like my aunt.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  30:02

And she put her lipstick on. And then she died about 20 minutes later.

Jane Fonda  30:09

My father’s sister one of them, when she was dying, she also made sure to have the right lipstick on. And the right night gown. Because of who she was going to see on the other side. See, I’m not so sure about seeing anybody on the other side. And I don’t care about the lipstick. But I want to be able to have things to say to the people that are with me, I hope that there’ll be people with making care for me. And that I won’t just clam up. My dad just clammed up. I couldn’t get him to say anything.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  30:41

Really not one word. Assuming you get to see him again, you can open up the conversation. So in the documentary, you said, I wanted to be a good girl. A good girl is not an ambitious person. So how did you find your ambition?

Jane Fonda  31:03

I don’t know. I’ve never felt very ambitious, particularly, for a long time. I just kind of went from one thing to another because somebody wanted me. I couldn’t believe it. I you know, the idea of saying no, if somebody offered me a job seemed impossible. I was just so grateful that somebody wanted to hire me. Then when I started to do my own stuff, starting with coming home, and in a way with clue, even though I didn’t produce clued, I started to care more than about what I was doing. I didn’t look at parts in relation to what’s this gonna do for my career. Ever.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  31:45

Well, I mean, as somebody on the outside looking at your career, I would say that this is a woman who is ambitious, and maybe the word is wrong. I also think that if you call a woman ambitious, that can sometimes feel negative as opposed to when you call a man ambitious. I mean, if you said, oh, that man is very ambitious. So in your mind, you think success. Powerful. He’s successful. That woman’s ambitious, you think. Stay out of her way a bitch.

Jane Fonda  32:16

Yeah, exactly. And that’s why when I was trying out for the lead role that Natalie would ended up having and splendor in the grass, Ilya Kazan asked me, are you ambitious? And I said, no. In the minute the word came out of my mouth, I knew that was a mistake. I could see it on his face.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  32:36

He didn’t want that answer. No. But it’s also not a very fair question to ask. And that mean, you know?

Jane Fonda  32:42

Who says any of them are fair, that […] once said to me, what have you ever done besides being […]. I mean, those guys, they were, you know, they were never compassionate or anything.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  32:56

Who was a good mentor for you? Who gave you healthy advice or steered you in a way that was good for you?

Jane Fonda  33:02

I’ll tell you what, I you know, I was brought up to never ask for advice or help. And I erroneously thought that that was the way you were supposed to be if you were a grown up until I was about 60. And so no, I never asked for advice. I mean, that seemed to me to be a weakness, but Katharine Hepburn without my ever asking her. Yes, gave me a lot of really good advice when we were making on Golden Pond. Like, I am terrified of going over backwards, whether it’s a backward somersault or a backward dive. So doing the backflip was really, really challenging for me. Plus, I hate cold water, and dark water, called dark water on it in a backflip is my biggest nightmare. And I had to do it because Katharine Hepburn challenged me. And so when I was practicing, practicing, practicing and covered with bruises, I finally did it. And as I crawled out of the water, she had been hiding in the bushes. And she came out, she came over to me, I was shocked. And she said, Jane, you’ve taught me to respect you. You never want to get caught soggy. You always have to stand up to your fears. Never gets soggy. That was a really good piece of advice. Stand up to your fears. And I thought that was pretty good. And yeah, she wasn’t very nice person and she didn’t really like me, but she was there.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  34:26

Wait a minute. What do you mean she didn’t like you? Why didn’t she like you?

Jane Fonda  34:29

She told Dominique Don Juan that Jane Fonda has no soul. Well, she told me the first time I met her she said I don’t like you. Anyway, there’s all kinds of reasons but she was jealous. Talk about competitive and ambitious. Oh my god. I had to. I realized early on that I had to be subservient. And once I started being subservient, then she was nice to me.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  34:57

Did she know that you did a great impression of her because that’s a great impression.

