As the reigning Emmy champ in the Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy category, Jane Lynch was all but guaranteed a trip to this year's Emmys as a returning nominee. But two weeks ago, Lynch added a considerable new wrinkle to her 2011 Emmy experience: she's also hosting the show, bringing a touch of her indelible "Glee" character Sue Sylvester – she of the track suits and withering putdowns – to the stage of the Nokia Theater on September 18.
On the heels of a season that ended with the death of her character's sister, Lynch is shooting scenes as Mother Superior in the Farrelly brothers' "Three Stooges" movie, and also finishing her memoir, which will be published in the fall. (Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images)
Have you had any meetings about what you'll be doing on the Emmys?
We haven't talked at all about it, so it's the great unknown right now. I just know that I'm doing it, that's all.
Did you say yes right away when they asked?
Yes, yes, I did. It was the same cocktail of feelings that I had when they asked me to do "Saturday Night Live": extreme fear, trepidation and yet elation.
"SNL" seems to have become the proving ground for awards show hosts – if you can host that show, they figure you can host the Oscars or the Emmys.
I enjoyed that a lot. I got all the jitters out at rehearsal that night. By the time they were doing the opening credits, I was backstage in that tiny little area before you come out, and I was cool, I was okay. Although I watched it the other day with my daughter, and I look so caffeinated and hopped up.
Last year's host, Jimmy Fallon, was a very active host: he did the big opening number that you were in, and then other musical numbers in the show as well. How do you see yourself doing the job?
I don’t know. Jimmy did a couple of musical numbers, and I enjoy them, so I would love that. But I have to meet with the writers. The thing that was inspiring about him is that he makes it look easy. He doesn't stress, he's all smiles, and he just is who he is.
Can you be that relaxed and stress-free, even if you’re both the host and a nominee?
Yeah. If I feel I'm taken care of, and I always am, absolutely. I have great faith that I will be prepared, and all I'll have to deal with is some adrenaline, and hope it doesn't overtake me the way it did in the monologue on "Saturday Night Live."
When you won an award from Outfest last year, you said that your personal hero was Carol Brady, from "The Brady Bunch." What would she advise about hosting the Emmys?
"Just do your best, and that's all you can ask. Be nice to everybody, do your work, be over-prepared, and let it take care of itself." And when I unleash that Carol Brady advice, it is a great relief to me. I live by that.
What was your Emmy experience like last year? Did you go in with expectations that you might win?
No. The thing I was most jazzed about was being in that opening number. I loved working with everybody, because it was such a cross-section of television: Jon Hamm, Betty White, Kate whatshername from "Kate Plus Eight" … That was really fun. I don’t know if I'm the most evolved human being you’ve ever talked to, but one way or another I was just happy to be there.
When you first saw a script for "Glee," was the character similar to the way she turned out?
Yeah, she was. I think we took her a little more extreme than in the script. But she was a pretty extreme person: the first thing that was said about her was "Sue Sylvester may or may not have posted for Penthouse, and may or may not be on horse estrogen." Which says a lot about a person, I think.
The first thing we shot was when I bring everybody into the teachers' lounge for coffee, and I tell them all, "I like mine scalding." There's no middle road for Sue Sylvester, and we kind of established that right away. And that was deliciously fun.
She's been through a lot of ups and downs over the first two seasons. What have been favorite things to do?
The extreme stuff makes me laugh. I loved that she tried to shoot Brittany out of a cannon. Throwing Artie and the kids in wheelchairs into the lockers was questionable, but funny. And when I got to tear up Figgins' office, and then tear up the locker room, that was a wonderful experience. I destroyed those rooms.
The season ended on quite a serious note for the character.
My sister passed away, and that was something they came up with right before they wrote that script. Ryan [Murphy] came to me and said, "I want you to be okay with this before we go forward, and if you're not we'll do something else." And I loved Robin Trocki, the girl who played my sister, but something needed to break for Sue. She was going a little crazy, and something needed to happen to bottom her out.
Do you have any idea what's in store in season three?
Well, I don’t know what's going to happen with the kids. I know that they'll be seniors, so they’ll all have the attendant anxieties that go with that in kids who are ambitious and want to make their mark in the world, as all these kids do.
And Sue Sylvester, of course her sister died, and she's sworn off humiliating and chasing around the glee club, and she's going to put her targets elsewhere. And it looks like she's running for congress. In an election year, I think that should make for some damn good television.
You have a book coming out later this year.
I do. It's called "Happy Accidents," and it's a memoir, and I wrote it myself with my wife (Lara Embry, right). I really step outside my life, which I've started to do lately, because so much has happened. I got married, my career is where I never imagined it would be. So I started looking at it, and connecting dots throughout my life, and I found it to be a pretty entertaining story.
Were parts of the story tough to get into?
Well, you know, I stayed away from kissing and telling and taking anybody else's internal inventory, and just took my own. It's basically about my struggles, and how hard I made it on myself in some ways. I was very self critical, and didn’t have any faith in my life or in the word, and I felt very alone a lot of the time.
I'm not advocating that people buy it because it's going to change their life. But I will say that it might help people, especially kids, the gay kids who are out there in places where there's homophobia. I mean, I dealt with my own internalized homophobia, and I tell that story and I think kids might get hope out of that.
But other than that it's an entertaining story. It entertained us, we laughed a lot – at my expense, most of the time.
Isn't collaborating with a spouse on something like this supposed to be the kiss of death? How was your working relationship?
It was really good. In our first year of marriage, we've done things that people do over a 50 year relationship. She moved out of Sarasota, Florida, where she had a thriving practice as a psychologist, we took her child out of the third grade in the only home she'd ever known, we moved her out here, my career took off, we're going to awards shows … It just makes sense that we write this book together, and we did beautifully. We stayed open, nobody walked out, and writing this book, really brought us closer.