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July 17, 2018 08:00 AM

Jane Fonda is no stranger to speaking up for what she believes in.

Coming off a weekend spent at Capitol Hill, where the activist and actress urged lawmakers to expand rights for women domestic workers and farmworkers, Fonda, 80, is now lending her voice to Swing Left’s “Last Weekend” initiative, to bring attention to November’s midterm elections.

Organized by Swing Left, a national grassroots network of over 400,000 volunteers supporting Democratic candidates in Swing Districts and backed by more than 20 other progressive groups, “The Last Weekend” campaign aims to encourage people to volunteer on the last weekend before the midterms. To tout its launch, Rashida Jones has directed a video featuring Fonda and her Grace and Frankie costar Lily Tomlin. In the funny spot, the three inform how crucial the midterm elections are, while somehow hearing each other’s thoughts.

Go to TheLastWeekend.org to learn more about the initiative — and read on for an interview with Fonda.

What drew you to this initiative?

What drew me to it is that I can’t remember in my 80 years a more important election. I mean 2020 is going to be important but what happens in November, in terms of who’s going to be elected, is going to determine not just the foreseeable future — but for generations — what this country is going to look like. We must elect people at all levels. We really need to protect our democracy and registering to vote if one hasn’t already, and actually voting this November, is critical.

You know historically midterm elections don’t motivate voters as much as the presidential elections do. But this time there’s too much at stake so Lily and I as celebrities are trying to find ways to use our voices to make a difference this November.

You and Lily tackled gender equality in the classic 9 to 5.  What’s it like to have a friend like Lily who shares the same passion for advocacy that you do?

I feel very blessed that I work everyday alongside this incredible genius Lily Tomlin — and that on top of that in our free time that we do advocacy together. We’ve been going to Michigan together and we’ll do so in the end of July in support of One Fair Wage, a ballot measure that can be voted on in November. It’s offering Michigan people to vote themselves a raise. We went a year ago and we’re going back to help raise awareness and register people. We go door to door and we have a good time. I always have a good time with Lily.

About the Time’s Up and the #MeToo movements: Did you ever foresee a moment in your career where women’s voices were being heard in such a powerful way as they are now?

No, this is a major shift. I never thought that I would live long enough to make this happen. It’s way worse for restaurant workers and farmworkers and domestic workers who are so isolated and whose voices aren’t heard. What I love about Times Up is that it represents and intersectional movement of people, women standing together across sectors.

But of course so much depends on who gets elected in November; it goes back to that.

Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin
Stefanie Keenan/Getty

What keeps you so driven as an activist despite the criticism you received during the Vietnam era and the president’s disdain for Hollywood?

Well the distain for Hollywood arises because it’s an effective effort: when celebrities speak out, our voices are heard. I’m not happy to say that. Women of color have been speaking out about sexual harassment for years and people didn’t believe them, of course the most notable was Anita Hill, so the fact is that when celebrities speak out for those whose voices are less heard it is effective, and that’s why Trump is attacking us.

As for the controversies that have followed me, they just starch in my spine — and the reason I keep at it is because, why not? I don’t know — I just don’t see any other way to live. We’re in an existential crisis, you know our democracy has been challenged very, very gravely, and I’m scared. I have grandchildren, and when I die I want them to be able to say to themselves that Grandma did everything she could to save democracy and make the world a safer, better, place for us. Whether I’ll succeed — I’m not alone — that’s what’s important.

Jane Fonda
Rick Diamond/Getty Images for GAACP

Besides Lily, I don’t work by myself.  I’ve worked with organizations that have proven themselves, and when you’re surrounded by people whose whole lives are steps working to make this country better and fairer and safer, you can’t help but receive energy and passion, That’s what I feel. I’m just so grateful that I can do this.

What keeps you hopeful about the future?

Nothing has ever been quite like it is now, in terms of fundamental threats to our democracy but I have seen miraculous things happen when all looks bleak. But I have seen things change for the good because of the efforts of individuals working together in coalition and that gives me hope. It’s certainly better than the alternative.

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