Jane Fonda  35:01

No, no, she didn’t. I you know, when after the day after the Oscars, we were all three me my dad and her were nominated. And I’d won two already. She’d won three. So if I won, and she didn’t, we’d be tied. But if I didn’t win, and she did, then she’d have four. And I only have two, right? Neither she nor my dad went to the Oscars. They were both ill. And I called her to congratulate her and she said, you’ll never catch me now.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  35:36

How old was she when she said that, Jane.

Jane Fonda  35:39

A little younger than I am now. It took me a minute to even realize what she was talking. I got it. You know, talking about competitive.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  35:51

Does she have a sense of humor? Was she like when she said that when she tried to be cute and clever?

Jane Fonda  35:54

No, it was just her what she was really. That was her really what she was thinking. And she just couldn’t keep it in.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  36:07

Oh, she was really competitive. Yeah, I have to say I don’t like women like that. It bums me out. It makes me feel because there’s a lack of generosity there. That for me is stymies creativity. You know what I mean? I mean, there’s nothing I love more than working with generous actors and actresses. I mean, I get the sense that Lily Tomlin is incredibly generous. Female friendships are a huge part of your life now. Yeah. It sounds like they’re kind of your life’s blood in a way. Is it in this third act of your life that you realize the VAT truly realized the value of female friendships? Or did you sort of always know that?

Jane Fonda  36:56

I never knew it. It was only when I was older. No, I grew from the very beginning of my life. As far as I was concerned, if I’m going to make it through life, I’m going to hitch my wagon, to my father’s star, or to some other man’s star, I’ve got to be with an alpha male. I didn’t know that word at the time. But, you know, a strong man, interesting man who can take me into worlds that I’m not familiar with. And I had no women friends. It wasn’t until I gave birth to a daughter, that I started very tentatively having women friends. And then when I became an activist, it was the women that I met here in this country, the women activists that were the most responsible for my new consciousness and transformation it was being with them was like looking at the world, looking through a keyhole at the world that we’re trying to create. They behave like what we should all behave like, with kindness and generosity and humanity. And oh my gosh, I thought isn’t that interesting? Men have never treated me this way before. These women. There’s, you know, three or four that specifically that when they looked at me, I know they were looking at me, not the celebrity. And I felt seen and they asked me how I felt and what I thought about things men never did that.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  38:31

More with Jane Fonda after the break. Do you think in terms of your activism, and being an actor, do you consider yourself an activist first and an actress second, or are they on par with each other? How do you feel about out that?

Jane Fonda  40:01

They’re on par with each other. Because, you know, when it’s a good script than a good character, I love it so much. And it connects to my activism because it gives me a platform. I mean, listen, I have been an activist at a time when I had no hits TV series or, or movies or anything, and how I was treated them as opposed to how I was treated with Grace and Frankie at my back, totally different.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  40:30

Describe that difference?

Jane Fonda  40:32

Well, police roughed me up. You know, I was called names, hair pulled out of my head and chunks, all kinds of things like that. Not that I had a successful TV series. That didn’t happen.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  40:46

Also, don’t you think being older too is helpful. They’re not going to pull hair out of your head?

Jane Fonda  40:51

Well, it depends on where I go, I’m going to be spending a lot of time in the Gulf region coming up. So I’m going to see, we’ll see what happens.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  41:01

What are you going to do in the Gulf region?

Jane Fonda  41:03

Well, the Biden administration has issued more than two dozen permits for new gas terminals in an area that is already buckling under cancer and heart defects and lung diseases, because of all the pipelines and refineries and everything in the Gulf. And if these gas terminals go through its climate Time Bomb, it’s, it’s the end, it’s a disaster, we have to stop it. So I’m going to go there with fire drill Fridays, and film interviews and try to build opposition to this locally and nationally, so that we can stop it. Biden should be ashamed of himself.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  41:37

I’m glad you’re doing that. When are you doing that soon?

