Jane Lynch has given many memorable comedic performances, but with Fox’s new sensation Glee, she has found the role of her career as Sue Sylvester, the outrageously dislikable cheerleading coach.
After a long break, the series returns last week, with Sue in top form, her mission as always to decimate the Glee Club run by Will Schuester (Matthew Morrison).
I recently spoke with Jane at a Fox party about her wonderfully mean character and the phenomenal success of the series.
There’s a very fine line between being mean but still being likable and I don’t know how you found it. Was it hard to find that balance?
No, not really. It kind of came immediately. I totally saw what they were doing and I came to it very naturally. I don’t know if that means I’m a horrible person, but the tone was not hard to find at all.
Can you describe this whole phenomenon?
I think it’s all about the music, it’s the first television show that’s doing the music right. And it’s inspirational, rooting for the underdog, the underdog trying to hold onto their unique voice, and I think everybody cheers for that.
The episode with your Down’s syndrome sister was very touching. Did that help give the character of Sue substance?
Yeah, because you can’t continue on that trajectory of mean spirited heinousness, you have to show something a little more. With these guys, Brad (Falchuk), Ryan (Murphy) and Ian (Brennan), our writers, when I read that I thought, this is genius. They gave me a Down’s syndrome sister. And that humanizes Sue so much that she can go on and be heinous another day.
Can you talk about the scene with your sister, I got teary-eyed watching it.
Me too. When I was first reading the episode and I saw that I was being really hard on this Down’s syndrome girl, Becky. I thought oh my God, I kind of had feelings like Will had, like what is she going to do to this kid? Then when got to the scene at the end it was a great pay off.
Also, Sue was not mean to her, she was treating her as if she was one of the other kids because she knows that’s the way Becky wanted to be treated. I just thought it was brilliant. I thought it was a great revealing moment.
I think we had to do it in order to redeem Sue. And Ryan said, ‘You just bought yourself seven or eight more episodes of heinous behavior.’
Will Sue’s lines ever be written out anywhere, because I would like to use some of them?
Entertainment Weekly has the Top 15 Sue Sylvester lines, and it’s pretty amazing when you go back over it. I was like, ‘Oh my God, that’s right; these were fantastic lines.’
Do you have a musical background?
Yeah, actually I’m not a great singer but I’ve done musicals as a college student and in summer stock. I’m not like these kids, I’m not talented like they are, but I’m talented enough to do a song and pull it off.
Do you get to sing in any of the upcoming episodes?
I do. I can’t say what, but I’m in the Madonna episode, which is the second one when we come back.
Were you eager to get a song?
Yes, I was really excited to get a song. I love to sing, I sing all the time, all day long.
I was really impressed with your dance performance.
Thank you, but I looked like a lug next to Matthew Morrison. Thank God I played the boy part so I flipped him around
Is it very intense for you and the rest of the cast with all the attention you’re receiving?
No, it’s just really nice; it’s frosting on the cake. It’s really great. I’ve been doing this a long time and as an actor you brace yourself for disappointment, and I think it kind of robs you of the joy when things happen that are good.
I have great equanimity about it. I don’t get really upset when I lose a job or if a job ends, or if something isn’t successful, and I also don’t get too crazy if it’s great. I don’t know if I’m denying my joy.
Is this the best job you’ve ever had?
First of all, it’s the best character I’ve ever played, it’s the best job I’ve ever had, and it’s the best people I’ve ever worked with, so I’m having an [incredible] experience.