In the all-new Super Bowl XLV episode of Glee, Will Schuester (Matthew Morrison) and Coach Beiste (Dot Jones) devise a plot to bring together the warring factions of the Glee Club and the football team. With Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch) desperate to win cheerleading Nationals, she launches a dangerous and devious plan to bring home a trophy. For this special episode, the singing numbers are bigger, the cheerleading performances are wilder, and there are pyrotechnics, smoke machines and zombies.
During a conference call to promote this episode, as well as the remaining episodes of Season 2, show star Jane Lynch talked about the monumental production for this highly anticipated show, her favorite type of Glee episodes, how she sees Sue Sylvester influencing women today, her favorite one-liner from her much-loved character, and what the hit show has done for her career. She also revealed that Sue Sylvester will suffer a devastating loss this season, leaving her in a state of depression that will lead her to join the Glee Club and raise her spirits through song. Check out what she had to say after the jump:
Question: The Super Bowl is such an iconic, masculine thing, and then Glee gets thrown in there with its very gay-centric themes. What do you think of this world that we live in, when these two things can actually come together and work?
JANE LYNCH: Well, that’s funny, I never looked it that way, but you’re absolutely right. It all remains to be seen. Football is very masculine and, to me, a metaphor for war. You’ve got your air game and your ground game, and then you’ve got these “light in your loafers” guys, singing and dancing. I think it’s a terrific world we live in, and I love seeing these two things come together.
How monumental was the production for the Super Bowl episode?
LYNCH: It is a big episode. It’s like the Madonna episode. It’s the episode we shot for four months. It dragged on that long. I think we actually started after the holidays, but we needed to pick up a couple of really quick reaction shots, during the “Thriller” song. They were really quick and fast, but everybody had to get back into the zombie make-up, etc. It was a big deal for two shots.
Does Sue Sylvester get to be meaner than usual on Super Bowl Sunday?
LYNCH: She does. We’re doing an episode of Glee that is on steroids and writ large. Sue Sylvester is a little bored with her routine, even though she has kids riding around on BMX bikes and jumping through fire. With Katy Perry’s “California Gurls,” she wants to top herself, so she finds out there’s a human cannon in town, she buys it and wants to shoot Brittany (Heather Morris) out of it, and she has two hissy fits, where she just rips two rooms apart. It was definitely Sue Sylvester, on the war path.
Do you feel a little more anticipation, coming up to the Super Bowl episode?
LYNCH: No, not really. I was thrilled, but if I’m singing and dancing, there’s always a little bit of anticipation and anxiety.
Do you have a Super Bowl pick?
LYNCH: People have asked me that, and I say Green Bay because I’m from the Midwest. But really, I don’t care. I hope somebody wins and is happy about it.
Which kind of episode do you think Glee does best? Is it better when you have these highly anticipated Madonna/Super Bowl episodes, or do you prefer episodes where it’s just the regular storyline playing out?
LYNCH: I think what I love about this show is that every episode is a big deal and they do something outrageous, or someone has an outrageous moment, with the exception of maybe just a couple of episodes. I look forward to getting the script, all the time. These shows – where we’re doing Britney Spears or Madonna or the Super Bowl, and it’s something special – are very fun and there’s always a lot of anticipation. I know they have a lot of production meetings for certain songs, and certain episodes are heavier than others, in terms of pre-production, but I like them all.
After the Super Bowl episode, there’s the Valentine’s Day episode, two days after. Is there love for Sue in that episode?
LYNCH: I am not in that next episode, so Sue will be finding no love. I’m on the bench – to use a football metaphor – for that next Valentine’s episode.
Who was your own first love?
LYNCH: My first love, in my head, believe it or not, was Ron Howard.
Does he know about that?
LYNCH: I don’t know. He will soon. I’m writing a book.
What made you decide to write a book?
LYNCH: Basically, how it came together is that I’ve been giving speeches at banquets and people have wanted to know more about me. I started writing things down and I was telling a friend about it, who’s a writer, and she said, “There’s a book in there.” So, I sat down and looked at it, and I thought, “You know what? There is a book in there.”
Can you give any juicy little tidbits about it?
LYNCH: I think a little tidbit I can give you is that I grew up with basically everything handed to me, except for my career. I worked for that. But, I had a really good family, and I was brought up with a lot of love, but still I chose, time after time after time, to suffer over so much. That mental component of suffering is the thing that, when I look back on my life, I realize is a choice. To this day, I still would choose the angst over something easier, when I really don’t have to. I know it sounds new age-y, but what I’ve truly come up with is that you really need to trust that you’re on your own path, as long as you stay true to it and you show up, which is 99% of it.
Glee is all about being in high school, and a bunch of teenagers who are really insecure and still finding out who they are and what they want to be. What is the best piece of advice that you could offer your 17-year-old self?
LYNCH: If I could go back, I would tell myself, “Do not suffer and don’t sweat it. Don’t try to control things. Just let your life happen. Show up and do your best, everywhere you go, but there’s no reason to beat up on yourself.” That’s what I would say.
Are you going to go into the deep, dark parts of your life, and your past with alcoholism, in your book?
LYNCH: Of course, I have my own deep, dark places, but the message coming out of it is that it’s all a choice on whether you suffer through your life. Do you have to have that mental component of suffering? I definitely was depressed, and I thought everything was dark and hopeless, but that was a point of view that I didn’t have to have.
Have you learned anything about your life, by looking back on it now for your book?
LYNCH: Yes, I did. I went through my scrapbook and I went through photographs, and as I’m telling these stories, I started to see that it’s a little more interesting than I thought it was. I also learned how I made things much harder on myself than they needed to be.