Jane Fonda  41:39

Well, I go in June, I go in May. And then the second half of the year, we’re focusing on California. Because, you know, we got Gavin Newsom, the governor to sign a bill that was so important to create a 3200 foot health and safety buffer between oil wells, fracking pits, and communities, schools and playgrounds and stuff like that. And now the oil companies have got a ballot, that we’ll vote on and 24 to undo it.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  42:07

I would like to be a part of the work you’re going to do here in California.

Jane Fonda  42:11

Wow. Well, that’s a big deal.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  42:13

Well, I would love to do it.

Jane Fonda  42:14

Thank you. Thank you.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  42:18

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. All right. So now I just want to ask you a couple more quick questions. And then you can bolt in and get the hell out of here. Unless the power goes out, and then I’ll have to call you back a third time. Is there something you go back and tell yourself at 21?

Jane Fonda  42:35

No, is a complete sentence.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  42:39

No apology after it.

Jane Fonda  42:40

Just no.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  42:42

That’s a good one. I love that.

Jane Fonda  42:44

That came from I’ll tell you who that came from Annie Lamott, who was doing a book signing in Atlanta was the biggest turnout for any author I had ever been to. I love her books. And somebody asked her to read a script they had. And there were like, 2000 people in the theater. And she said, no, I learned today that is a complete sentence.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  43:12

I’m totally going to use that. Yeah. Speaking of saying no, is there something you’d go back and say yes to?

Jane Fonda  43:20

You know, I often think I’m sure that there were a number of men that came my way who were perfect for me. Who wouldn’t? We’re not afraid of saying come on Fonda show up. Let’s be real, okay. Show up, and could have taken it and could have revealed himself as well. And didn’t need drugs or alcohol or anything else to. And I wonder who they were. And if I had been wiser I would have said yes.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  43:52

This is not a question. This is a comment. I have to say your hair color is stunning.

Jane Fonda  43:58

Isn’t it wonderful? And it’s just my own hair color.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  44:01

When did you decide to go gray?

Jane Fonda  44:03

I just decided that I didn’t want to have to keep putting chemicals on my head. So I said to Marta Kauffman who was the showrunner for Grayson Frankie, Marta. I want to go gray. Can gray skull gray too. And so, you know, put it into the storyline and we did what we had Grace gradually getting gray.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  44:23

Wow. I’m looking forward to doing that. I really am. I’m very gray. Is there anything that you want me to know about aging as I’m as I’m entering this third act of my own? Is there anything I should know Jane? Can you tell me from the front line?

Jane Fonda  44:40

Well, successful aging, in large part depends on good health. So stay healthy. Posture is important. You can seem very old if you have bad posture, even if you’re not all that old. And keep exercising. You’ve got to stay strong. Just keep moving.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  45:04

Well, I just adore you.

Jane Fonda  45:06

And I, you, you know, it’s funny, I just for that so the audience knows this. We both went to a huge mansion to celebrate Norman Lear his 100th birthday. And on the way I saw you and I came over and introduce myself. And I assumed that we knew each other but we didn’t we’d never really met before.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  45:27

You know what that we did meet once very, very briefly. At a this was back when you were married to Ted. And you it was at a global green event that Mikhail Gorbachev.

Jane Fonda  45:38

I remember that. I remember that very well, that event.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  45:41

But I’ll tell you a story about Ted really quick. Yeah, I was seated next to him. And he made a comment about all the money that we am and may had made from the syndication of Seinfeld, right. And I said, Well, actually, Ted, you know what, I don’t own Seinfeld, so I didn’t really make that kind of money. And then he reaches into his pocket. And he gave me $100.

Jane Fonda  46:08

That’s Ted. Anyway, I was surprised that you looked so surprised when I came up to you and greeted you at that Norman Lear party. And I think I was just waiting to become friends with you. So this has been really fun. For me. This has been a really a big treat for me to be interviewed by you when talking to you. I appreciate it a lot, Julia. And I can’t tell you what it means to me that you want to work with us on the California oil issue.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  46:41

Yeah, I do. And I admire you and have feel very, very blessed to have been able to have this conversation with you. I’ve just think you’re an extraordinary human being.

