Jane Lynch is comedy’s resident MILF. With very few exceptions, her movie characters tend to be vaguely creepy and sexually-charged older women. She was the one suggesting a “mutually beneficial solution” to a clearly terrified Steve Carell in The 40-Year-Old Virgin, or describing how she first learned to play the ukulele on the set of a porn film in A Mighty Wind, or making it perfectly clear to mentoring program candidates that her priority is “servicing young boys” in Role Models. Her characters are so convincingly abusive and sexually irresponsible that she’ll bring back repressed memories you didn’t even know you had. Jane Lynch is this decade’s answer to Mrs. Robinson, if Mrs. Robinson was hopped up on painkillers and Internet porn.
Also, it’s worth mentioning that, according to my wife, who apparently has time to ponder such things, Jane Lynch is the new Kevin Bacon, at least in terms of her “six degrees of separation” to other Hollywood actors. She swears that Ms. Lynch can be linked to almost anybody in only five steps. I just tested her with Humphrey Bogart and she managed to connect Bogie to Lynch in a staggering four steps. If you’re into this sort of thing, it’s kinda addictive. Lynch is literally unstoppable.
I called Lynch to discuss her latest role, as the tyrannical cheerleading coach Sue Sylvester in the high school sitcom Glee (which premieres on Fox on September 16th). But really, I was just hoping to lure out her inner sexual predator, coaxing her into saying something that’d prove how art imitates life (or vice-versa).
Eric Spitznagel: You’ve got a pretty diverse resume, but it does seem like you play an awful lot of MILFs. Is that a fair way to describe them?
Jane Lynch: Oh, absolutely. It’s how I see them, too. I don’t necessarily see myself as a MILF, but my characters would definitely put themselves in that category. They have a sexual confidence that just makes me laugh.
Maybe MILF isn’t the right anagram. It’s more like Mother I’m Not So Sure I Want To Fuck Because I’m Afraid She’ll Break Me Like Taffy.
Oh yeah, yeah, exactly. I couldn’t have summed it up any better. You probably don’t want to get too close to these women, because they will destroy you.
In The 40-Year-Old Virgin, when your character asked Steve Carell if he’d ever heard of the term “fuck buddy,” I really felt like there was a good chance she was going to rape him.
That was a very real possibility, yes. He was a vulnerable boy at that moment. I could have very easily had my way with him. He was lucky that I decided to let him think about his options rather than just take him right there on the showroom floor.
Was it a conscious choice to play her as such a sexually unpleasant woman?
Well, no, not really. If I’d tried to play her as creepy and sad, she probably would’ve been a caricature. I tried to find a connection with her, or at least a connection with her confidence. I’m amazed with people who have an overwhelming sense of their own entitlement. They have this unwavering belief in how cool they are and how hot they are and how much people must want them and desire them, despite all evidence to the contrary. I find that strangely tragic and hilarious, when people are looking at you with horror and pity and you don’t even realize it. All you see are loving, adoring gazes. I’m fascinated by people who walk through life thinking that they deserve not only what they have but so much more. They’re perfectly fine with that.
Have you ever worked with a boss or authority figure where you felt “I’m not going to be alone with this person unless there are some very clearly marked exits?”
(Laughs.) I don’t know that I’ve worked with anybody like that, but I have encountered those people in my life. I guess it’s the definition of narcissism. They’re completely oblivious to how much they’re repulsing everybody around them. It doesn’t dissuade them. They don’t notice it at all.
During the early 90s, you performed in the off-Broadway play The Real Live Brady Bunch, playing the original MILF Carol Brady. Did the show hint at the blistering sexual tension between Mama Brady and her eldest adopted son Greg?
Absolutely. At the end of the show, we did a parody of that Jefferson Airplane song “White Rabbit”. It was a psychedelic, drugged-out, mushroom-trip kinda dance. The song ended with us all singing “Make your beeeeed, make your beeeeeed,” and Greg and I would come together and start making out.
