Jane Fonda and Oprah
For the first time since she and Ted Turner split, the actress opens up about what she fears most—and the life-changing promise she has made.

Oprah: I've read that, like me, you've always struggled with the disease to please.

Jane Fonda: I used to walk into a party and think, Oh, my God, will I be interesting enough? Will people like me? Will I be pretty enough? Do I fit in? Now I go into a room and think, do I really want to be here? Are these people I want to spend a few hours with? It's a big shift.

O: How did you make the shift?

JF: Hard work. Growing up.

O: Are you still growing up?

JF: To do life right, you have to feel like you're growing up until the day you die. The thing I'm proudest of is that I have stayed curious. I have every intention, when I'm on my deathbed, of saying, "Oh, my God I get it!"

O: Do you get it at all now?

JF: Three or four years after I married Ted, I thought I got it. Wrong.

O: What did you think you had gotten?

JF: I thought I had learned how to have an intimate relationship. And I thought I'd learned how to be happy. Everybody has issues. For me, the challenge is intimacy.

O: I read that when you married Ted, you thought you'd found your soul mate. You said that he had helped you to show up in ways that you hadn't.

JF: In many ways, that's true. We are very much alike.

O: Was it exciting to be in love again in your fifties?

JF: Oh, yeah.

O: Did you believe that was possible?

JF: I've never become cynical about love. Ted is a soul mate. I care about him. He was wonderful for me.

O: How did he help you show up in ways that you hadn't been able to?

JF: He kept challenging me. He kept saying, "I need you here. I need you to be intimate." And so I tried to figure out what that meant. I went into therapy, and I worked hard on it. And I finally learned to do it.

O: Learned to do it too much?

JF: There's no such thing. When we started off, we were on the same level. And then I moved somewhere else. And I don't mean [somewhere] better or worse, just different. The relationship is very much in flux, [but] we're very close. He means the world to me. He taught me to be happy.

O: Which is different from saying he made you happy. He taught you to be happy.

JF: He did. In some ways, he's like my father, but he's not dour. He's full of life and funny, in fact, he's a riot. And I tend to be overly serious, because I'm my father's daughter. So it was wonderful for me to be with somebody lighthearted, well, Ted's not really lighthearted, he's deep, someone who gets that much of a kick out of life.

O: Why are you and Ted separated?

JF: Because we changed. I changed. I changed probably more than he did, and we need to see what that means. Are we happier by ourselves than we were together? It's not clear. I don't know what's going to happen.

O: What do you want to happen?

JF: I want to not lose my voice again. And being by myself, that is to say, without a man, it's been a long time, is allowing me to know what it feels like to live in my own skin, to remember what I miss and don't miss about a relationship.

O: Jane, it's been rumored that you're going back to theater. Is that true?

JF: I would love to do theater if it resonates with me and speaks to things I really want to say.

O: Was your appearance at the Academy Awards this year a coming out?

JF: No.