Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles - It wasn't until I was finally single at 62 that I began to feel whole, to feel that I was where I was supposed to be. (upbeat instrumental music) I'm Jane Fonda and I'm supposed to explain it all in this interview. I'll do my best. (upbeat instrumental music) I was never confident. I'm still not particularly confident. I never thought I would be a performer. I was very shy. In fact, I didn't know what I wanted to do, which is very common today for young people. It's really hard to be young, and I found it very hard and I floundered around for quite a long time. My dad never came home from his work. He was a movie actor, a star. He never came home carrying joy. I never got a sense that he found joy in his work. So why did I want to be an actor? So I didn't want to be an actor until I knew I was about 18 and then I had to move out of my father's house. I didn't know what to do. And I met Lee Strasberg's daughter, who said, "Well, you should study with Lee. "You should study with my dad." And he accepted me into his class. Nobody had ever told me I was particularly good at anything so when Lee Strasberg said, "I see a lot of people come through here "and you have real talent." Oh, I really felt like the top of my head came off and birds flew out and the color of the sky changed. And when I walked down onto Broadway after that class, I felt like I owned the city. It was amazing. I was transformed immediately. They always put me in roles of kind of the girl next door, you know, the ingenue. And you know, I was fairly good and I did many of them, but I never enjoyed it. During my second movie, it was called "Walk on the Wild Side," I played a vagabond during the Depression, a tough street girl and she became a hooker. And I really liked playing a character like that. I could sink my teeth into it. I just loved it. I just loved doing that. (upbeat instrumental music) When I was living in France, married to a French director, I had just had a baby. I found it very uncomfortable that the French people were attacking the United States for the war in Vietnam. I didn't yet understand that, oh, they've been there already. They tried to colonize the Vietnamese and they were defeated. So they know very well that we're not gonna be able to succeed. And my attitude was sour grapes just cause they didn't win their war. You know, I hadn't looked into it enough. I didn't really understand. And then a group of American soldiers were in Paris who had been in Vietnam, they had fought in Vietnam, and they had left. It's called deserting or resisting. And I met these guys and they started talking to me about the war. And they gave me a book to read by Jonathan Schell called "The Village of Ben Suc." And I read it and my whole life changed. It was like, pew. And I thought to myself, I have to go back home and become part of the anti-war movement. And eventually about a year later I did. Those years of ending the war, that was the beginning for me. I learned a lot. (upbeat instrumental music) I became an activist in 1970. I was 31. And when I was with people, Native Americans on indigenous lands or soldiers on military bases, you know, these are people that I would spend time with because they were dealing with problems that I was working through various movements on. And my celebrity created a distance between me and those people, frontline people, real people on the ground. And so I felt, well if I'm going to do this, meaning be an organizer, I probably shouldn't be a movie star anymore. And I had a friend, a Black lawyer in Michigan named Ken Cockrel, and I said to him, he was like my mentor for a while, and I said, "Ken, I think I'm gonna quit the business. "I don't want to be in Hollywood anymore. "I want to be an organizer." And he sat me down and he said, "Fonda, the movement has countless organizers. "We don't have movie stars. "You not only have to keep on acting, "but you have to take more control of your career. "Have agency on the work that you do." And I was stunned and I began to think about that. And out of that came "Coming Home," and "9 to 5," and "China Syndrome," and movies that reflected issues that were interesting to me. (upbeat instrumental music) My identity was never, ever being a star, being a celebrity. You know, movies, it's what I did. I had to support myself. You know, people need to be useful. People need, they might not even be conscious of it, but people need to have meaning in their lives, a sense that they know why they're here. And in the absence of that, I think there's a lot of, I feel, anxiety, malaise. And you know, I think as a young person you can get in a lot of trouble if you feel that way. When I was young, I would say like up to 25 or something like, you know, I just assumed 'cause I was floating in space and I thought that I would probably die. I'm sure I'm gonna become an alcoholic or a drug addict, and I'm gonna die alone. When I became an activist, the depression lifted. I began to feel I know why I'm here. I'm here to use my platform as a celebrity to make things better. It just took a long time. It wasn't... And then I was always married. (laughs) I mean three times. My dad was married five times. So, you know, I very much didn't want to catch up to him. So I stopped at three realizing that I just wasn't dealt a hand that made me good at relationships. You know, even after I became an activist, I always turned to men to help me find the next step. I'd be going in a particular direction and then I would meet a man who could take me further down that road. And then I would move on. Isn't that a terrible thing to say? It wasn't until I was finally single at 62 that I began to feel whole, to feel that I was where I was supposed to be. (upbeat instrumental music) When it comes to relationships with men, you know, the problem is falling in love. What's wrong with that sentence? Not love. Falling. And what happens to a lot of women is two people come together and the woman falls, or at least a lot of women, me, I'll just talk about myself. I would tend to mold myself according to what my then-husband wanted me to be. But there was always a center to myself that they never touched. My friend Eve Ensler, the author of "Vagina Monologues," you know, she said, "The three things that you have to look for "when you go into a relationship: you want to feel safe, "you want to feel seen, and you want to feel cherished." What I realized now is two people that love each other, whether it's two women, two men, or a man or woman, or whatever, coming together and they stay on their own two feet, two whole people coming together and maintaining their agency, their strength, while at the same time caring for the other, nurturing the other, cherishing the other, but never losing themselves. I think that in there lies the secret to a successful relationship. What I found very often is if the woman shows up fully and she's present and she says to her partner, "Come on. "Meet me here where I am." The man will flee. At least those are the men that I chose. (chuckles) What I've realized in my dotage, my old age, is probably that men showed up for me and said, "Come on, Jane, I'm here. Show up." And I fled. I wonder how many men who were really perfect for me I fled because they would have made me show up. And instead, I chose men who wouldn't know what that even meant so they never asked me to. (upbeat instrumental music) I mean I can give all kinds of parenting advice. None of it is what I practiced. I have studied parenting to find out, can it be taught? Can it be learned? Because I didn't know what it meant, and I didn't know how to be one. I married men who were good fathers, okay? I was lucky. Two of my three husbands I had children with. A parent is supposed to show up with open eyes, eyes of love, and reflect the child back to themselves with eyes of love, and know how to listen. If because of depression or addiction or whatever you have duct tape over your eyes, it's not gonna work very well. I didn't know how to show up. I was a food addict. I was an addict and it screws around with you. And I apologized to them, but you know, it's hard to make up for what you didn't do. However, you know, I do believe that it's never too late. So, you know, I try as best I can to do a better job now. And I love having grandkids. They're like second chances. You can also give them back at the end of the day. (chuckles) (upbeat instrumental music) My women friends are a big priority for me. I just have never been able to have the kind of relationships with men that I have with my women friends. Most of my women friends are younger than me, and braver than me, and they challenge me, and make better and put starch in my spine. And do you know that there was a study done at Harvard Medical School that showed that not having women friends is more dangerous to your health or as dangerous to your health as smoking? It's our superpower, and men don't have that superpower. Very few men do. I don't know, I think it's evolutionary. They went out hunting with their spears to get meat, and we would stay back having our children, circling with grandmothers and young mothers and children, everybody helping each other. We knew even back in the hunter-gatherer stage of our development about interdependence, interdependence with the natural world and with each other. We would never have survived without grandmothers and without each other helping. You know, it's women who are in book clubs and quilting bees and garden clubs.