Jane Fonda, 82, is an award-winning actor and a longtime activist. She moved to D.C. for four months to launch “Fire Drill Fridays,” a campaign with weekly demonstrations to focus attention on the urgency of climate-change issues.
You’ve been an activist for a long time. Can you talk about your first exposure to activism?
I remember very well. I had been living in France for nine years. Married. Child. There were American GIs who were resisting the war. They had been in Vietnam and had deserted, and were in Paris, and looking for compatriots to help them with doctors and dentists and stuff like that. They are the ones that helped me understand the war and what was wrong. Long story short, they gave me a book by Jonathan Schell called “The Village of Ben Suc.” And it just rocked me.
My life, up until that point — it was glamorous. It was interesting. It was empty. And I was feeling the emptiness. And I just realized, Where have I been? What have I been doing with my life? The worst thing in life is to be going through it and not know why you’re there. Not feel that your life has any meaning. So I was totally prepared to throw all of that out and to completely immerse myself into a new world. I left everything, and I moved [back], and I called up [a] person running [antiwar] mobilizations and I said, “I’m Jane Fonda, and I know that there’s big things happening around the country. What can I do to help?” He said, “Well, what are your politics?” [Laughs.] And I didn’t know — I was so not active, I didn’t even know what to say. I thought, Well, I’m going to have to learn really quick a whole lot of things. I didn’t learn quite quick enough, but I did my best.