I’ve been a massive fan of Jane Lynch’s for years, ever since she played the hilarious dog trainer Christy Cummings in Christopher Guest’s Best In Show. Of course, most of the world knows her as the ball-busting Sue Sylvester on Fox’s Glee. Now, she’s starring in the new feature film ACOD – Adult Children of Divorce, for short – alongside the likes of Adam Scott, Amy Poehler and Catherine O’Hara, where she continues to prove that she’s one of Hollywood’s funniest and most underrated actresses.
I was lucky enough to catch up with Jane via telephone last week to ask a few questions. Miraculously, I didn’t throw up from excitement.
I really loved ACOD and thought it was really funny. What drew you?
“The first thing that brought me in was Adam Scott. He’s a friend – we worked together on Party Down – and I love him and thought it would be fun to work with him. I said yes out of the gate and then I read the script and thought it was really funny. Stuart and I had a great conversation on the phone, after, and I got even more psyched.
It must’ve been hard to keep a straight face with so many great comedic actors around – Amy Poehler, Adam Scott, Richard Jenkins, Catherine O’Hara… “I only worked with Adam and he always makes me laugh. We really enjoyed each other and each other’s performances, I think. We had a really wonderful time together doing those scenes.”
The story really poked fun at some of the issues grown up kids of divorced parents might face. Do you think there’s any truth to that?
“Oh, there’s a total reality! It’s Stuart Zicherman’s story – his parents were awful to each other and it’s his story going through this. Ben Karlin, his co-writer – they’ve known each other since they were ten. Ben’s also an adult child of divorce and they grew up to be comedy writers. They can see the funny in anything, so there’s plenty of reality to it!”
Everyone loves Party Down – what are the chances of getting the cast back together?
“There’s hope – I don’t know that there’s plans. There were the beginning of plans about a year ago, but I haven’t heard anything since!”
What about a Christopher Guest project?
“Not that I know of, but Chris is one of those guys who can surprise you, so maybe something will pop up!”
You tend to take on a lot of powerful, aggressive roles – is that a natural draw for you?
“I think so! I think it suits me. It’s kind of my vibe I give off and you know, I enjoy doing that very much. I don’t feel that way in life – I’m fascinated with people who know how to lead and take charge and have that kind of confidence. I don’t necessarily have that – I’m more of a follower – but I’m fascinated by people who do, so every time I get to play it I realise I can’t be that way in real life, but I can act it.
People assume that and I think I’ve cultivated that part of myself recently because of that. When people view you in a certain way, you start acting that way. I’ve become much more of a person who’s in charge and a leader than I was years ago.”
Do you feel pigeon-holed into roles like that because of that vibe? “No, not really! I’ve been really lucky in that every once in a while I’ll get something that’s really outside of what has been my stock and trade and that’s always a lot of fun, like my role in Julie and Julia. Even Party Down, she was a character that was very passive, silly and sweet – doesn’t have a mean bone in her body and is almost in a coma in terms of forward energy in her life!”
You got a Walk of Fame star earlier this month – how did that come about?
“I found out over a year ago that it was announced. It was a very unreal thing, I was honored. They said they’d pick a date sometime in the future so it was very unreal, so it came together in just a few weeks and became very real and a great honor. It’s almost an unimaginable honor in that it’s not something I had on my bucket list. It kinda came out of the blue and I was just thrilled. I really took that day in and really allowed it to penetrate my heart deeply. I really felt it and really enjoyed it.”
You have been a working actress for so many years and it’s really only in the past 5 years or so that you’re finding that sweet spot. Is it Glee that was really responsible for that?
“Glee definitely took me to the next level, but Best In Show kinda started it and took me from obscurity to not-so-much obscurity. Glee took it up to that next level, though, for sure!”
Having been a working actress for a few decades now, has Hollywood improved for women during that time?
“Well, there’s a lot of the same stuff. As you drive down Hollywood Boulevard and you see the billboard for movies, if you were an alien, you’d think only men live on this planet and women are basically in the supporting roles. You read The Hollywood Reporter and it’ll say Al Pacino, Robert DeNiro and Sean Penn are coming together for a Clint Eastwood movie – I’m making this up – and oh, Sigourney Weaver is playing someone’s secretary. You still see that going on and that’s just kind of… sure, there are great movies but in terms of industry that tells everyone’s story, not so great.
In my time in Hollywood, I have seen the rise of especially the younger women like Lena Dunham, Amy Poehler and Tina Fey who have an unquestionable entitlement to their seat at the table and they’re changing things. My friend Jill Soloway – who I just did Afternoon Delight with – is another one who doesn’t question her right to create and she’s had a fantastic career just because she expects it, and I think there’s a lot to be said about it.”
What kind of advice do you have for young creative people?
“Well, I was that person until I was about 40 and one thing I will say I did – one reason I wasn’t buckled over or weighed down by a lack of quote unquote success – is that I loved it so much. I loved performing so much that I just kept doing the next thing and the next thing. I always showed up and I always did my best because I couldn’t do anything less and it paid off. For some people, it doesn’t pay off, but doing your best is always the important thing. Plus, having that entitlement to the table where the power is will get you much further. You have to cultivate that for yourself. Maybe you weren’t born with that kind of confidence but you need to affirm that because it counts for everything.”
Any experiences over your career that have really stuck out? I’m sure there are plenty!
“When I worked with Meryl Streep and not just because she’s the greatest living American actress. I really watched her – observed her, I wasn’t stalking her or anything. I was very interested; she grabbed my attention. I love the way she works – she works very specifically and very quietly when the camera’s not rolling. Every take is different but always still in the boundaries of the character. In this particular movie she was playing a huge character, an eccentric character in Julia Child. To watch her ramp that up and give her 100% every time made me think, “Wow, this is what it’s about. It’s about being in this moment and giving it everything you have within the confines of the character’. I had a feeling that’s what it was about, but it really made it for me.”
What else can we expect to see from you in the near future?
“There will be more Glee, of course – we premiered last Thursday. Hollywood Game Night will be back with more, as well, early next year, so I’ll be doing more of those soon. And then the world’s my oyster!”
ACOD hits theatres on Friday, October 4. Watch the trailer below: