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Lily Tomlin in Netflix Series

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In addition to her hilarious one-woman show, the timeless comedian graces us with a new television show and upcoming movie.
by Blase DiStefano

Lily Tomlin’s latest contribution to humor and humanity is her portrayal of Frankie in the new Netflix series Grace and Frankie, which premieres Friday, May 8.

Oh, and the next day (Saturday, May 9), she brings her one-woman show to Galveston’s Grand 1894 Opera House, so get your tickets now at www.thegrand.com.

The comedy legend took a few minutes out of her ridiculously busy schedule to answer a few questions for OutSmart.

Blase DiStefano: From all the publicity surrounding Grace and Frankie, I imagine the interviews have been non-stop.
Lily Tomlin: Yes, it’s like we shot a second series. [Both laugh] [Update: Grace and Frankie has been renewed for a second season.]

You’re in Baltimore on May 7, the Netflix series starts May 8, and you’re in Galveston on May 9.
I’m also at the Ann Richards School [for Young Women Leaders, in Austin] on May 8.

I haven’t heard about that. What are you doing there?
I’m getting an award from Ann’s school, and I’m speaking, saluting Ann.

Weren’t you in Galveston once before?
Yes. I tried to ride in on a little bicycle, and I had recorded the sound of motorcycle engines…vroom, vroom. And it totally fell flat—nobody knew what the hell I was doing. [Both laugh]

Baltimore is where those violent demonstrations are going on, so it’s nice that you can bring them some…
Some levity.

Yes. And I also think it’s cool that you’re working with Jane Fonda again in Grace and Frankie, and that you both have husbands in the show who are gay.
Yes, Sam Waterston and Martin Sheen.

It’s kinda cool that you were in West Wing with Martin Sheen…
And Sam was with Jane in Newsroom. And both shows were written by…

[Said together:] Aaron Sorkin.
I did the Seth Meyers show tonight [May 4]. It’s the first talk show I’ve done in probably a year or more. I just haven’t had the time.

Where do you find the time, because you seem to be constantly on the go.
It’s been a busy year…the Kennedy Center [award], Grace and Frankie [the Netflix series], Grandma, and then all the dates I do. [Editor’s note: Tomlin’s lesbian character in the film Grandma must deal with a granddaughter who asks for financial assistance for an abortion. It is scheduled for an August 2015 release.] I won’t be booking as many dates next year. I book about a year ahead, so I didn’t even know that Grace and Frankie or Grandma was in the offing. I cancelled as many dates as I could, where tickets hadn’t gone on sale yet. Then I tried to catch up.

How did Grace and Frankie come about?
Marta Kaufman [one of the co-creators of Friends] had this idea, with Jane and me in mind. We said we really wanted to do something with older women—women of our age. [Tomlin is 75, and Fonda is 77.]

About how long did it take to film it?
About three and a half months. [Filming was wrapped up in November 2014.]

What can you tell me about the show?
[My character Frankie] makes a vaginal lubricant—something I’ve been doing for years. [Both laugh] I don’t make it to sell—I give it to friends. And I’m a painter, so I’m very bohemian and free-spirited. Grace [Jane Fonda] is very uptight and a Republican. We don’t like each other…

And you have to get together.
Right. My husband [Sol, played by Sam Waterston] is like a big puppy dog. Grace’s husband, Robert [played by Martin Sheen], and Sol have been law partners for years. Each one brings something different to the firm. They fall in love, and they tell us they’ve been having an affair for years. So we have to come to terms with all that. And because they can get married in California, they want to divorce us and get married. I say, “I know, I hosted that fundraiser.” [Both laugh]

We both have different reactions. She’s very angry and upset, and I’m just sort of devastated. He was my best friend.

[At this point, we get sidetracked into a discussion of Imitation of Life, a 1959 film that dealt with race, among other things—which leads to:]

Isn’t it amazing how far this country has come?
And tragically, how far we have to go.

Well, we do have a black president. I didn’t think I’d be alive to see that.
That and same-sex marriage. [After 42 years together, Tomlin married Jane Wagner on New Year’s Eve 2013.]

And we might finally have a female president. By the way, did you see Carly Fiorina put herself in the running?
[Laughs] Yes.

We might have Carly Fiorina running against Hillary Clinton.
Oh my God. You never know.

So, how’s Jane?
She’s fine. I wish she would come on the road with me, but she just can’t travel at the drop of a hat.

I wouldn’t either. I understand.
[Laughs] I’ve been doing it for so long. I spend a lot of money on FedEx on what I’ve left behind. [Both laugh]

Jane Fonda as Bree Daniels in 1971's Klute and Lily Tomlin with a very similar hairstyle.
Jane Fonda as Bree Daniels in 1971’s Klute and Lily Tomlin with a very similar hairstyle.

And how is Jane Fonda?
She’s great. Someone asked me the other day, “What role has Fonda played that you would like to have played?” I said that I’d like to have played Bree Daniels in Klute…but I had to settle for her hairstyle. I wore that hairstyle for two or three years.

What: An Evening of Classic Lily Tomlin
When: Saturday, May 9, 8 p.m.
Where: Grand 1894 Opera House, 2020 Postoffice, Galveston
Tickets: www.thegrand.com or 800.821.1894

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Blase DiStefano

Blase DiStefano is the Creative Director/Entertainment Editor for OutSmart Magazine.
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