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Jane Fonda opens up about her mother's suicide

Oscar-winner Jane Fonda is profiled in the HBO

Oscar-winner Jane Fonda is profiled in the HBO documentary "Jane Fonda in Five Acts," premiering Monday on HBO. Credit: Getty Images/Leon Bennett

Oscar-winner Jane Fonda disputes her son Troy Garity's comment in a new documentary that the suicide of her mother was the defining aspect of Fonda's life.

"It's certainly had a big impact," the 80-year-old star of such films as "On Golden Pond" said in an interview posted Wednesday on the streaming channel People TV. "But it's not just the actual act of suicide — it's what led up to it, because if you have a parent who is not capable of showing up, not capable of reflecting you back through eyes of love, it has a big impact on your sense of self."

Fonda, who stars with Lily Tomlin on the Netflix series "Grace and Frankie," said she had dedicated her 2005 memoir, "My Life So Far," to her mother, who killed herself when Fonda was 12. "I knew that if I did dedicate it to her rather than sweep her under the rug, I would be forced to really try to figure her out," she explained. "I never really knew her because she suffered from, well, they called it manic depression in those days; now we say bipolarity."

Fonda's mother, socialite Frances Seymour Brokaw, second wife of film legend Henry Fonda, committed suicide in April 1950, at age 42. The previous December, Henry Fonda had announced he was divorcing her. Brokaw, who was also the mother of actor Peter Fonda, additionally had a daughter, Frances de Villers Brokaw, from her first marriage.

Working on the memoir, Jane Fonda said, had been "almost like being an archaeologist. If you can come to answers, which I was able to do, you end up being able to say, 'It had nothing to do with me. It wasn't that I wasn't lovable.' They had issues," she said of her late parents. "And the minute you know that, you can feel tremendous empathy for them. And you can forgive."

The actress is the subject of the HBO documentary "Jane Fonda in Five Acts," produced and directed by longtime Sag Harbor resident Susan Lacy, which premieres Monday at 8 p.m.

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