Dolly Parton’s Reunion With ‘9 to 5’ Costars in ‘Grace and Frankie’ Series Finale Was ‘Perfect,’ Jane Fonda Says

by Suzanne Halliburton
(Photo by Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images)

If you’re a Grace and Frankie fan, you’re probably going to adore how the plot weaves Dolly Parton into it for a brief 9 to 5 reunion.

At least, Jane Fonda thinks you’ll love it.

Netflix will drop the final dozen episodes of Grace and Frankie on Friday. The series, which debuted in 2015, is bowing out after seven seasons. It was one of the first TV hits produced by and for a streaming service.

If you’re not familiar with the show’s premise, Jane Fonda plays Grace, with Lily Tomlin as Frankie. The women don’t have much in common, but their husbands were law partners. The husbands (Martin Sheen and Sam Waterston) threw a big wrench in the women’s lives with the most non-traditional storyline. They each asked for a divorce, nothing startling there. However, the two men had fallen in love with each other. The series was a family drama, just with different dynamics at play.

So how best to wrap up a special series and send it off with a flourish? You bring Dolly Parton in for the Grace and Frankie finale and allow for a moment of 1980s nostalgia. The three women starred in the 1980 classic that allowed the females in the office to get back at their sexist boss.

Fonda recently spoke to Entertainment Tonight about bringing Dolly back into the 9 to 5 fold, albeit with different storylines.

“It’s not just the fact that Dolly shows up. It’s how she shows up,” Fonda said. “What the story is that brings her on. It’s just beyond perfect. We were both just so moved when she turned that chair around and there she was.”

We should caution that Dolly’s role is but a cameo. The three women stayed friends since 9 to 5 premiered the week before Christmas in 1980. Dabney Coleman portrayed the jerk boss everyone hated. Fonda and Tomlin were established in Hollywood when the movie was made. But Parton, as Doralee, had never tried acting before 9 to 5. She obviously was a natural.

When the movie premiered, Rolling Stone featured Dolly dressed as Santa on the cover.

Fonda said in the 1980 interview about Parton: “I had never met her, but I was really into her music … This was not a woman who was a stereotype of a dumb blonde. I felt that she could probably do just about anything she wanted, that this was a very smart woman. We developed a character based on who she is and what she seems like. Did we coach her? No. Her persona is so strong, you get somebody mucking about with that and making her self-conscious, and it could be negative.”

Here’s how Tomlin described working with Dolly: “She’s just the quintessential . . .  whatever it is. She ended up giving me lines. You could have replaced Jane or me in a more satisfactory way, but once you got the idea for Dolly to be in her role, it would have been more of a disappointment to not have her.”

Getting Dolly Parton to Grace and Frankie was a long-time coming. The country music icon said last year: “I’ve been trying to do Grace and Frankie for years. We worked so well together on 9 to 5, it’s a crazy wonderful show.”

So stay tuned.