Why Lily Tomlin Wanted To Quit “9 to 5”

"I'm going to be horrible in this."

Grace and Frankie co-stars Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin joined Stephen Colbert on The Late Show Monday night to talk about the new season of their hit Netflix series—but the host had to bring up the actresses’ first collaboration, the 1980 cinematic classic, 9 to 5.

Fonda, one of the producers of the film, revealed that she tried to get Tomlin to sign on to do the movie for a year after she saw Tomlin onstage in her one-woman show.


“I didn’t want to do a cheap comedy,” Tomlin told Colbert. “I was looking for something more serious. I had to persuade her that I wasn’t the right person for her.”

When Tomlin finally agreed to play Violet in the film, it only took a few days of filming for her to try to quit the production.

Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

“After a week of shooting she asked my producing partner to let her go and she would give the week’s money back,” Fonda revealed in the interview.

Tomlin explained that she watched the dailies for the scene where she was interacting with the animated birds and she thought to herself: “Oh, I’m going to be horrible in this.”

lily tomlin snow white 9 to 5

It wasn’t until Tomlin saw footage from the following day of shooting that she realized she had overreacted. “I saw the next day’s dailies and I was so good! So I begged her to let me be in it,” she added.

It’s been almost 37 years since 9 to 5 was released and the two have remained friends ever since.

Lily Tomlin, Dolyl Parton and Jane Fonda in 9 To 5

On The Late Show Fonda reflects on how she thought to cast Tomlin, but where did she get the idea to bring Dolly Parton onboard in her first movie role?

After seeing Tomlin’s show, Fonda drove home, turned on the radio and the rest is history. “I turn on the radio and Dolly Parton was singing “Two Doors Down” and I thought: “Oh my, imagine if Dolly Parton played a secretary…”

Dolly 9 to 5 Lasso GIF

Maybe we could still get that Parton guest role on Grace and Frankie after all?

Watch Fonda and Tomlin’s Colbert interview in the clip below.

I write about drag queens. Dolly Parton once ruffled my hair and said I was "just the cutest thing ever."