Jane Fonda has been a household name for longer than most Netflix watchers have been alive, and over the past four years she and creative partner Lily Tomlin have been revolutionizing the way mainstream media portrays women "of a certain age" with Grace and Frankie.
Fonda started a viral discussion after Episode 4, "The Expiration Date," when her character Grace Hansen wiped off all of her make-up in front of her new beau Nick (Peter Gallagher). After spending most of the episode paranoid that he was about to dump her over their age difference, Grace gave up the ghost of trying to appear perfect in secret hopes of getting Nick to finally cut the chord.
"[Grace] is afraid that if he ever saw her the way she really is that he wouldn't want her, desire her or love her anymore," Fonda explains to TV Guide for our Best Performances video series. "It was kind of hard to do. Her concerns and her fears that are revealed in that scene are quite common for women. I've certainly felt them myself. I've spent a lot of time in my life finding it difficult to allow the man I'm with to see all of me, warts and all."
The moment was a scary one for Fonda, the former fitness queen who still writes wellness and cook books. Grace took her make-up off for one man, but Fonda did it for millions of people with high-def televisions to see. The importance of being able to show her character's flaws was too important for Fonda to let pride get in the way.
"I was excited and scared to play it," Fonda says. "It makes you very vulnerable. It makes you naked. That's really difficult for someone like Grace, and someone like me. I was very glad to do it because I think it's very universal."
The universal aspect is what has made Fonda part of the conversation for the Lead Actress in a Comedy Series Emmy. If she makes the coveted list it will be her second nomination for Grace and Frankie, and her fifth overall (including a win for The Dollmaker in 1984). However, it's the impact the show has had on Fonda's fans and women of all ages that means the most to the actress.
"This series has come along at the perfect time. Older women are the fastest growing demographic in the world. What Grace and Frankie is showing them is that it's not over until its over," Fonda says. "There is still life in these old bones. Women have come up to me voluntary and told me what the series has meant to them and their friends. I couldn't ask for anything more. It's a dream come true."
Grace & Frankie is now streaming on Netflix.
Emmy nominations will be announced on July 12 with the ceremony airing Monday, Sept. 17 and hosted by Colin Jost and Michael Che.