Since she sprang onto the scene as head coach of the Cheerios on Glee in 2009, Jane Lynch has become something of a comedy icon in the world of TV entertainment. With a razor-sharp tongue and a dizzying array of rainbow-coloured tracksuits, her character Sue Sylvester is famed for her hilarious and cutting (not to mention wholly un-PC) one-liners. As the actress herself explains, "she’s that inner mean girl that a lot of us have, but she doesn’t have a filter." As season 2 is released on DVD this week and season 3 premieres in the US and the UK, we catch up with the lady behind the coach - to chat all things musicals, cheerleading and her ideal celebrity cameo.
How much has your life changed since you landed the part of Sue in Glee? Do you get recognised on the street?
Getting recognised on the street is the biggest change, sure. That and the fact I’ve had steady work for three years, which has been a joy. I knew I’d be working for three years because we signed up for two seasons right off the bat and that’s given me a nice centred place to work from; I don’t have that anxiety of wondering about the next job. And I’ve made a little money, which is nice too. I’m building a house and I have a family. It’s all good. When I get recognised it’s usually kids who are vibrating out of their bodies because the show means so much to them, and if it’s an adult they say ‘I love what you’re doing for kids’. That’s why I love doing the show – it’s helping a lot of kids feel they’re part of a group, there’s nothing wrong with them, all they have to do is find their own little Glee club and their own life to be accepted and loved.
What are the challenges in playing a character like coach Sue Sylvester? Do you enjoy portraying her bullying side or is it difficult to always be the villain?
I love being the villain. There’s nothing more fun than putting on that tracksuit and getting to say the stuff I say. I adore it. Sue’s more fully-rounded than that though. I’m an actor who knows how to find those moments of vulnerability and the writing’s really good. I hope you couldn’t accuse me of being one-dimensional. I think Sue’s a fully three-dimensional person within this crazy world.
I love being the villain. There’s nothing more fun than putting on that tracksuit and getting to say the stuff I say.
On the DVD extras for Glee Season 2 there is a feature called Sue’s Quips. If you could name one all-time favourite quip what would it be?
I love when she says ‘Just because you like musical theatre it doesn’t mean you’re gay, it just means you’re awful.''
Do Sue’s one-liners generally come from the writers or do you ever improvise on-set?
They’re all scripted. The writer Ian Brennan says he just rolls his eyes into the back of his head and then writes Sue’s lines. I don’t feel the need to improvise. It would be too much pressure and there’s no reason to because the writers are so good at what they’re doing.
How much have your cheerleading skills improved since you appeared on the show? Are you now a pro at all the moves (or were you always)?
[Laughs] I’m not good at that at all, but I doubt Sue Sylvester is either. She wanted to go right to the top of the pecking order and be in charge, not be a cheerleader herself. It would be the same if it was the bowling team. I’ve never been a cheerleader. It’s so outside of my range of things I could ever do.
Which musical sequence did you most enjoy from Glee and why?
I’ve have to go back to the first one, Don’t Stop Believin’, for its simplicity and yearning. The kids are in T-shirts, they’re not in costumes, and they’re doing really simple moves. It’s all about the desire and the big dreams they have. I found it really touching. As for myself, I loved doing Vogue and Physical very much. Physical was with Olivia Newton-John, who is a huge hero of mine, and Vogue was just transcendent – you know, doing the same moves, the photography, costumes and make-up, watching the Madonna video over and over again to get it right.
I know Anne Hathaway wants to be on the show and I’d love that.
You are a regular Tweeter. Do you enjoy interacting with fans on Twitter and does it ever get overwhelming?
You know what? I don’t answer the fans on there. I post and I read stuff, but I can’t engage. I wouldn’t have time for a life otherwise, but I love reading what the kids have to say.
What’s the strangest thing a fan has ever sent you?
I don’t get stuff, ever. No-one has ever sent me anything. Ever. I barely even get fan mail [laughs] but don’t print that because I don’t want it.
What’s been the highlight of your Glee career so far?
I really love what it’s done for kids. I really love that kids have found a show they can be so rabid about. It makes them feel good about themselves – that they’ve found their people and fellow Gleeks. That’s pretty amazing to me.
Do you envisage a life after Glee and if so, what does it involve?
I can’t think past Saturday so I don’t think about stuff like that. Do I worry about the show not lasting? No, I don’t worry about anything anymore. I worried too much when I was a kid.
A lot of celebrities have guest-starred on Glee. Is there anyone out there who hasn’t appeared on it yet who you think would be ideal for the show?
I’ve already had my dream guests in Carol Burnett and Olivia Newton-John, Kristen Chenoweth, Idina Menzel … I feel if I ask for anyone else God will punish me for being greedy, but I know Anne Hathaway wants to be on the show and I’d love that.
The Down’s syndrome storyline revealed an entirely different side to your character. How difficult was it making that transition and did you learn anything as a result?
I don’t know too much about the syndrome but I’ve gotten to know Robin Trocki [who played Sue’s sister] and Lauren Potter [Becky]. As an actor the scenes with Sue’s sister dying were challenging but so well-written. The show is all about inclusion and I just did an awards show and one of the nominees was a young girl who’s started a programme where mentally-challenged and intellectually-challenged kids become cheerleaders on squads at several schools around the country, and Lauren presented her with the award.
Glee: The Complete Second Season on DVD and Blu-ray is out now!