Jane Fonda revealed that her character’s story arc on her Netflix original series “Grace and Frankie” caused her to have a “nervous breakdown.”
In a Comedy Actress Roundtable 2019 interview published Wednesday, the actress told The Hollywood Reporter that she initially struggled to adjust to her role as Grace Hanson, whose husband leaves her at the beginning of the series.
“It took me a long time to figure out,” she told the magazine. “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.”
“It took me a season to come to care for my character. I had to go back into therapy and start Prozac.”
Fonda, 81, flanked by fellow actresses Maya Rudolph, Regina Hall, Alex Borstein, Tiffany Haddish and Natasha Lyonne said she had no idea the magnitude of the weight her role would have on her personal life and indicated she ultimately embraced Grace – even writing in a 30-page backstory for the lead.
“It was a big trigger, and I didn’t realize that a character in a comedy could actually trigger something very profound,” she said. “And so I love her, and I learned to invite her into the room.”
The multiple-time Academy Award-winning actress continued: “After the first season, I couldn’t have written a backstory for her; and then I wrote 30 pages without ever stopping,” she added. “But I don’t really want to have to be anything like her. We have too much in common as it is.”
Fonda, who has also starred on the series alongside Lily Tomlin since 2015, received an Emmy award nomination in 2017 for her role.
During the interview, the discussion also addressed how “Grace and Frankie,” as well as Fonda’s recent film “Book Club,” have allowed the subject of female sexuality among older women to be portrayed in film and television.
When asked why the topic is being explored more now when it has typically been made fun of or ignored altogether, Fonda explained that sexual pleasure doesn’t have to stop among women in her age demographic and said she and Tomlin, 79, relish in the reception they’ve received from older women who have newfound courage from watching the show.
“[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,” said Fonda.
“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.”
Commenting on what’s she’s learned about the many highs and lows of being in show business through multiple decades, Fonda said the key is not putting any thought into what others think about you or your career.
“Embrace it all. And it doesn’t have to peak and then be all downhill. I am over the hill in a chronological sense, but there is a whole vista out there that I didn’t anticipate,” she lamented. “So you can reach the peak and then you can go down and it can be just as interesting. It’s a good idea not to pay too much attention to what other people think are the peaks and valleys.”
Last month, Fonda opened up about her “ongoing process” of battling cancer, telling British Vogue that she had undergone a mastectomy prior to the 2016 Golden Globe Awards where she was nominated for Best Supporting Actress for her role in “Youth.”
She also revealed that she constantly suffers from osteoporosis and that her “body hurts.”
“The fact that I hurt a lot – my body hurts – is a surprise to me, and it’s not because of all that working out,” Fonda said. “It’s genetic. My father had it, my brother had it. Your cartilage disappears and then it’s bone on bone, and then ‘Ow.’ But we live in a time where you can just get a new one.”