As head coach Sue Sylvester on the hit show Glee, comedic actress Jane Lynch is the new queen of mean on prime time television. On the show, Lynch's character is at war - set in an ongoing plot to put the cheerleader squad, the Cheerios back on top and squashing the upstart glee club squad and its advisor with extreme prejudice.
Last week , Lynch spoke with the press about teaching another type of lesson on a recent episode of The Cleveland Show. In the episode "Love Rollercoaster," Lynch is substitute teacher Ms. Eck who plans to teach Roberta (Reagan Gomez-Preston) a valuable lesson about vanity and putting too much faith in outward appearances.
Glee returns with new episodes on its new night starting Tues. April 13 at 9 PM on Fox. The Cleveland Show airs Sundays at 9:30 PM on Fox. Episodes of both shows are available at Fox's website or on Hulu.
I can't believe someone with as many credits as you have has never done animation, is that true?
It's not technically my debut, I have done a Holly Hobby series, a guest spot on cartoons. What was that one with the monkeys that go into space? Space Chimps, and I'm doing Shrek 4 right now too.
Lately your roles have been sort of like an authoritarian role, how do you keep them fresh and new whether it's live action or animation?
I did Another Cinderella Story and Troop Mom and I'm just really mean people in all of them. I'm very conscious of digging in and try to find a different place so that I don't feel like I'm repeating myself and that would be boring for me too, but yes there is definitely a common thread with all of them there. Authoritarian and sarcastic and they don't give people the benefit of the doubt kind of a character, and yes, I'll dig a little deeper and a little to the left or a little to the right to try to find something. There's usually something in the writing that will help me focus on something a little different than the others.
I'm curious, in previous interviews you have mentioned that Sue will actually be singing in an upcoming episode. I'm wondering if you're excited for that challenge?
I am, I'm very excited about it. I of course can't tell you, because it's top secret, but I've recorded already and I've had several dance rehearsals, it's going to be fun.
What is it like sort of stepping into the studio for the first time, putting the headset on, and really laying down a track?
Well that's a great question, because it's fantastic, and it's kind of a dream come true because I love to sing. I got to record singing in A Mighty Wind and that was a dream come true as well, so I had done that before. It's not as easy as one thinks, you have to be right on pitch-wise and you have to be right on time-wise, and I always thought I was very good at those things, but according to Adam, I am not. He had to direct me several times.
Whats it like recording in the studio in comparison to say a live action performance?
You don't have to worry about what you're wearing, you've got the script in front of you, and it doesn't involve your body, it's all about your voice, and it's really fast work. It's also very lonely work, because you're by yourself, very rarely do you do it in a group. You act with yourself and somebody else kind of mumbles the lines back at you, if at all. So seeing your work in something animated, you realize how little you have to do with all of it. It's always a surprise and it's always exciting to see, because you never really know, you're kind of isolated in that booth all by yourself.
Do you find any difficulties in transferring, like going from one project to another when it's live action versus animation?
No, you just kind of kick into it.
You mentioned that you're doing voice work for Shrek 4, can you talk a little more about that?
I'm playing a character called Gretchen and I'm an ogre and there are a lot of ogres in this particular Shrek. It kind of goes back in the life of time, kind of like It's a Wonderful Life and I play one of the ogres and it's a lot of fun.
So you've done TV, you've done movies, now animated shows, plays as well, what would you say has been the biggest challenge for you in your career so far?
Gosh, dancing, that's it, just dancing. Everything else I just kind of flow into and it's fun. Dancing is the thing that I have to work ten times harder than everybody else.
A lot of actresses talk about how once they get past a certain age it's difficult to find good parts and it's difficult to get work. You seem to have broken that trend by getting busier and busier as you go along. What do you put it down to, how do you think you're doing it?
I know that it is a reality that it's harder for women after 40, but I started working at 40, and I think it's just because I'm a character actress and my particular brand of it is more mature and it's not something I was able to be cast at when I was younger and fresh faced, so I had to wait until my age caught up which happens to be the tricks in my little arsenal.
Was it hard hanging on until you got to that point with something like this?
I had a day here and there where I would get discouraged that I wasn't a big star, but I've kind of made a living ever since I was like 27, not a great living, but enough for me. For me actually being able to pay my rent and eat and perform is enough and I did that for many years. And then I had some good years in there too where I made pretty good money, but I'm at a different point in my career now where I get to kind of sit back and let some things come to me whereas I had to be a lot more aggressive when I was younger. There were moments when I would get discouraged, but I don't know that I always thought that I would get to a point where I would work all the time, but I was okay about it as long as I got to perform I was happy.
Do you think that those ups and downs gave you a leg up on really putting the character together?
Yes, actually. I think so, because when we do Best in Show and A Mighty Wind and Christopher Guest movies, we have to create the characters and improvise and when you improvise you really have to know who your character is. You have to be very thorough in creating a character, whereas when you do a television show you can kind of float by on what they give you, but we kind of have a whole cloth to create with Best in Show. It kind of makes me more aggressive and demand more from myself when I do a script at show, I see it as being creative, my character process I think is probably a little more creative than if I hadn't done that kind of work where I had to create something out of whole cloth, that's why I think I can push things maybe to the nth degree, because I'm used to doing that from having to make it up on my own.
Is there a possibility that you might be directing an episode of Glee in the future?
That's a great question, because I think I'd like to, and I will say here, yes, I want to do that. I haven't spoken to anybody about it, but I love directing and I love calling the shots. I think it would be a great place to do it and because the directors we get and the writers we have are just so amazing and our DP is great, because you have to have a great DP if you want to be a great director. I think I'm learning at the feet of many masters.
Did you have any input into how your animated counterpart would look like?
No, not at all. The rendering was set when I showed up for the reading, and she's hilarious looking I think.
Did they show it to you before you started taping?
Yes. We did a table read, which is really an amazing thing to do, because Mike does all the characters, and to watch him sit there and have a scene with himself is something to watch, it's genius at work. But yes, I did get to see the rendering before at the table read. I haven't seen the show though, just the rendering of my character.
When you were growing up, what Saturday morning cartoons or series struck you as very funny and odd as a kid?
I watched Bam Bam and Pebbles and The Jackson Five, I remember that, and I liked The Flintstones.
Do you have a favorite line in The Cleveland Show coming up as your character that stuck in your brain?
Yes, I laugh almost every day about look at this fupa, which I don't know if you know what it means, but it's a hilarious reference to the fat right about the groin area.
Obviously, Ms. Eck and Sue share some similar DNA, but I'm wondering if they were to sort of come face-to-face and throw down the gauntlet who would emerge victorious in a battle of the wits?
Sue Sylvester would rein supreme. I think that Ms. Eck has a chink in her armor. I think she's got a little more sensitivity and is prone to self doubt whereas Sue Sylvester has none of that.