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Not all characters in TV shows fall in line with what the actors think or feel. While it’s always assumed the most iconic TV characters of all time had a little of the actor’s soul, sometimes it involves the actor having to say some awful things.

Such was the case with Lily Tomlin playing Frankie Bergstein in Netflix’s Grace and Frankie.

One can look at this series as a true victory for older characters considering it’s attracted all age groups in its audience. However, the lead characters themselves are not always lovable. They sometimes say and do things not everyone finds desirable in any human being. That’s what makes great character development.

Reportedly, Tomlin found a lot of things to relate to with her Frankie character. There was one thing she had trouble saying, though.

How close are the characters to Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda?

Most sources say the characters of Grace and Frankie aren’t completely like Tomlin and Fonda. In the case of Fonda, she had to take acting lessons to tone the character down from her usual boisterous personality. Plus, she had to go into therapy to deal with the aftermath of her Grace.

It was already a major adjustment doing a TV series for both of them considering neither had the recent experience. Only Tomlin once did a weekly series if you include her earliest career days on late ’60s/early ’70s variety show Laugh-In.

As for Fonda, she was only used to doing movies, including having to do things in her early days she probably didn’t want to do. Part of that involved playing a prostitute in 1971’s Klute, ultimately winning her an Oscar.

No doubt both Fonda and Tomlin realized they’d have to say or do things as Grace and Frankie not fitting what they really believe in. Tomlin says Frankie had to once say something terrible about teachers, much to the actress’s chagrin.

What does Frankie say about substitute teachers on ‘Grace and Frankie’?

Tomlin said she almost rebelled against the writers when they had Frankie saying something awful about substitute teachers in particular. She found this offensive and challenging to make sound believable. Since she’s a firm believer in the value of teachers, it was tough to imagine Frankie saying something deplorable on this front.

At least Tomlin managed to make it work for those who watch the series regularly. Whether this might also require some therapy on her part like Fonda had is still unknown.

One thing for sure is some of the most famous TV characters of all time were occasionally despicable characters. A good example of an actor playing someone completely the opposite of who they really were was Carroll O’Connor, portraying bigot Archie Bunker on 1970s-era All in the Family.

O’Connor was so convincing as Archie, many thought he really was like that when he wasn’t. Today, audiences realize how brilliant of an actor he was in portraying the worst side of humanity.

No doubt Lily Tomlin fears people thinking she’s like Frankie

Lily Tomlin
Lily Tomlin | Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images

The biggest fear for any actor is playing a part too well to a point where fans start to assimilate the actor with the character. There was likely some fear on Tomlin’s part about saying something derogatory about substitute teachers and having audiences think Tomlin endorses such talk.

How she and other actors work around such an issue probably really does require some therapy. At least Tomlin got it out into the open when she talked about her concern during an NPR Fresh Air interview.

Going on talk shows and making a clear delineation between character and actor is probably going to be required as more actors play people audiences love to hate.