Dolly Parton on if She and Jane Fonda Talked Politics on the Set of ‘9 to 5’

When Dolly Parton signed on to do 9 to 5, one of the big questions on everyone’s mind was: “How is she going to get along with outspoken activist Jane Fonda?” According to the Queen of Country in an interview she did in 1981, they got along swimmingly. In fact, by the end of filming, the co-stars became close friends.

Jane Fonda and Dolly Parton pose next to each other for the '9 to 5's 25th anniversary.
Jane Fonda and Dolly Parton | S. Granitz/WireImage

What Jane Fonda taught Dolly Parton about acting

9 to 5 was Dolly Parton’s first-ever acting experience. Fonda, a seasoned veteran, was sure to teach Parton the tricks of the trade.

“When it came to looks, turns or a certain way to pause, she was real helpful,” Parton told Playgirl Magazine in 1981, as recorded in the book Dolly on Dolly. “She was always saying little things like, ‘Don’t talk on the same voice level. Don’t get too excited when you’ve got nowhere to go. Don’t start out high. Make a definite look, don’t move your eyes around. . . .’ Things like that.”

More than just acting notes, Fonda also gave Parton plenty of career tips.

“She also suggested that as a part of my contracts in the future, I might want a coach on the job with me,” said Parton. “And she gave me names of directors to think about.”

Dolly Parton and Jane Fonda did not talk about politics while filming ‘9 to 5’

When Parton worked with Fonda, she says she saw a different side of her.

“A lot of people think she’s hard because of her strong beliefs, but I found her very sensitive,” she said. “She’s very firm, very intelligent.”

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During filming, the women made a point to avoid politics.

“That’s been a question everybody has asked me. Did Jane talk politics? She did not,” said Parton. “Did she ask me to do anything? She did not. Do I think I would have if she had asked me? I don’t know. If we were doing something for crippled children, then cancer society, stuff like that, yes, I do it all the time. I do benefit shows year-round. In fact, sometimes I wind up doing more shows for free than I get paid for. But I don’t want to get involved in something that stirs up a bunch of controversy. For certain personalities, it’s best to just do what you feel and what you believe, but not make it public If I believe in something strongly, I’d rather donate money and do my bit in another way, because it suits my personality best. ‘Cause I don’t want to get involved in a whole bunch of sh*t.”

‘9 to 5’ was written for ‘working people,’ not just ‘working women’

Parton wrote the title song for the film. At the time of the interview, Playgirl writer Lawrence Grobel asked the “Jolene” singer if she foresaw “9 to 5” the song becoming a “national anthem for working women.”

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“I don’t think it will for ladies necessarily,” said Parton. “I think for working people. It’s just about working nine to five [starts singing] . . . Just to stay up on the boss man’s ladder, you spend your life puttin’ money in his wallet. You want to move ahead but the boss won’t seem to let me. I swear sometimes that man’s out to get me. I was writing it for workers, period. I hope it will be a big record. It’s got a lot of good stuff in it. I was proud of the way it turned out.”

Unlike Fonda, in interviews following her 9 to 5 performance, Parton strove to remain neutral in potentially divisive topics. But, despite their differences, Fonda and Parton are friends today, all these years later.