Since you grew up watching The Carol Burnett Show and with that influencing your life, in what ways have you seen Sue Sylvester influencing young women today?
LYNCH: That’s an interesting question. I hope that girls see what’s possible for them and that they don’t have to play a stereotype, and Sue is not a stereotype. You don’t have to be anything that anybody tells you that you have to be. You can find these really crazy characters out there, and see that there’s more possible for you than maybe you’re led to believe.
The past two years have been a huge two years for you and for Sue Sylvester. Now, when you go to work and get the scripts, do you just expect the antics, or is there anything about the character and what she gets up to that still takes you by surprise?
LYNCH: Of course, the addition of having a sister with Down’s Syndrome took me completely by surprise. Carol Burnett coming on, as my Nazi-hunter mother, took me by surprise. I was very surprised when Sue said that her mother was a famous Nazi-hunter, that it was true. Sue once said, “I smoked out Noriega with Special Forces,” and I’m sure we’ll do an episode where maybe an old war buddy of hers comes back and indeed that was true, too.
What else will viewers see, coming up for Sue and for Glee, in the second half of the season?
LYNCH: Sue suffers a devastating loss after the Super Bowl episode, and she becomes very, very depressed. She becomes dangerously depressed, where she’s more violent than usual. They get her to join the Glee Club to lift her spirits, and they find that raising her voice in song lifts her, and she gets out of her depression. So, I’m actually in the Glee Club for a while.
From your perspective, what has Glee done for your career?
LYNCH: Well, I found out, in the middle of the first season, that we have employment for three seasons, and that has never happened to me before. It is wonderful to know that I will be employed, barring a big catastrophe, for the foreseeable future. I haven’t had that in my life before, and it’s a huge psychological relief. Then, I’ll probably go back to job-hunting, like I always do. I think I’m starting to become more popular and the character has become iconic and they say all wonderful things.
Do you ever think that the show sometimes gets too far-fetched?
LYNCH: Every script I read, I go, “You’ve got to be kidding,” and that’s why I’m glad that I’m not writing the show. It always goes too far. It’s always ridiculous. Look at how mean Sue gets and how everybody lets me get away with it. It’s all ridiculous and I love it. I’m glad I’m not writing it because I would have made it more realistic and I would have given her altruistic motivations.
Obviously, Sue has a very evil and dastardly side, but she also has quite a soft side. Which do you prefer playing?
LYNCH: I love when I get an equal dose. I like to get the variety. I like for Sue Sylvester to be firing on all cylinders. I don’t like to stick to one thing for too long, and the writers make sure of that, which is great.
Besides Sue Sylvester, who’s your favorite character on Glee?
LYNCH: Good question. I’m loving Coach Beiste (Dot Jones). I love how big her heart is, and I love how selfless and heroic she is.
Do you have favorite Sue Sylvester one-liners?
LYNCH: I like the one where I say, “Loving musical theater doesn’t make you gay, it just makes you awful.”
Glee has always had some stellar guest stars. How is it working with them?
LYNCH: It’s great. Everybody that comes on set, they’re here because they love music and they love the idea of ushering these kids through some of the toughest years of their life, hormonally and emotionally, with the power of music. Gwyneth Paltrow is back. She’s going to do a couple of episodes, and she’s working with us this week. She’s just the best. She’s great. She’s here because she wants to dance and sing, and put a good message out to the kids.
Sometimes it seems like Sue really is trying to destroy the Glee Club, and other times it seems like she’s trying to improve it through tough love. Are these two natures of Sue going to come to a head, at some point, or is there a way you would like to push the character to choose one or the other?
LYNCH: I don’t know if that will ever happen. The thing I keep coming back to with Sue, that motivates all these different ways she goes after them, is that she just wants an enemy. She’s looking for the next fight. Sometimes, it’s that fight to get these people to stand up for themselves, instead of being so weak and wussy. And other times, it’s about destroying them because they threaten her spotlight with the Cheerios. She works so hard to make a world-class cheerleading squad, and she doesn’t want anything in their light. But, I think she’s always looking for a formidable enemy. She also has a fondness for Will, who he is and how he’s genuinely just a good person. In moments, she hates him for it, and other moments, she has great admiration for him.
How do you achieve that mean character, from an acting standpoint, without taking away from the authenticity?
LYNCH: Well, I can tie them all together. She’s a human being. She has all different colors to her. But, as long as I keep it rooted in some truth, anything really can work. I have to keep it as truthful as possible, at any given moment, whether she’s ranting or she’s helping somebody out.
Sue is clearly so talented as a coach, with multiple national titles, but it never quite seems to be enough for her. Why do you think she wouldn’t go after a bigger playing field? Do you think it’s just because she wants to remain the big fish in the small pond?
LYNCH: I think she wants to stay the big fish in a small pond. I think she has grand ambitions, but I think she knows that she will never be anything bigger than an Ohio coach, and a terror at this high school.
You have such great comedic timing. Is it natural for you, or have you had to hone it?
LYNCH: I think it’s natural, but I have honed it. I play around with it all the time, but I think it is something that does come naturally.
There are at least one or two shows that are coming out in the fall, that certainly seem to be motivated by the success of Glee. How does it feel to know the show has inspired that?
LYNCH: We’re too busy to care what anybody else is doing, but it’s flattering and they sound like something I would like to watch.
What is your advice to aspiring actors?
LYNCH: Good question. It’s so deep. When it comes down to it, just keep doing it. Do it for free. Do it for money. Do it when no one shows up. Do it when everybody shows up. Just keep doing it.