For the first time in the 26-year history of the Georgia Campaign for Adolescent Power and Potential, the nonprofit’s founder Jane Fonda was unable to fly in for the annual fundraiser. But the activist and actress had a very good reason — she and longtime pal Lily Tomlin were in the middle of shooting the series finale of their hit Netflix series “Grace & Frankie.”
Beaming in live to the Impact Party 2025 gala held on the rooftop of Atlanta’s Spanx HQ Thursday night, Fonda did deliver some scoop that was met with immediate applause at the fundraiser: “I’m sorry I’m not there in person. In three more days, we’re going to finish the final episode of ‘Grace & Frankie.’ It’s been a bittersweet time but I have to tell you in the last episode, Dolly [Parton] is finally going to be in it!”
The evening’s emcee, HLN anchor Robin Meade immediately had a follow up question for Grace Hanson’s portrayer (who on the Netflix series runs a successful senior-friendly sex toy company): “Is there a vibrator involved?”
As the audience in Atlanta laughed, Fonda replied, “I’m not going to tell you! But I can tell you, it’s really, really funny. I would be sadder except a week after we finish ‘Grace & Frankie,’ Lily and I start shooting a new film, a dark comedy together so I don’t have to say goodbye to her. It’s really great.”
Fonda joined many of this year’s guests as virtual attendees, since GCAPP’s Impact Party —featuring special guests singer and Food Network host Trisha Yearwood, host and Spanx founder Sara Blakely, Turner Classic Movies host Jacqueline Stewart and Tomlin — was a hybrid event, offering supporters an opportunity to join in person or via video at home as COVID cases slowly continue to retreat nationally.
Ronald McNeill, GCAPP president and CEO, welcomed guests and explained why the name of the annual fundraiser was altered this year. “For one night, our annual Empower Party becomes the Impact Party,” explained McNeill. “Tonight is the public launch of Impact 2025 to advance adolescent health, a bold and ambitious game-changing strategic plan to empower thousands of young people on their path to a healthy future. With the uptick of repeat teen pregnancies, sexually transmitted infections, mental health issues and suicide among teens right here in our state, it is imperative that young people see that they can make a difference in their lives as well as others in the community. Improving the overall health and wellbeing of young people in Georgia should be a concern for all of us. It’s time to take action because our young people need us now.
“That’s why our Impact 2025 plan will empower hundreds of thousands of youth, parents and professionals who work in our five focus areas of youth empowerment: teen pregnancy prevention, parent engagement, physical activity, nutrition as well as comprehensive sex education. By the end of 2025, we will expand our reach into every region of Georgia, impacting 360,000 young people, 200,000 parents and 15,000 youth serving professionals. We will expand into 80 counties and we will work with over 400 partners across the state to improve youth health and wellbeing. Impact 2025 will end up impacting 575,000 individuals across the state. This is unlike any venture that GCAPP has ever taken on in its 26-year history.”
In addition to beaming in live from her home in California, Fonda also sat down for a pre-taped interview with her longtime friend and “Grace & Frankie” co-star Lily Tomlin for a career-spanning conversation with Turner Classic Movies host Jacqueline Stewart, shown exclusively to GCAPP supporters in-person and at home.
The following is an edited excerpt of the conversation:
Jacqueline Stewart: A lot of people assume you two met making “9 to 5” but you knew each other before that, didn’t you?
Lily Tomlin: A little bit. I was a big fan, of course. I was totally mad for “Klute.” I had a “Klute” hairdo for a couple of years.
Jane Fonda: I had seen her in a one-woman show called “Appearing Nightly.” I wasn’t a big television person at the time so I wasn’t familiar with her brilliance. I was floored, I was just smitten and I said, “I cannot make a movie about secretaries unless Lily Tomlin is in it. It took a while because she’s really neurotic, oh my god! [Stewart and Tomlin laugh]. It took so long to convince her and to convince Dolly but it worked out.
Jacqueline Stewart: “Grace & Frankie” is such an amazing show. One of the things that I find so interesting about it is that young girls appreciate the show so much. What are you hearing from young women about their feelings of connection to your characters?
Lily Tomlin: Of course, they like me better. [audience laughs]. Isn’t that true?
Jane Fonda: I think so, yes.
Lily Tomlin: I was hoping you’d resist me on that!
Jane Fonda: You want me to resist that? [laughs] OK. No they don’t! They like me better because I have more affairs during the seven years. They like to think that their grandmothers are still getting it on! [audience laughs]. I think the show demonstrates that you can survive real heartbreak, real trauma and not only survive but thrive and develop a profound… [she begins to cry and clasps Tomlin’s hand] I get moved because we’re in our last season and Grace and Frankie have developed a profound friendship as I feel we have.
Jacqueline Stewart: That’s beautiful. I know fans are going to miss the show because it’s been so meaningful. One of the many things that’s been so impressive about both of your careers, across your careers, you’ve each chosen projects that have meaning for you, personally and ones that you know will have a positive impact on the world. How have you managed to do that in an industry that can pull you in so many different directions?
Lily Tomlin: I didn’t have a hard time. I just felt led there. It was what I should be doing or what I felt like I needed to do. I felt that, if I did have a fan base, they’d be shocked if I did some of the things that were being offered to me. I had a lot of feelings for all of the people who were living in the planet. I didn’t in any way want to fail them or let myself down. It was easy. The scripts would leap from my hand into the garbage can. They would just take off of their own volition. [Fonda laughs].
Jane Fonda: See what she said about feelings for all of the people on the planet? I’ve never met anybody who has as much empathy as she does. That’s how she can create all of these characters that are so real.
Lily Tomlin: I love Jane when she says these things but I always think, ‘Oh, god, please.’ I think you’re exaggerating just a little. But I so appreciate you.
Jacqueline Stewart: Jane, have you also had that same kind of instinct when it comes to projects? That this is going to work for me, this is what my fans want or what the world wants or needs from me? Or did it take longer for you to develop that?
Jane Fonda: For a long time, I just needed the job. I was just amazed that anybody offered me work. I’m talking back in the ‘50s and ‘60s, before most people were born [audience laughs]. When I really started enjoying it was when I started creating my own movies. That was very meaningful to me. I discovered that movies can really affect how people think and that they can change people’s minds.
Richard L. Eldredge is the founder and editor in chief of Eldredge ATL. As a reporter for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Atlanta magazine, he has covered Atlanta since 1990.