LOS ANGELES – Actress/comedian Jane Lynch still can’t believe she has an Emmy for her role as the brutally honest, back-talking Sue Sylvester in the Fox musical comedy Glee. “Oh that was definitely a pinch me moment. I still don’t really believe that it happened,” she beams.
Indeed, the 50-year-old actress jokes that there have been many ‘pinch me’ moments since becoming a global phenomenon, including singing with Olivia Newton John.
“Growing up, I didn’t know if I loved her or John Travolta more, and when they did
Grease together, I simply imploded!”
After making her mark in sketch comedy touring with Chicago’s Second City, Lynch became known for her offbeat roles in Christopher Guest movies, Best in Show, A Mighty Wind, and she starred in Judd Apatow’s comedy hit, The 40-Year- Old Virgin.
Metro sat down with Lynch to find out what makes Sue Sylvester really tick.
What do you have in common with your character?
That warrior attitude of being as tough as you can so no one can get to that squishy centre inside, yeah. I have an aggressive part of me. I didn’t have to dig too deep to find her. I think she’s an exaggeration of me. It’s that part: “You will not get the better of me!” And “I will make you feel as small I really feel deep down inside, but you will never get to that!” I love that about Sue.
Sue is a bit of a bully, but what was your own high school experience like?
In high school I played the safe path. In schools in the States there’s a really strong hierarchy and I instinctively kept myself under the radar. I had a group of girlfriends who were Pom Pom girls and cheerleaders and some were math nerds, but we all kind of hung together. Then I would go off and sing in the choir and perform in plays, so I did what I wanted to do but I also hung out with the cool kids.
Do you identify with anyone in the cast?
I identify with Jenna, who plays Tina, because she’s kind of in the background. She doesn’t make waves and people don’t really know how talented she is until she starts to sing. She gets some really good moments in season two where she gets to shine.
How many tracksuits does Sue own? And are you going to launch your own line?
(Laughs) I’m not going to start designing my own line of tracksuits, although I think that would be a good idea. Note to self. I have about 20 now and they are always making more. The wardrobe stylist would come up to me and ask, “What about this colour tracksuit with this piping?” And I say either yes or no. We have two styles, the one with the high neck and then the crew neck with the zips and they make them to fit me. I love wearing them, because you are basically getting back into your pajamas when you go to work.
Does your wardrobe help make the character?
Yes, it’s like armour for her. She fancies herself a soldier, a warrior type. She knows what works and people fear it.
Who were your influences growing up?
Carol Burnett. She was a dream come true to work with. I would watch her on Saturday nights. At the time we didn’t have VCRs – it was back in the Stone Age — and I would place my little tape recorder up against the television and my brother and I would listen to it over and over again. She looked like she was having so much fun
Do you have a favourite scene from the second series?
I love that scene with Kurt where he’s bullied and I call him Ladyface. And he says: “You know what, every time you call me Ladyface, that’s bullying.” And I respond with: “I’m sorry, I thought that was your name.” And I give him a choice, I ask: “I will allow you to chose from the following three nicknames – Elfin, Porcelain or Tickle-Me-Doll-Face.” And he says: “I’ll take Porcelain.” So for the rest of the rest of the episode I call him Porcelain. That’s my favourite moment.
Why do you think Glee is such a global hit?
I have been asked that many times and I have a wonderful staple answer for that. I don’t think there is anything more vulnerable or raw than raising your voice in song. It’s when you get to such an emotional point that the only way you can express yourself is to sing. It’s also a case of putting yourself up for ridicule. People just appreciate that so much and it taps into their vulnerability and their aching desire to perform. People have always been in love with breaking into song and dance for no reason.