Jane Lynch talks about starring Off-Broadway in Love, Loss, and What I Wore, finding fame on FOX's Glee, and working with Meryl Streep in Julie & Julia.
THEATERMANIA: You're about to star in Love, Loss, and What I Wore, which is about women's relationship to fashion and their bodies. How did this role come about for you?
JANE LYNCH: When I was doing the movie Julie and Julia, our director, Nora Ephron, was talking to me about how she remembered everything she ate at any crucial moment in her life, and I told her that my mother could remember what kind of buttons were on her dress at any moment in her life, but not who she was with at the time. And Nora said to me, "Jane, you have to do this play I'm working on," and six months later, she called me and made good on that threat.
TM: Is fashion something that personally interests you?
JL: Fashion is a very frustrating topic for me, because I'm hard to fit. My body is all over the place in terms of proportion. Believe it or not, I am so delicate in the neck and ear areas, that when I put on jewelry there, I look like I am weighted down. But I have a really good eye for color; I can see different shades of green; blue, even black. That's right, I can tell the difference between blue-black, brown-black, and gray-black, And I just love watching all those makeover shows on TV, like What Not to Wear.
TM: Fashion doesn't seem at all important to your character, Sue Sylvester, on Glee. All she wears are track suits. Was that your decision?
JL: It was [producer and head writer] Ryan Murphy's idea to put Sue in track suits all the time. I love it -- they're so easy to wear; it's like getting to pad around in your pajamas. However, most of them are custom-made for me; we can't buy off the rack because of my size.
TM: So will we ever see Sue wear anything else on the show?
JL: Later this season, you will see her in a zoot suit -- for just a moment, anyway. Sue participates in a swing dance competition. I don't think you see her in the competition, but you do get to see her practicing the Lindy with Will (played by Matthew Morrison).
TM: Sue has had so many great lines on Glee. How many have come from Jane's own mouth?
JL: Very few. I can't come up with this stuff. In fact, there are things I can't believe they want to say on television. In the pilot, I did a little more ad-libbing, because I thought it was incumbent on me to come up with my own ideas. But then I realized these guys are not only great writers, they don't want my input. And now, I don't want to muck anything up!
JL: When I was 12 years old and living in Chicago, Ron Howard and Anson Williams from Happy Days were on this radio show, and I called in and told them I wanted to be an actress, and Anson said I should get an agent. So I started writing agents and casting directors whose names I saw on TV. My mom sat me down and said it wasn't going to happen, and that all actors live in California, and that I just wasn't being realistic. And I started to cry. So she figured out that wasn't good -- but she and my father never really saw acting as a feasible option of life. When I went to college, I was going to major in mass communications, but then I started hanging out in the theater department and when I got a tuition waiver for my acting, I had this moment when I realized, "I'm good, I can do this."
TM: Did you have acting idols growing up -- or do you have any now?
JL: Meryl Streep, who played my sister in Julie & Julia, is still my idol. She is just awesome. I love Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley in Absolutely Fabulous. Eileen Brennan in Private Benjamin is one of the greatest performances ever. And I loved Eve Arden and Kaye Ballard in that TV show The Mothers-In-Law and I was so excited that Eve's character in the film version of Grease was named Mrs. Lynch..
TM: Now, millions of people watch you every week on TV. How has that changed your life?
JL: TV is very powerful. It's definitely beefed up my recognizabilty. My older sister was at some event recently, and people were coming up to her and saying "You're Jane Lynch's sister," and she said to me later: "I felt prettier, funnier, and slimmer and I did nothing to deserve it." That's what fame is like. I've been through the psychological gamut of what fame meant. I wanted to be famous, but there was definitely a period when it looked like fame wasn't going to happen. So I've developed some equanimity; fame doesn't define who I am, it just gets me a restaurant reservation or a discount on a Blackberry. But it's great to get outside confirmation about the value of your work and know that you're making people happy.