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Role Models - Jane Lynch Interview

by Rick Duran, Senior Editor

Jane Lynch has been one of the most recognizable comedic actresses of the decade. In Universal Pictures' Role Models, she gives one of her most insane performances yet as Gail Sweeney, head of the Sturdy Wings mentoring program.

The Frat Pack Tribute was part of a roundtable interview session with Lynch for a chat about Role Models, her impressive career and even her love of Ben Stiller.

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I guess you must have come up with that cocaine line based on your own personal experience.
Jane Lynch: Exactly! Yeah, I actually did some research. No, that was uh, one of the things that was wonderful about doing this movie was the, uh… a lot of meat on the bones, as they say. When you do these ensemble comedies, sometimes the script is very skeletal. And this was pretty… there was some substance. And all the cocaine stuff was there. We just kind of elaborated on it.

It seems though that you're good at playing these sort of off-the-wall women who have a semblance of normality when you get to know them.
JL: Right

Why do you think they come to you with these characters?
JL: I don't know, because I'm a very normal person. But I'm fascinated by people's… sense of entitlement and their confidence in, um… I don't have the balls to sway my power the way these people do. I would be embarrassed. [laughter] I only play people that I if were in the room with them, oh I would be so embarrassed by them. That's kind of what this character is. I would, you know, I could see right through her need for attention and to be seen as a tragic hero. I concocted, I think, this story about how terrible her drug-addled past was and still look…

Part of it seemed like she enjoyed it. She was kind of impressed by it too.
JL: She's clearly impressed by herself. It's kind of the old fishing story, you know, "I caught a fish! I caught a fish!" I her story's pretty improbable at this point. I don't think any ever happened.

Have you had any motivational speaker-type character in mind?
JL: Oh no, no. But you know, just because it's coming in my mind right now but it didn't before was Suzie Orman. She's a woman that has a way about her. I love her and am embarrassed for her all at the same time. [laughter] She's something. And I'm like, "Oh, oh I'm so embarrassed."

My wife loves her
JL: People just adore her, but I'm uncomfortable… I'm embarrassed for her. And uh, I didn't think about it for doing this role but she's kind of a person in life, and I'm not saying I don't like her. Uh, I'm just amazed by her… I guess its narcissism that she refers to herself in the third person. [laughs] "Well, Suzie says…" [laughs] Very much like Gail Sweeney. And these are people that I'm kind of… ugh, cringe in their presence.

What attracts you to a comedy script?
JL: I'm not that selective. I've been very lucky in that things that do come my way are quite good. Every once in a while, I'll get a clinker and have to pass. Uh, it's mostly who, like Paul wanted me to do this. He asked me to do this, so of course I'm gonna do something with Paul. And I got to meet all these terrific guys right in their little circle. You know… Ken Marino and David, who directed it, A.D. Miles, who I think might be one of the funniest people I've met. So it's kind of who, and I get very excited when I get to, you know, work with someone that I know was funny. And I loved working with Paul on 40 Year-Old Virgin, and he brought this up saying, "You know, we're working on this movie. Would you be interested?"

Are there people that you'd want to work with that you haven't had the chance to yet?
JL: Yeah, I would like to work with Ben Stiller. I think he's got the best going at what we're doing. I think his movies are, um… they go to really crazy places, but the story's always airtight. You know? They're not sloppy. Sometimes you can get sloppy. It's ok, I think it's ok. But I'm, uh, I'm not sloppy. [laughter] You know, uh, when I'm in charge, which I'm not, I've never been in charge of a movie but… you know, I've done characters in sketch comedy shows onstage and uh… I'm very less-is-more. I'm very aware of the structure of the thing happening, get to mend… I can get lost in that, trying to… I think Ben really hits that perfectly where it's structured really well and then it's crazy. I think his Simple Jack character, Zoolander… you know, they're such mockable people but they're so sweet. You know…

How about television? You go back and forth. Is there anything you want to do more of?
JL: Uh you know, every season I try to do… I hope that a pilot I do gets picked up. I would love to hang my hat somewhere for a while, but it doesn't seem to be the deal. I seem to… keep moving

You've been doing guest spots.
JL: I've been doing guest spots, yup. I love 'em and I love doing them. Um, uh, I seem to get off doing that stuff.

Boston Legal
JL: Boston Legal.

It's interesting that they cast you as the sex surrogate.
JL: Yeah.