Jane Fonda  46:51

Thanks and keep that power on.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  46:56

Thank you. Bye, bye. Okay, first podcast, completed. What I have to do now is call my mom. I got to tell her about this. Her name is Judy, by the way, and she’s 89. And well, I hope she takes my call.

Judith Bowles  47:24

Hello, hello. Hi.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  47:25

Hi, Mommy. How are you?

Judith Bowles  47:27

Okay, can you see me okay?

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  47:28

Yes. Can you see me?

Judith Bowles  47:30

I can see you and your blue.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  47:32

Mom, did you get new glasses?

Judith Bowles  47:34

No, I can’t find my other glasses.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  47:37

These are great looking mom. Mom. I talked to Jane Fonda today. I think I have a new really good friend. And I am not kidding you. I think that we became friends in this conversation. She’s an incredibly interesting woman. And I think you would really like her/

Judith Bowles  47:58

Or she has done some things?

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  48:01

I don’t even know where to begin, because it was really such an exciting conversation. Actually, I do know where to begin. So I showed her my senior yearbook page. Because do you remember I put a quote on my senior yearbook page. And it was from Lillian Hellman. I asked her if she would read it. And she did. She read it aloud.

Judith Bowles  48:21

She must have been so touched by that. I mean, you’re so touched by it. That’s incredible.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  48:25

But what she said was, this is a better quote. And she pulls a book out and she reads the following from TS Eliot’s little getting, we shall not cease from exploration. And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started, and know the place for the first time.

Judith Bowles  48:49

So wonderful.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  48:50

Can you talk about where I started? Like, in your mind, are there remnants of who I was when I was young now?

Judith Bowles  49:02

Oh, absolutely. Because, there was a direction that you had innately. And it was sort of both improvisation. And it was what happened to you when you became a character. When you were playing and you were be improvising. It was completely believable. And I remember when you were like, five and we were You were sitting in the backseat of the car and you would be having conversation with Mickey Mouse. And it would be not just a little pastime, hahaha. It got to be an IRA thing. It was a lose nation. It was something that you’re you were creating, and it had mass to it.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  49:43

By the way, I remember being in the backseat playing Mickey Mouse. I think it might have been Mighty Mouse actually, if I recall, maybe not to split hairs. But I do remember having an epiphany thinking, what if Mighty Mouse fails? What if he’s got something to do and it doesn’t work out? So I was sort of rewriting something. Anyway, I don’t, it’s stayed with me ever since.

Judith Bowles  50:15

Right. Well, that’s very interesting. Because, I mean, I think our play is about life. I think it’s wonderful.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  50:24

Mommy, I have to say goodbye to you now. I’m being told by my producers that I have to say goodbye.

Judith Bowles  50:32

Well, I guess you have to listen to them. And I say goodbye. Oh, now also say I love you.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  50:36

I love you too. Very much, very much.

CREDITS  50:51

There’s more WISER THAN ME with Lemonada Premium, subscribers get exclusive access to bonus content. Subscribe now in Apple podcasts. WISER THAN ME is a production of Lemonada Media created and hosted by me Julia Louis-Dreyfus. The show is produced by Kryssy Pease , Alex McOwen and Hoja Lopez. Brad Hall as a consulting producer. Our senior editor is Tracy Clayton. Rachel Neil is our senior director of new content and our VP of weekly production is Steve Nelson. Executive Producers are Stephanie Wittels Wachs, Jessica Cordova Kramer, Paula Kaplan and me. The show is mixed by Kat Yore and Johnny Vince Evans and music by Henry Hall. Special thanks to Charlotte Chrisman Cohen, Ivan Kuraev, and Kegan Zema. And, of course, my mother Judith Bowles. Follow wiser than me wherever you get your podcasts and hey, if there’s an old lady in your life, listen up.

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