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The Bergsteins


Frances "Frankie" Bergstein (née Mengela)

Portrayed By: Lily Tomlin

A hippie art teacher, adoptive mother to Coyote and Bud and ex-wife of Sol.

  • Bourgeois Bohemian: Frankie is a combination of Hippie, New Age and far-left stereotypes. But she is also clearly accustomed to the high standard of living she enjoyed as a lawyer's wife and has a history of making expensive purchases, ironically intended to help her get more in touch with the spiritual and less with the material.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Frankie has her moments, especially when she's high.
  • Cool Old Lady: An avid fan of drugs, hip hop, and openly honest about sex and her own vagina, Frankie definitely qualifies.
  • Granola Girl: Big time.
  • Hippie Parents: Alongside Sol.
  • Hippie Teacher: Runs an art class for convicts or "society's outcasts".
  • Housewife: A subversion in contrast to Grace. Frankie seems to have little in the way of cooking or housekeeping skills. It is heavily implied that Sol was the main cook in their family and openly stated that Bud did most of the household chores. Frankie devoted most of her time to artistic, activist and spiritual pursuits. Grace, in contrast, at least knows how to cook reasonably well and tries to keep a tidy home even though she was a career woman.
  • Informed Judaism: Is nominally Jewish, but also practices New Age and Neopaganism rituals. At one point she invokes the Norse goddess Frigg.
  • Manchild: An extremely rare female example, mostly applicable because she is in her 70's and the usual female tropes focus on much younger women. Frankie throws tantrums when people don't do what she wants, she sings loudly when people say things she doesn't want to hear and will pull stunts like locking her family out of the house (or locking herself in) when she is mad at them. She is also financially irresponsible and has relied heavily on her (now ex-) husband and sons to handle the practical matters of life.
  • Political Correctness Gone Mad: Frankie can take this to extremes that drive everyone else nuts. To the point that Brianna's Camp Gay assistant wants to record one of her rants on his phone because he says that some of his friends still don't believe that Frankie is real.
  • Second Love: Finds it with yam farmer Jacob.
  • Soapbox Sadie: Deconstructed. Her attempt to protest against the use of palm oil in her lube ends up derailing the product entirely when she makes a statement by spreading fake blood in herself during a meeting with an important investor and ruins her work relationship with Brianna, despite the fact that she was trying to go as far as her company could go to make an environment friendly product but couldn't get rid of the palm oil.
  • Sticky Fingers: Initially it seemed to be a singular incident: stealing a pack of cigarettes when an obnoxious store clerk was ignoring her and Grace. But when Grace takes Frankie to a meeting at a business incubator she practically fills her purse with items stolen from the office.
  • Straw Character: Frankie is a Strawman Political caricature of far-left stereotypes. One of the senior partners at Sol's law firm referred to her as his "communist wife". She is also hysterically opposed to Grace having a gun, despite her own insecurity about being in the house after a break-in. Frankie also passionately supports any environmentalist cause (but wants to use Grace's credit card to "adopt" a snow leopard). Indeed, the main thing limiting her activism is that she no longer has Sol's money to spend on it.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: In Frankie's case, the big phobia is earthquakes. Even very minor ones send her into a state of terror. Which makes it rather odd that she lives in California. She is also terrified of guns and refuses to live in a house where one is kept.


Sol Bergstein

Portrayed By: Sam Waterston
A successful divorce lawyer, adoptive father to Coyote and Bud, ex-husband to Frankie and current husband to Robert
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: When he is actually acting like a lawyer, Sol comes across as being very competent. This is at odds with his behavior in his personal life, where he seems rather neurotic and emotionally open.
  • Cool Old Guy: Much like Frankie.
  • Gentle Giant: Can't stand making anyone unhappy and was apparently 6ft tall by the age of fourteen.
  • Henpecked Husband: When Frankie laments that a fight she had with Grace is worse than any she ever had with Sol, Bud points out to her that this is because Sol always caved in to what Bud explicitly calls her "tantrums".
  • Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: The sensitive guy to Robert's manly man.
  • Supreme Chef: Sol is an excellent cook. Out of their combined family only Mallory comes close.
  • Your Cheating Heart: Was cheating on Frankie for half of their marriage.