That was a good role for you.
JL: Oh thank you. I think it's one of the most interesting… I'd love to see a whole show about sexual surrogacy. They probably couldn't do it on one of the networks. It's interesting, you know? A friend of mine, right before I got this part, had seen a sexual surrogate and I was really fascinated with the story.

What do they really do?
JL: You have therapy and then you have sex together. And then you take a shower and talk about how you felt.

JL: Yeah

What's the difference between that and prostitution?
JL: That's the thing in my first episode of Boston Legal, I was arrested. It was because I didn't have a… a license in, uh, Massachusetts. I had a license in Seattle, I think. Um, you know, it's a… it's a… you know, therapy. Therapy… what is the word?

JL: Yeah. Method is the word I'm looking for.

Did you do research on it?
JL: Yeah, I had done the research and didn't know I was doing it with my friend, who was with this woman for about six months. And he, you know, he told us… I was so fascinated by it. "Tell me what? Did you have an orgasm? Did she?" Did he forget? No, I think I think she doesn't. [laughter]

You part of this glory class from Second City. Are you surprised to see so many of these people in the industry still to today?
JL: Yeah, I didn't tour with, but I toured alongside. You know, there are always two touring companies with Second City. Steve Carell and Steve Colbert, they were in the same company. And Amy Sedaris and um… Greg Holland, you may know him. Tall black guy that does Strangers with Candy. And in my group was Tim Meadows. So when I see… especially what Steve and Stephen are doing, you know… they're… first of all, they're the nicest guys in the room. And uh, they weren't the big dangerous Second City guys, like Chris Farley was the one we were like, "Oh my God, he's awesome!" Um, uh… there were a couple of other people we watched. You would see Steve and Stephen be kind of the supporting guys. Um, but they, you know, found their… the world discovered their particular genius and it's really great to see.

What makes you laugh?
JL: Um… uh, what makes me laugh? [pauses] I laugh at myself a lot. I find myself endlessly entertaining. I think it's trying to… trying to pull off in the world. I don't think they're anything funnier than trying to be cool. And um…

Are you cool?
JL: Uh… I feel really cool right now.

Yeah, I get that from you.
JL: I came out pretty good. It's all kind of... I'm firing at all cylinders right now. But when I'm not, when something's just awry. And you know, I'm clumsy and I trip, and I move too fast, and I run into walls. That makes me chortle with glee. And I do… hopefully not in front of you. I don't want to do that in a room full of people.

Chortle or the running into walls?
JL: Running into walls. I'd just kill myself and laugh very hard.

Do you know what's coming in your cinematic…
JL: Cinematic? Yes, uh, I feel like I'm repeating myself. I hardly get it right. Julie andJulia, the Ephron movie about Julia Child.

Who are you in that?
JL: I play Meryl Streep… uh… Julia Child's sister, Dorothy.

Did you work with Meryl?
JL: Yes, I was her sister.

How was it?
JL: You know what? It was really difficult. I… I got through it and I think I actually did well. But I was, um… I was very nervous and um… uh, you know, it's a period piece, you know, in the forties. And these were VERY large people. I haven't made a big focal piece since I did Margaret III in college. [laughter] And uh, it was big. I had to pull out the big guns and make it real. I felt like a wig in a funny voice at some point, and I was really scared going in. Um, but you know… uh… she was lovely, gracious.

And she was wicked in the Julia role.
JL: Yes

Did you notice that?
JL: Yes, a little bit, but um… Stanley Tucci played Paul. And he's a funny, smart guy. So he was kind of… And I think Julia, I mean Meryl, was very focused. She's playing a very huge, eccentric character. And she wasn't necessarily wisecracking jokes. She was staying really focused.

So what else do you have coming out?
JL: Um, I just did a movie called Another Cinderella Story that came out on DVD. It is a kid's movie that was only on Nickelodeon. Kind of the High School Musical model with Selena Gomez. I'm really proud of that, it was good.

Do you sing in it?
JL: I do actually. I have a 1980s pop song. I'm the wicked stepmother and I have a pop song that's really funny. Um, and I… I did a pilot with Damon Wayans that's hanging in the balance. And I'm doing a pilot now with Ryan Murphy.

What if both pilots get picked up?
JL: Well, I can only be a regular on one. So the Damon Wayans thing was first. And it if doesn't go on, they release me from my contract. I can be a regular on the Ryan Murphy…

What's the Ryan Murphy one?
JL: It's called Glee. It's really funny, about a glee club in high school.

And you play…?
JL: I play the head of the cheerleaders, who are the real stars of this high school. [laughs] The Cheerios. And we get all the intra-mural money. And the glee club is all the losers, the kid in the wheelchair. [laughter] We were on Fox Sports Net, so we're kind of all that.

