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?
Well, I come from a rather musical family. No one is a musician, per se, but we always listened to a lot of pop music and Broadway shows and we were always singing at home. As for my hearing, well…I have one really good ear and that's all I need!
You’ve long supported groups like PETA and other animal rights orgs. What’s behind that passion?
It’s simple: I adore animals and always have. I mean, I love every kind, even the ones other people are freaked by -- like snakes and rats. Animals have such a deep dignity in their eyes -- and when they’re babies, oh, they are extra cute. Right now I have two dogs: Francis, a 2-year-old rescue, Olivia, a 13-year-old Lhasa Apso, and two cats.
What’s your best health habit?
I am a "green eater." By that I mean that I eat a salad with every meal, every day based on spinach or arugula or other dark leafy -- as well as smoothies with kale or another green in the morning. I didn't always eat this way, but now that I do, it's a strong habit.
Definitely overeating. I have a hard time with not overdoing things; I can be compulsive and so when I overdo things, I do it big. So basically I just work really hard not to throw in the towel because of a setback. Even though I am quite tall, for my body I can't really get away with too much of a weight swing, so it's another reason I try to eat healthy.
What’s the best piece of health advice you’ve ever been given?
Moderation -- in everything.
What’s your health philosophy?
Your thoughts are very powerful and can even affect your health. Every day I try to stay very positive and grateful in my thoughts, and I want to send those feelings into the world toward others.
Do you have a regular exercise regime?
Not really, unfortunately. For me, it’s sort of like pulling teeth to commit to exercise. But when I am working out, it usually just involves hiking.
Hollywood can be a really nutty place. How do you stay sane?
That’s really not an issue for me. Look, I love my life. I love my house. I love the weather. I love it all!
What would your ideal day look like?
Okay, well, for starters, it would be perfectly sunny. I'd first have coffee with friends; then lunch with friends; then dinner with friends. I'd get home around 7 p.m., and crawl into bed with my computer and some inspirational books. You know what? I get to do that sort of day a lot. It's great.
Choose your superpower: invisibility or flight?
Well, if you want to be invisible, that might mean you’re trying to learn something you shouldn't. And I don’t want that. So I'd choose to fly. For one thing: no security lines! In fact, I have dreams often in which I am flying and it's just so exhilarating.
Find more articles, browse back issues, and read the current issue of "WebMD Magazine."