Coyote Bergstein

Portrayed By: Ethany Embry
Frankie and Sol's adoptive son. A recovering alcoholic and drug addict he works as a substitute teacher.
  • Adorkable: Bud has a nervous, boyish, quality that contrasts his more confident and mature brother. Most people like him.
  • Aerithand Bob: His and Bud's full names against Brianna and Mallory's.
  • The Alcoholic: Frequently referenced but he's recovering.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: He definitely takes more after Frankie than Sol.
  • Happily Adopted: Finds a loving family with Frankie and Sol but still pursues his birth family.
  • Recovered Addict: Went through a particularly bad phase, buying cocaine from one of his students and having an Addled Addict episode in Mallory's front yard where he pleaded with her to not marry Mitch, to whom she had already been married for several years and had children with. He got better, but everyone lives in fear of a relapse.
  • The Thing That Would Not Leave: For his brother Bud. He was sleeping on Bud's couch until well into season 3.


Nwabudike "Bud" Bergstein

Portrayed By: Baron Vaughn
Sol and Frankie's adoptive son. A lawyer like his father.
  • Aerithand Bob: His and Coyote's names stand out against the Hanson's less unusual ones.
  • The Dutiful Son: He's much more aware of the needs of his family than his siblings, spending the first season trying to make sure that both of his parents are OK.
  • Happily Adopted: Despite the dysfunction, Bud obviously loves his family greatly.
  • Hollywood Dateless: Played with. It is something of a running gag with his siblings that any woman Bud dates will have numerous character flaws. They even have a drinking game for it. This despite the fact that Bud is handsome, a lawyer and has a very stable, even-tempered personality.
  • Only Sane Man: Between his hippie artist mother, gay father and former drug addict brother Bud stands out as this for the Bergsteins.
    Coyote: [Bud], you're the only normal one in the family. And we rely on you a lot.


The Hansons


Grace Hanson

Portrayed By: Jane Fonda
A former cosmetics mogul who built her own company. Ex-wife to Robert and mother to Brianna and Mallory.
  • Cool Old Lady: Not quite as much as Frankie but she's still this.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Pretty much a requirement when you live with someone like Frankie.
  • Grandma, What Massive Hotness You Have!: By virtue of being played by Jane Fonda, the grandmother of four passes for this.
  • Jerkass with a Heart of Gold: Only after divorcing Robert does Grace finally see how mean and cruel she could be including deriding Frankie for never actually having given birth and telling Mallory to not have any more kids. Despite this. she's a fundamentally good person.
  • Lady Drunk: Grace is rarely seen without an alcoholic beverage nearby, even in the morning.
  • Maternally Challenged: Grace struggles to relate to her young grandchildren and their childish pursuits. It is implied that this was also an issue with Brianna and Mallory. Notably, when Mallory needed a babysitter for her daughter she opted for Robert and Sol rather than Grace.
  • Rich Bitch: Was this during her marriage to Robert, when she was a successful businesswoman married to a successful lawyer and her circle of friends were all like this. She gradually gets over it after the divorce, although the fact that she no longer has as much money may have contributed to her realization as to how bad she was.
  • Straight Man: To Frankie.
  • The One That Got Away: For Grace, it's Phil Milstein.


Robert Hanson

Portrayed By: Martin Sheen
A successful divorce lawyer. Ex-husband to Grace and father to Mallory and Brianna.
  • All Gays Love Theater: Loves theater, and even joins a queer theater group starting season 3.
  • Cool Old Guy: It's Martin Sheen so of course he's this.
  • Deadpan Snarker: He has a very sharp sense of humor.
  • Henpecked Husband: Ironically, more so after the divorce than before. During his marriage to Grace they were actually a somewhat distant couple. Since then he has had to deal with a more pushy side of Grace. For example, she castigates him for keeping a stockpile of expensive jewelry to give her as gifts rather than buying each piece individually as an occasion came up. She also reels in Robert and Sol to help package her vibrators for shipment and criticizes how neatly he labels the boxes.
  • Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: The manly man to Sol's sensitive guy.
  • Your Cheating Heart: Was cheating on Grace for 20 years with Sol.


Brianna Hanson

Portrayed By: June Diane Raphael
The head of Say Grace after her mother's retirement. Eldest of Robert and Grace's daughters.
  • Child Hater: Does not even like the idea of having lunch with her sister Mallory if the babies get brought along. But she promises that she will be a Cool Aunt once the kids become teenagers.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Easily the worst for this. It often leads to some of the series' funniest moments.
  • Lady in a Power Suit: Unsurprising for a cosmetics executive, and something she clearly learned from her mother. Brianna favors stylish but professional outfits that accentuate her looks while also projecting a no-nonsense image.
  • Morality Pet: Barry is this to Brianna.
  • The Snark Knight: She's shown to care deeply for her friends and family, even if she's uncomfortable with her emotions and prefers to resort to sarcasm. Played for Laughs when it's revealed that she keeps sad dog movies on hand for the one time a year she allows herself to cry.


Mallory Hanson

Portrayed By: Brooklyn Decker
Devoted housewife and mother. Mallory is Robert and Grace's youngest daughter.
  • Dead Sparks: Between her and Mitch. To the point that neither of them really wants to go on a child-free vacation together.
  • Family Versus Career: A sore point between Mallory and Grace, as Grace feels that Mallory should stop having children and do something else with her life.
  • Feminine Women Can Cook: Robert has her guide him through preparing a meal for Sol via video call. Brianna or Grace do not appear to have even been considered as sources of instruction.
  • Housewife: To a doctor husband. Mallory is extremely competent at domestic matters. Much more so than her mother.


Other Characters

Introduced in Season 1



Portrayed by: Peter Cambor
An accountant at Say Grace. Brianna falls for him.


Phil Milstein

Portrayed by: Sam Elliott
A man with whom Grace was in love with, but chose Robert over him.
  • Bus Crash: After he and Grace break up, he leaves the scene and isn't mentioned until Robert reveals during a funeral he died some time ago.
  • Last Episode, New Character: Played with. Phil doesn't show up until season 2, but his existence and his history with Grace are revealed by her in a video diary made by her in the last episode.
  • The One That Got Away: Grace is still hung up on him fifteen years after seeing him for the last time.
  • Sympathetic Adulterer: He cheats on wife to be with Grace, someone he's implied to still be in love, while his life has become sadder and sadder due to his wife developing Alzheimer.

Introduced in Season 2



Portrayed by: Estelle Parsons
"I don't want to go out fighting, I want to go out flying"
A dear friend of Frankie. She travels around the world but has come back to throw a party with Frankie.
  • Do Not Go Gentle: Defied. When Gracie tries to talk her into getting treatment and fighting cancer, Babe states that she does not want to fight it, she just wants to go out peacefully.
  • Face Death with Dignity
  • Fun Personified: Babe is an extremely fun loving person and instantly bring joy to Frankie and others around her.
    Babe: I'm the happiest person I know!
  • Gallows Humor: Has a hard time doing it. Frankie can't exactly deal with this knowing she's going to die soon.
    Frankie: That's really not funny.
    Babe: I know. I'm still sorting out this gallows humor thing. It's always too far or not far enough.
  • Spirit Advisor: has become this for Grace in Season 5. It's revealed she often talks with Frankie as a ghost.
  • Your Days Are Numbered: She has decided to take her own life. After her cancer resurfaced, she refused to let it consume her or go through the process of healing again and wants to go out in peace.

Introduced in Season 3


Allison Giampietro-Smikowitz

Portrayed by: Lindsey Kraft

Bud's girlfriend and eventual fiancé with a lot of sickness and health issues.

  • Ambiguous Disorder: Shows signs of hypochondria, a litany of anxiety symptoms, and various vague neuroses. She also is on a first name basis with hospital staff, and faints when she isn’t the center of attention in the lobby after Frankie’s stroke, but they were early symptoms of pregnancy. Accused by Coyote of having a factitious disorder.
  • Attention Whore: Accused of being one by Bud's siblings, who think her diseases are just a way to make sure that everyone is paying attention to her.
  • The Friend Nobody Likes: No one is particularly big on her. In particular Coyote and Brianna think she is saying she has all those diseases to be the center of attention at all times.
  • Love Interest: For Bud, during season 3, but they are well together in season 4. In the season 3 finale she finds out she's pregnant; halfway through the next series, they're engaged.


Nick Skolka

Portrayed by: Peter Gallagher

The owner of a big company that becomes interested in Grace when she threatens to sue him.

  • Ladykiller in Love: He appears to have had several flings and is definitely a charmer, but falls head over heels for Grace.

Introduced in Season 4



Portrayed by: Lisa Kudrow

Grace's roommate after Gracie left to Santa Fe. A kooky and friendly girl who is in a legal dispute with her terrible step-children over the house her husband left her.

  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Subverted, despite Frankie's insistence, she truly is as nice and sweet as Grace thinks.
  • Good All Along: Frankie believed her to be a Bitch in Sheep's Clothing trying to steal the house from her step-children after being a Trophy Wife for an older man. When they confront her, she reveals that she was the damaged party. She loved her husband and nursed him all the time he was sick while the children would ignore him and kicked her out of the house, leaving her homeless when they got the chance.
  • Pink Is Feminine: She dons a lot of pink in most of her clothes. Frankie's "disguise" for her was simply wearing jeans from top to bottom.



Teddy Mengela

Portrayed by: Talia Shire
Frankie's estranged older sister, who she attempts to reconnect with after forty years.
  • Sibling Yin-Yang: She gives an undergraduate-level economy class unlike Frankie, who is revealed to have never been good with numbers.


Robin Mengela

Teddy and Frankie's younger brother, who died in his teens.

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