Interview: “Glee”‘s Jane Lynch Got Picked First in High School P.E. (But She’s Still No Sue Sylvester!)

Jane Lynch has arrived!

After years of making a ridiculously strong impression in bit parts in movies like The 40 Year Old Virgin and Best in Show, and in TV shows such as Party Down and Love Spring International, Lynch finally has a break-out star turn to call her own.

In Glee, she plays Sue Sylvester, the hilariously tyrannical head coach of the cheerleading squad who is determined to destroy the Glee program in order to co-opt their funding (because, damn it, she needs that fog machine!).

The character, like the show (which was recently picked up by the network for a full season), is wonderfully over-the-top.

Best of all, the show, and Lynch’s role in the recent movie Julie & Julia which is garnering talk of an Oscar nomination, is something of a vindication for the 49-year-old actress who also happens to be an out lesbian.

Recently, we chatted with Jane about the uncanny similarities between her and her character.

AfterElton: So I must ask: when did you personally get picked in high school P.E.?
Jane Lynch:
Oh, good question! Well, I was an athlete. I loved softball, but I did play basketball. I didn’t love it so much — I was recruited because I’m so tall.

AE: So you really are Sue Sylvester! Can Jane Lynch possibly relate to the kids in Glee?
JL:
I absolutely relate to them, because I was picked last in other things. I was in the choir, although I didn’t get picked on. I sort of walked that line. But choir was my favorite part of the day. I know those kids. So I relate to those kids who got picked last. I suffer with them.

AE: It looks to me like you have a very good gig on this show.
JK:
I have an arc! It’s the first time I’ve had that on television — where I’ve had an arc, a progression. Not just hanging my hat for a day and leaving, you know?

AE: And it’s not a bad thing to have a big meaty role where you steal every scene, and yet you’re not the lead, so you don’t have to go into work every day.
JL:
I’m there two or three days a week. And those Glee kids are there five days a week, all day.They come in, they’re rehearsing one episode, learning something for the episode after that, doing choreography, recording, and then they’re shooting the darn show. They work hard!

Next Page: "Unlike Sue Sylvester, I don’t rule by shame and humiliation."

AE: What’s the off-screen dynamic between you and the kids?
JL:
Well, I don’t rule by fear as Sue Sylvester does, by shame and humiliation. But I am the old person on the set. Within two minutes of being on Glee, I became the "seasoned veteran." I don’t know how that happened, because I was the young upstart just yesterday! It’s funny how that transition happened, but here are these kids looking up to me. But they’re such great kids. It’s fun to watch them having this ‘summer stock’ experience, but on a really big level and being paid much more than any of us did.

 

AE: Did you think it was going to be a hit?
JL:
I did. It would be the crime of the century if it wasn’t. I’m very proud of this show. There’s nothing like it on television. Ian [Brennan] and Ryan [Murphy] and Brad [Falchuk], the writers, have hit the perfect tone. It’s a wacky world, but it doesn’t go too crazy within the reality that they created.