Jane Lynch is perhaps best known for her role as Sue Sylvester, cheerleading coach and nemesis of the Glee Club at McKinley High on the show Glee. She’s also appeared in a number of films including The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Role Models, and the Christopher Guest mockumentaries, A Mighty Wind and Best in Show.
Jenn White talks to Lynch about her career and what advice she has for young people pursuing careers in the arts.
Editor’s note: This interview is edited for clarity and conciseness.
On taking the first step
A lot of times parents didn’t allow themselves to be their artistic selves because “there’s no money in it”… We live in a very materialistic world and we measure things… yet we don’t even have the language to describe the artistic experiences we have; the catharsis — that feeling that wells up inside us when we see a dancer or a beautiful painting or when we laugh our butts of at someone who is hilarious. …I think it’s an act of heroism to stay with your compulsion to create.
I was so full of anxiety. I was so afraid the parade was going to pass me by. I wish that someone could have told me to just relax. Just to have faith in your own life.
On her experience after graduating
I came to Chicago from Cornell. I graduated from there with an MFA — which gets you nothing. But there’s so much in Chicago. In fact, probably more in Chicago than any other city in this country. These little theaters pop up, and there’s this let’s-put-on-a-show-energy. …It was a blast.
On the leap from small screen to film
This [Frosted Flakes commercial] is an example of staying open. That whole “I don’t want to do commercials”, “I’m too big for commercials” or “what is that going to get me” — no. I did that commercial because it was a blast. I showed up for work and it was being directed by Christopher Guest. [It ended up being] a beautiful, happy accident.
On taking the big left turn in improv
I’m fascinated with what people try to pull off in the world and what they want other people to think of them. It’s really kind of posturing; the darkness just pops out and you allow your true face to [show].
On what’s next
Two shows at the Lyric, which is amazing because they fired me back in 1982.
Lynch is one of the commencement speakers at Columbia College Chicago’s graduation ceremonies this May.