An everlasting love. Lily Tomlin has played many parts — the titular Frankie on Grace and Frankie, Violet in 9 to 5, even Ms. Frizzle on the Magic School Bus — but her favorite role of all is wife to Jane Wagner.
“I tell you, in two minutes, I fell in love with her,” the Malibu County alum recalled in July 2020 at the Lambda Literary Awards of meeting the playwright, who was introduced to Tomlin at the actress’ New York City hotel through a mutual friend. The Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse star had recently seen Wagner’s 1969 PBS after-school special, J.T., and wanted to speak with her about it.
“She had on hot pants, stretchy boots that went up to her knee, and a little backpack,” Tomlin remembered. “I don’t know what it was, but I was in love.” The couple went on their first date the next day, and the rest was history.
“It was an ecstatic time when we found each other,” Wagner added. “Aesthetically — and in every other way.”
The pair not only fell in love romantically, but also fell in love creatively. They immediately began collaborating together: Wagner as the writer, Tomlin as the performer. The Tennessee native penned project after project for her love, including several of Tomlin’s own starring vehicles: The Lily Tomlin Show TV special and two subsequent Lily specials, all in the mid-‘70s. As the decade came to a close, the twosome were just getting started, with Wagner writing the Tomlin/John Travolta film Moment by Moment, and, in the early ‘80s, The Incredible Shrinking Woman, starring the Grace and Frankie alum.
On stage, however, is where the couple really hit their stride — Wagner’s 1985 play, The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe, earned both her and Tomlin individual Drama Desk Awards. The one-woman show also nabbed the 9 to 5 star a Tony Award for best actress, as well as an Outer Critics’ Circle award. The two later reprised their parts (Wagner as the writer and Tomlin as the lead) for the 1991 film.
After more than four decades together, Wagner and Tomlin tied the knot on New Year’s Eve 2013, hours before the start of 2014. The Desperate Housewives alum told E! earlier that she never thought she would see same-sex marriage become legal in her lifetime.
“You didn’t think that would happen,” Tomlin noted. “It’s pretty remarkable.”
Keep scrolling to see the sweetest moments of Tomlin and Wagner’s 50-year-plus romance: