Jane Fonda is an Academy Award-winning actress, but at the start of her Netflix series, Grace and Frankie, she struggled with adjusting to her character Grace Hanson.
In a group interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Fonda, 81, who was joined by Tiffany Haddish, Phoebe-Waller Bridge, Alex Borstein, Regina Hall, Natasha Lyonne and Maya Rudolph, revealed that she suffered a “nervous breakdown” while filming season one of the comedy series, and it came from her character’s main plot line.
“It took me a long time to figure out [my relationship to this character],” she told THR. “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.”
The actress has been starring on the Netflix series since 2015 alongside Lily Tomlin and was nominated for an Emmy Award in 2017 for her role.
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Despite incredible success, the start of the series was difficult for Fonda, who was surprised to realize how much her character could affect her personally.
“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.”
However, Fonda learned to appreciate the differences between her and Grace and even helped formulate her character’s story on the show.
“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.”
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Later on in the interview, Fonda added that despite older female sexuality traditionally being treated as “a joke,” her time on both Grace and Frankie and her film Book Club have opened the door for that narrative to be explored in Hollywood.
“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, 79] and I get from older women who say it’s given them hope — and not-so-old women who say, ‘Now see another way forward,’” she said.
In September, Fonda told PEOPLE her 10-year marriage to billionaire Ted Turner — whom she left in 2001 — was what made her recognize that it was time to put her needs before others.
“He was sexy. He was brilliant. He had two million acres by the time I left. It would have been easy to stay,” she said of her relationship with Turner.
“But there was this angel on my shoulder … It was hard to even hear her voice: ‘If you stay, you will die without ever becoming who you can be. You will not really be authentic.’”