Jane Fonda Reflects On The Shockingly Sexist Incident That Sparked Her Acting Career

Jane Fonda says she stumbled into acting after being fired for an unsettling reason.

The activist and “Book Club: The Next Chapter” star told People in an exclusive video for its most recent cover story about her that, despite her father being actor Henry Fonda, she had no interest in pursuing the profession.

“He never brought joy home,” Fonda said of her dad after a day of work on set. “I never felt he got joy — I believe that he did, actually — but it never manifested when he came home. So it was not like, ‘Oh my god, I want what he’s got.’ No.”

Fonda also explained that even if she had the desire to act, she didn’t feel like she was cut out for it.

“I didn’t think I had talent. I didn’t think I was pretty enough. I had a lot of body dysmorphia,” she said, later adding, “I was pretty lost as a young person.”

So, Fonda decided to get an office job, which, oddly enough, ultimately led her to acting.

“I got fired as a secretary because I wouldn’t sleep with my boss,” Fonda said. “I didn’t know what else I could do, and I became friends with Susan Strasberg, daughter of the famous acting coach, Lee Strasberg.”

“And she told me that I should try to do an interview with him and maybe he would accept me into his class. And I did, and he did,” she said. “And then he told me I had talent. Nobody had ever said that to me, so that kind of did it.”

Fonda went on to do films like 1965’s “Cat Ballou,” 1967’s “Barefoot in the Park” and 1968’s “Barbarella.” The last of these films turned Fonda into a bona fide sex symbol, but the “Grace and Frankie” star has expressed having pretty “complicated feelings” toward “Barbarella.” She told Glamour in May 2022 that she felt conflicted about the plot and found it a “bit objectifying of me and women.”

Fonda told Vanity Fair in 2022 that she only did “Barbarella” because her husband at the time, the film’s director Roger Vadim, wanted her to do it — and she was pretty passive in their relationship.

“If he didn’t want me to do a particular movie, I wouldn’t do it,” Fonda said. “I was pretty much doing whatever the men in my life wanted me to do.”

Fonda admitted to People in their recent cover story there was a reason why she felt so little autonomy at that time.

“Being young is really hard. Don’t let anyone kid you,” Fonda told People. “I wish when I was younger, someone had said to me, ‘Don’t give up. Keep going. It’ll get better.’”