Ryan Murphy's got a pretty good track record.
JL: Yeah, he just wickedly funny. And this is just… this is great. You know, did you see Popular? That was Ryan kind of doing his wicked high school hierarchy thing. And then he went on to Nip/Tuck, which was completely different.

He was very funny in that.
JL: Yeah, but completely different. But now, he's back in high school and I think it's where he belongs. [laughs]

Is there a network looking at it?
JL: Actually, it's Fox and I think maybe the pilot will air. I think it's actually gonna go on air. And it will be on after American Idol, they want it to…

So it will be an on-air presence
JL: Yeah, they want it to come so it can hold that American Idol audience, you know. There are four musical numbers in every episode.

Do you get to sing in that too?
JL: They had me singing in the third or fourth episode that they've written. I don't know if we'll get to shoot them. And I don't know… I don't know what happened that the head of the cheerleaders is singing. But I can't… [laughter] I can't wait. I hope I can do it. I hope I can be there for the whole thing.

Now I think you steal this particular movie. Was there one particular moment that amuses you? Any of your…
JL: There's a moment that didn't get into the movie because I ruined it… for A.D. Miles. He is talking to Kerri Kenney and Ken Marino saying, you know, he's gonna be Augie's new 'Big.' And he goes, "I have one philosophy." And I'm in the foreground, he's in the background. He says, "And that is with these kids, I just want to have F…," No, "I just want to do F-U," and I could not keep it together. And you think he's gonna spell something else, and it's not in the movie because I ruined every take.

Will it be on the DVD?
JL: That would be fun.

Was it hard to keep a straight face with the hotdog scene?
JL: I didn't find it that funny [laughs] It was funny.

In the last scene, it feels odd because they stretched it so long.
JL: I know. I do find that funny and I love how sophomoric it is. I have the sense of humor of a sixteen year-old. [laughter] But A.D. Miles is one of the funniest people I've ever been… I just can't keep it together.

Did you ever mess up the timing when she comes out behind the tv?
JL: I don't know, we shot it a lot, I'm sure I messed it. I'm sure they used the best.

Did you have a cue? Did someone wave you? How did they time it?
JL: Umm… I think I knew by the music. I'm thinking the music, that was the first… We shot the, uh, the video. The "This is Sturdy Wings" we shot, that was the first thing I shot. And the second thing I shot was that, so I was still… it was new. It was like my first, second day.

Do you have a sophomoric sense of humor?
JL: Yeah. I love making fart jokes. I have a friend who, a woman in her forties as well like myself, who just, uh… that's our whole thing. We're doubled-over. We're like sixteen year-old boys. We fart at each other.

JL: [laughter] We do! You know, you really don't want to be around us, it's kind of, uh, sad that we're still doing this stuff. And she says, "We're still killing these jokes. We're killin' em!"

Do you see movies that reflect that as well?
JL: I love Something About Mary. [laughs] Was it Something About Polly? Where… isn't it…

Along Comes Polly
JL: Along Comes Polly. Right, where he eats in the Indian restaurant. [laughs] He's in her bathroom, he can't stop himself. And it's like [simulated fart sound] and he's sweating. He's like, "Oh God."

That's a kind of funny underrated movie.
JL: Aww… that was the best. That was classic. Greatest feat

You know what I really enjoyed of yours was the lap dance scene that you gave John C. Reilly in Walk Hard.
JL: Can I say that was one of the most uncomfortable things I've ever done? [laughter]

Please do expand on that
JL: It was… we were finishing, we were done and almost wrapped, and they said, "Give him a lap dance." Alright, whatever. [laughter] It's hard!

Excuse me?
JL: It's h… it's hard. [laughter] He's hard! No no, it's difficult. It takes a lot of strength. I was sweating, my legs were shaking. Those girls are in good shape.

Had you been doing any research on that?
JL: Not at all, it was just a last minute thing. I think I might have said, "Let me give him a lap…" I think I'm my own worst enemy in that.

Was it uncomfortable for him that you're aware of?
JL: No, I think he was fine. It wasn't uncomfortable, we were laughing.

Is there a role you think you're more recognized for? Because you've been in some really popular stuff and also some cult classics too.
JL: Yeah, that's nice, thanks. I've been very lucky, for some reason some of them end up being… No, not really, but I can always tell the, um, demographic. If it's a young man: 40 Year-Old Virgin. And if it's like, you… not that you're not a young man, but you're a smart-looking young person, like if it's a middle-aged person, it's usually Best in Show. One of the Christopher Guest…

Going off on Chris, do you think he's going to do more of these?
JL: Not that I know of.

