Last week, the incomparable Jane Lynch took a break from playing the hypercompetitive cheerleading coach Sue Sylvester on Glee to make her New York theater debut, filling the role vacated by Katie Finneran in Nora Ephron's Love, Loss, and What I Wore. Vulture spoke with Lynch about her time in New York so far, Glee, and the plan to wrap up her story line on Party Down.
How does it feel to be making your New York theater debut?
It’s amazing. I’m 49 years old, I’m finally on the Great White Way [Ed Note: Well, sort of. The play is Off Broadway at the Westside Theatre], and to work with Nora Ephron and Delia and do this piece I’m thrilled.
How did you get involved?
Nora asked me to do it, because, you know, I did Julie and Julia, so we know each other from that. I told her just out of the blue that my mother remembers everything in her life by what she wore. My mom is a fashion maven and she really knows how to dress. I did not get the gene. And she said, "Oh, oh! You must do our play."
What advice did your mom give you about dressing?
I like to wear my pajama bottoms and sweatshirts out to get coffee in the morning. She said to always dress like someone is going to take your picture, and every day is an opportunity to make an impression.
Did she give you any bad advice?
No, my mom only gave me good advice, although I don’t know how to dress. I’m not very good at it. My mother also has a perfect body. She can take something off the rack, pay $1.99 for it, looks fantastic on her. I spend thousands of dollars to look like a homeless person, and I have to go to the tailor.
But you look great!
Thank you. I had these pants made and this shirt I wore on The L Word, and they let me take it home because it fits me. I can look at somebody and go, "awesome outfit," but I don’t know how to do it for myself.
Are you taking a break from Glee to do this?
Well, not really. Glee, we just did thirteen episodes, and now they’ve just renewed us for another nine, which means we’ll do a whole season, but we don’t start till January. So this was perfect. I’m in New York in the fall, I’m staying at a friend’s mother’s apartment, I’ve got my friends in town with me, my mother’s coming, I’ve got someone staying with me every week. It’s just fantastic.
Are you trying to infiltrate the Broadway social scene?
No, but so far I’ve seen Hair. I’m going to see everything. I’m going to see everything that I can while I’m here on Tuesday nights, 'cause we’re off on Tuesdays.
Have you had a martini at Sardi’s yet?
No, I haven’t. I don’t drink, so I won’t have a martini, but maybe I’ll have a glass of something in a martini glass. But I’ve been to Sardi’s before. I’ve lived in New York twice in my life for like nine months. Once when I was very young, couldn’t get any job in any theater. I couldn’t get a job at all. Then I moved back to Chicago. Then I did the Real Life Brady Bunch at the Village Gates ... No, don’t say that because it sounds like that was my debut. No, tonight is my debut.
How do you manage to get in the mind-set of hypercompetitive Sue Sylvester?
She’s my dark side. She is the side of me that I don’t let out in public. She is the side of you in the back of my head that ... It’s what the devil on my shoulder says all day long to me. And we’ve got these great writers that know how to put that into really funny stuff. I don’t have to dig very deep for Sue Sylvester.
Have you made up a backstory for Sue, for how she got this way?
Not specifically, but what I tapped into is the part of all of us that was not treated well somewhere in our life, and we’re out for revenge. It’s like The Girl Most Likely To. Remember that Stockard Channing movie from the eighties? She was really, really fat, and then she lost all this weight and she started killing people who were mean to her. It’s that bad opportunity. Sue Sylvester probably got teased and was not popular in high school, and she’s exacting her revenge. And it injured her so much that she looked for an opportunity to get back into the high-school social system and dominate, and make all the people who are feeling like she used to feel, destroy them.
Were you competitive in high school?
No, I was really nice.
Were you a cheerleader?
No, I wasn’t a cheerleader. I was in our version of the glee club. I was in choir all four years and I loved going from group to group. I wasn’t really popular, I stayed under the radar, and I just kind of traveled through different groups. But my heart was in doing the plays and doing glee every day.
Are you going to do Party Down again?
I’m going to do one episode of Party Down.
I know, it breaks my heart.
I loved you on that show.
Well, they have Megan Mullally now, so I don’t think they’re crying for Jane Lynch.
How did you get out of your contract?
I didn’t have to. I went into Party Down with Glee having been shot, and if Glee gets picked up, I can’t do Party Down anymore. So Party Down was in second position, and Glee was in first.
So how do you return to the show?
My story is going to be tied up. In one of the last episodes, I hook up with a mafia guy, an Eastern European mafia guy. It’s probably going to be our wedding.
I thought you'd gotten together with some guy from your past who you met at a dating seminar for old people.
Oh right! Ed Begley Jr. I did not hook up with him, but I do hook up with the mafia guy.
Ah, it’s been a while. There were only ten episodes.
Only ten, I know, and I had two romantic entanglements.