Famous for playing tough (even mean) characters, actress and comedian Jane Lynch has starred in a wide range of movies and TV shows, including Talladega Nights,Two and a Half Men, The 40 Year Old Virgin, Role Models, Alvin and the Chipmunks, Ice Age, and The Three Stooges, as well as the "mockumentary" Best in Show. Her portrayal of Sue Sylvester in Glee has garnered her numerous awards, including a Primetime Emmy Award, Golden Globe Award, Screen Actors Guild Award, and People's Choice Award. The actress, who turns 53 this month, will host Hollywood Game Night starting July 11, 2013, on NBC. She talked to WebMD Magazine about her passion for animals, her best and worst health habits, and what doing improv has taught her about love, conflict, and the importance of listening.
You’re supervising the festivities of the new Hollywood Game Night, but would you also be a fearsome player?
Oh, yeah, and I can be really competitive. But what I love most about game nights is all the teamwork and the togetherness aspect of games -- the jumping up and down and cheering for each other. This show is a raucous party, really, and everyone will just be having so much fun. My favorite games aren’t board games; they’re the ones that are sort of pop-culture based, like playing "Celebrity." That’s what this show is about.
Sue Sylvester, the love-to-hate-her character you play on Glee, is similar to a few other "mean teacher" roles you’ve played in the past. And until mid-July you play the über-mean role of Miss Hannigan in Annie on Broadway, too. Does this sort of repeat typecasting bother you at all?
Oh no, I don't mind! I like having the work, for one thing. And I also sort of love extreme characters. It lets me explore that wacky side of things and have fun expressing extreme opinions.
You acted with Second City Improv in Chicago and have been a key player in many of Christopher Guest’s movies, where much of the dialogue is improvised. Do these skills affect your life outside of acting?
There’s no question that improv can help you in every realm of life. You learn to think fast on your feet, but most important, you learn to listen really well and be comfortable with silences in conversations. Because you can't do improv if you aren't listening to other people. I also find it helps you in conflicts, although I don't like to argue at all. I can’t say it comes naturally -- it’s something you have to hone.
You often play characters who sing -- but in fact, you’re deaf in one ear! How do you account for your musicality?