In ELLE‘s Conservation Issue the star activist opens up about her night in jail and the future of Fire Drill Fridays.
On how her “Fire Drill Fridays” were born: “When you’re famous, you have this incredible potential platform, but how do you use it?” And then she realized, “I have to put myself on the line.” So she called up Annie Leonard, the executive director of Greenpeace USA, and told her she was going to camp out in front of the White House. “She said, ‘Well, that’s great that you’re willing to do that, but it’s illegal,’ “. Someone told her to “see if the students will welcome you, and if they do, go every Friday. So right away, I went to DC.” She was greeted with open arms, and for 14 weeks beginning in October, Fonda and a diverse coalition of groups staged weekly protests in front of the Capitol to pressure leaders to address climate change. She dubbed her movement “Fire Drill Fridays,” and soon Fonda and a host of famous friends, including her costar Lily Tomlin and Ted Danson, were arrested and herded into police vans, wrists zip-tied.
On spending the night in jail after her fourth arrest this fall: While Fonda is matter-of-fact in saying she’s far more fortunate than most— “I’m white and I’m famous and I think orders came down from the attorney general to handle me with kid gloves”—it isn’t easy spending the night in jail when you’re in your eighties. She used her red coat to soften the metal of her bunk and managed to sleep through the sounds of fellow inmates sobbing, screaming, and rattling the bars of their cells. “It’s very hard in life to find a way to align your body with your deepest values, and that’s what civil disobedience can do. Even though you’re being handcuffed and put in a situation where you have absolutely no control, it’s like stepping into yourself. I have chosen to put myself in this position where I lose all power because of something I believe in. And it’s incredible.”
On expanding Fire Drill Fridays online and why being old makes her a ‘good messenger’: Her resolve is greater than ever as she expands Fire Drill Fridays, first to the West Coast, beginning with a protest in front of City Hall in downtown L.A. in early February, and now, the nation—virtually. In March, she announced she would move Fire Drill Fridays online, beginning April 3. (Text Jane to 877877 for more info.) Prior to the national mandate for social distancing and isolation, Fonda had planned to take a two-year hiatus from acting to tour the country and get out the climate vote. She says she’s a good messenger because, well, she’s old. “I’m 82, which is very useful because people say, ‘Well, gosh, if she can do it, I can do it, too.’ ”
This article originally appears in the April 2020 issue of ELLE.
Cover and Image: Jacket and Trouser by Alexander McQueen | Bodysuit by Falke | Rings by Tiffany & Co. | Pumps by Christian Louboutin
Styled by Arianne Phillips
Hair by Jonathan Hanousek for L’Oreal Paris
Makeup by David Deleon at A. Spiegelman Mangement
[Photo Credit: ELLE Magazine, alexandermcqueen.com]