He's done?
JL: I heard that. In fact, I heard it from him. But I've also heard that he's said that every time, so… I don't know. I hope he's not done. But this might be it, and if it is, it was a really great run.

Which is your favorite one of those?
JL: My favorite one to watch was Guffman. It was a revelation.

I think that still remains his best film.
JL: Yeah, I do too. I think Best in Show was a close second, because it was also structured very well. Not that the other ones weren't, but I thought it was just perfect.

I thought Eugene Levy was very funny in Best in Show.
JL: Yeah, yeah

That little Yorkie is just… how could you not love him?
JL: Yeah! [laughs] Yeah.

What do you think you've learned the most working with Chris?
JL: Um… to just trust; to trust yourself and trust the moment. He's a complete advocate of the moment.

We heard that Seann is now writing a mockumentary script.
JL: Good!

He going to be asking you to be in it.
JL: Oh I hope so.

Ice Fishing in Minnesota.
JL: Oh good, he's from Minnesota. So I'm sure he's got some good stuff. Yeah, that would be great; that needs to be done.

We're gonna start the movement right here.
JL: Yeah [laughs] Good, start some buzz around it.

Do you ever think about writing anything?
JL: I have written before; I haven't in a long time. Well, about ten years. I did a show ten years ago that I wrote; A one-person-y thing with four other people. I haven't… but you know, when we do these… not so much Role Models, because it was really written well. You know, when we do the Christopher Guest movies and anything with Judd Apatow, you've got your writer cap on, I think, the whole time. You've got to keep track of the story and you try to bring something interesting into it that will, you know, tell a story. And that's what writers do.

How about directing?
JL: I'd love to direct. You know, I've barely… in this medium, I'll barely know where the camera is sometimes. I don't have that awareness. Um, but I need to learn it more technically because I do love to direct and I love to tell stories.

Are you looking for something to direct?
JL: Um, not in particular, no.

What about returning to the stage?
JL: Um, I don't know that I'll return to the stage, trot the boards, right now anyway. I saw Allison Janney in 9 to 5 last night.

How was that?
JL: Fantastic. It's a peppy, sweet little show. She's amazing in it, she's such a bright light. And um, it was so great to see her in it. My friend turned to me, she said, "You think you can do that again? You want to be in theatre?" I said no, I love what I'm doing now.

Were you part of the Christine Taylor pilot last year?
JL: I was, yeah!

What was that? What was the story about that?
JL: Nothing really happened with it, but it was… you know, I was gonna get my opportunity to work with Ben because he was going to direct it. But it was, um, Christine as herself married to Ben Stiller and I was her mother. You know, they were living in a mansion in Bel-Air and I was from, like, wherever her mom was from; Pennsylvania, a kind of small town. And, uh, Francis… I forget his last name, good looking actor who was on TV Set… he's in some series now, he played the brother. And um… Franz, his name was Franz.

Was Ben going to be in it?
JL: He was gonna have like a cameo in it. And M. Night Shyamalan was going to be in it.

JL: Yeah

Was it a single-camera comedy?
JL: It would've been single-camera, yeah. And it just, you know… when we did the read-through and you had all the heavy-guns of television listening to it, which was one of the reasons he probably let it go, it just needed… it needed to be better. Great cast and everything, it just needed to… But that would've been a break.

So when you're hired for something, do they ask you for a specific type of character? Or do they ask what are your thoughts on this?
JL: Uh, I auditioned for that, so I kind of came in with some thoughts and did some things that weren't on the page.

I mean for like Role Models.
JL: Um, yeah, Paul and David said do whatever you want; throw the script away if you want, but it was good. I didn't need to throw it away, it was great.

So you did improv anyway?
JL: Yeah, we did a lot of improv , but I found what was on the page was sufficient at times. Many times, I could've just done what was on the page and then we would, you know, take it to crazy places and that ended up being a good thing.

Did you see Superbad before you worked with Chris (Mintz-Plasse)?
JL: Superbad? Yes, I had seen it. He was a revelation, if I could use that word again. He, uh, he's pretty amazing. He's a nice kid.

He is?
JL: Yeah, he's a really nice kid. He's kind of a rock star now. I saw him at a premiere a couple weeks ago and was a little shell-shocked. Alright, thank you guys. It was fun, it was fun. See you next time.

Role Models opens November 7th, 2008

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