“It’s really hard these days, isn’t it?” Jane Fonda muses, trying to find a way to articulate how and where we can find hope and joy during these unendurably bleak times. The venerated actress and two-time Oscar winner wasn’t short on invigorating or inspiring words during SheKnows’ exclusive interview with the longtime activist. With her new film Luck now on Apple TV+, Fonda is using every opportunity she has to find hope and joy even in the darkest times. With a bit of good luck of our own, we were able to sit down with the icon and hear about the resurgence in her activism, how she finds the strength to keep going, and how community has pulled her out of her darker moments — read on for words of wisdom you won’t be able to stop revisiting.
Here’s the crux of Fonda’s advice: “I think especially for those of us who have such privilege — white privilege, education privilege, the fact that we live in democratic countries or countries that are striving to be democratic and fairly affluent — we have a moral obligation to be hopeful.”
Right now, millions are at a stalemate over the fight for reproductive health; we’re staring down the barrel of the existential crisis that is climate change, and mass shootings have become a terrifyingly normalized part of American life. These external conflicts are enough to make anyone feel powerless. But Fonda refuses to remain idle.
“If we are not hopeful, it dooms the majority of people on this planet who need us to be hopeful and to fight for a future that is worth living,” the 84-year-old actress implores. “And it’s when I begin to fight that I become hopeful, that the depression leaves and I become hopeful.”
A few years back, Fonda admits that she was feeling aimless — and it was reading about young activist Greta Thunberg that brought her back to her true self. In the ’60s and ’70s, Fonda first found her calling in activism as she made her voice heard in the civil rights movement. She showed her support to the Black Panthers, visited prominent political activist Angela Davis in prison, stood in solidarity with Indigenous communities whose land was under threat, and more. But in recent years, Fonda felt her motivation flagging, and she feared she was no longer the voice of change she had once been.
“I was so depressed three years ago, because I didn’t feel, as a famous person, I was using my platform as fully as I could, and I didn’t know what to do,” Fonda shares. “And I read Greta Thunberg. Now, there’s someone who could easily be justified in feeling hopeless,” Fonda says. It’s worth noting that, even at 18, Thunberg has been a prominent voice in the fight to combat climate change, a crisis for whom Thunberg’s generation, and those to come, will bear the brunt.
“She’s on the autism spectrum, but she has used her autism to make it into a superpower. And that superpower blazed its way through the pages of this book into my heart and woke me up. And I began to be an activist in a different way, and I lost all depression.”
With her new project, the Apple TV+ movie Luck, Fonda is sharing her talents with a younger generation, and passing on important life lessons on the way. Fonda voices the dragon CEO of the Land of Luck, who — along with unlucky young woman Sam (two-time Tony nominee Eva Noblezada), talking cat Bob (Simon Pegg), and more eccentric characters — must reset the balance of good and bad luck on Earth.
In this project, Fonda saw an opportunity to encourage families, and children in particular, to be the joy and hope they want to see in the world.
“It’s important to fight for hope, to always have hope,” Fonda shares of the film’s message. “It’s important to understand that life is not binary — it’s not good and bad. It’s not good luck, bad luck, black-and-white. Everything is part of it.”
“Silence makes no sense without noise. Life makes no sense without death. Luck makes no sense without bad luck…[the movie is about] realizing that it’s all part of life, and we have to accept it all,” she continues. “And then try to work on ourselves, in community and as individuals to be capable of seizing opportunity, or luck when it comes along. Because some people, it comes along, and they never even see it. Some people are surrounded by love, but they can’t metabolize it. You have to work on yourself to become someone that can take advantage of the good things that come along.”
There’s one other dominant message in the film that resonated with Fonda, and it’s a life lesson that’s helped her as much in her activism and fight against the status quo as it has in her personal life: “You don’t always get the family that you need…but you can choose your family.”
“I have a chosen family,” explains Fonda. “I make a point of having friends who are fighters…Find those other people that you can become fellow family with, who refuse to give up. You need community. You need like-minded people who are willing to fight and the minute you start fighting the depression and the hopelessness lifts and goes away. That’s been my experience anyway.”
And while today’s woes may seem impossible to conquer, Fonda is the first to remind us that we’ve been here before. “There’ve been so many times in life and in history when things looked hopeless, but because people refused to give up and kept fighting, they broke through, and they won,” she tells us.
“It’s important to remind ourselves of the importance of not giving up. Even when all seems lost, don’t give up.”
If we’re going to find solace from anyone, it’s going to be trailblazing artist and activist Jane Fonda. We’re just lucky to have her.
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