The secrets of Sue Sylvester

Actress Jane Lynch spills the beans on Glee’s arch nemesis – the character we love to hate

Interview, Television, Time In
Interview, Television, Time In
Interview, Television, Time In

Musical comedy drama Glee has proved a mega-hit across the world: its songs have topped global music charts, and its cast members have become overnight superstars. We caught up with Jane Lynch to find out what it’s like to work on one of the biggest TV shows of the past year and whether her alter-ego, Sue Sylvester, is really as cold-hearted as she seems.

How did you get involved with Glee?
Ryan Murphy, the show’s creator, invited me. I was actually working in Vancouver; I got the script and they asked to me to do the part, and I loved it – I laughed out loud. I thought Sue was just delicious. Originally it was supposed to be a regular role, but I was already involved in another pilot so we made it a guest star. And by the second or third episode that deal went away, and I became a regular.

When you think back to your own high school days, can you relate to the clique culture?
Absolutely! I was one of those people that travelled in many different groups, but my heart and soul was definitely with the choir kids. It was the last hour of the day and I would always rush off to choir; that’s where I felt most at home and had the most fun. I also had friends that were cheerleaders and others who were like the burnouts, and a couple of pals who were nerdy and smart. So I kinda moved around within all of the social groups.

Has your character evolved throughout the show?
She has become meaner and meaner, but there have been a couple of moments in this season where we got to see the softer side of Sue. She fell in love in one episode and she got her heart broken. And we also found out something about her personal life, some of her family members. We had a little more compassion for her, but not for very long. She’s not giving a lot of hugs, she’s not gonna change, she’s always going to be kind of mean, but also very self-aware – she knows her game, she gets herself. And I think what makes it even funnier is that she relishes how evil she can be.

What was different about the Glee script that made you laugh out loud?
It’s funny, I’ll be reading a character description, and one of the things that made me laugh out loud about Sue Sylvester was Will Schuester’s voiceover saying, ‘Sue Sylvester may or may not have posed for Penthouse.’ That cracked me up and it gave me such a strong sense of who this woman is. You know, this is basically a woman that would do anything to get herself in the spotlight.

You’ve performed quite a few roles this year. How do you keep yourself fresh all the time?
I’ve worked maybe three or four days – it’s not like I work five or seven days a week like a lot people do. I’ll come in for two or three days, then I’ll go away, then I come back a week later and do two days. I don’t work every day, so it’s easy to stay fresh, and I’m always chompin’ at the bit to go back to work.

So will you just be playing the same role for a while?
I don’t know. I mean, I’d be happy to do this for as long as they want me to do it. I love it.

The Glee season finale airs on Sunday July 31 at 9pm on America Plus

You may recognise her from...

Best in Show (2000)
In this hilarious mockumentary focusing on five contestants in a prestigious dog show, Lynch plays trainer Christy Cummings, who saves the day by giving Rhapsody in White, a standard poodle, the makeover it urgently needs in the nick of time.

Criminal Minds (2005 onwards)
If you’ve been paying attention to FBI drama Criminal Minds over the past two years, you may have spotted Lynch in one of her appearances as Dr Spencer Reid’s mother, Diana. When he was 18, the behavioural analyst had her committed to a mental institution, where she remains today.

Two and a Half Men (2003 onwards)
Lynch shines in her role as Charlie’s sarcastic, couldn’t-care-less therapist, who tries to get him to see the problem with his womansing ways on this hugely popular sitcom.

Julie and Julia (2009)
In this film, depicting the lives of Julia Child and Julie Powell, who aspires to cook all 524 recipes from the former’s cookbook, Lynch plays Dorothy McWilliams, Julia’s sister, in a small but dramatic role.

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