Nice. Do you think Florence Henderson would approve?
She came to our opening night of the Brady Bunch show at the Westwood Playhouse (in Los Angeles) and we had our picture taken together. She pulled me aside and said, “Are you doing this with affection or are you making fun of us?” I said, “We’re doing this with reverence.” She patted my hands and said, “Good.”
And then she covered your mouth with a rag soaked in chloroform and you woke up hours later chained to a radiator in her basement?
Exactly! She slipped me a Mickey Finn.
Remember Mickey Finns? It was a date rape drug.
Oh, like a roofie?
Mickey Finns were the roofies of the 40s. (Laughs.) Jesus, am I dating myself too much here? I might as well be talking about how much I loved dancing the Charleston with the other flappers.
Thank you for making me feel momentarily young.
You’re entirely welcome.
Your MILF vibe really isn’t as glaring in Glee. Sue Sylvester is teaching high school students, so obviously she’s not going to—
Absolutely she is!
Really? You think she’s a statutory rape case waiting to happen?
Sue does anything she wants with these kids. In one of the episodes, she has a boy from the football team rubbing her feet and cleaning her pool.
I think I saw a porno recently with that very same plotline.
She’s not above engaging in inappropriate behavior with minors. She somehow manages to be horrible and really delightful at the same time.
I get the feeling that her idea of sex involves the sentence “Just hold still for a minute.”
That wouldn’t surprise me at all. Her entire sexual philosophy can be summed up with the sentence “Brace yourself.” Something horrible is going to happen so you might want to close your eyes.
She hints at her sexual history in the pilot episode. At one point, she yells at the cheerleading squad, “You think this is hard? I’m living with hepatitis. That’s hard!” Can you elaborate on how she contracted hepatitis?
She’s been around the block. It’s been rumored that perhaps she once posed for Penthouse.
This is just a guess, but I imagine her blowing the drummer from Starship at a farmer’s market. Does that sound about right?
That would not surprise me at all. Sue will do whatever it takes to win. If that means she has to prostitute herself or take advantage of a 16-year-old boy, she’ll do it. It’s all about power and winning. That’s her entire world view.
You worked with two legends this summer, Carol Burnett and Meryl Streep (in the movies Post Grad and Julie and Julia, respectively). Which actress was more likely to flip out and burn an intern with a curling iron just because she delivered the wrong brand of box wine to her trailer?
That’s not going to happen with either of them. Sorry to disappoint you.
You seriously can’t give us anything more defamatory than that?
They’re both consummate professionals and artists. Carol Burnett is one of the most self-deprecating team players I’ve ever met. Everything you imagined her to be in your fantasies, that’s exactly who she is.
See, in my fantasies of Carol Burnett, she’s forcing a production assistant to wear a ball gag and assless chaps and telling him, “Let me show you how I used to make Tim Conway cry.”
Oh come on! That’s not true at all!
What about Meryl Streep? You still haven’t completely recovered from the cigarette burns, have you?
Meryl is completely present and generous and normal. When I met her, I expected her to be walking on water, but she just had her feet on the earth like everybody else. She comes alive with every take, and she completely embraced the Julia Child character.
Throw me a bone here! You must’ve worked with at least one A-lister who went into an egotistical rage. How about Michael Keaton?
You got me. Without fail, Keaton would pitch a fit on the set.
Thank god! So exactly how many times did he break a PA’s shins while screaming “That’s Mister Mom to you, shithead?”
No, again, I’m sorry to disappoint you, but he’s one of the nicest people on the planet.
Are you sure you work in Hollywood?
I rarely meet assholes. I don’t know where they are. I hear they’re out there but I just haven’t been unlucky enough to work with them. Everybody I’ve worked with has been very grateful to have a job and be in the business we’re in.
You’ve had no lack of movie roles lately. Does that make you feel secure as an actress?
It makes me feel more secure as a person. I love to work. I’m kind of a nose-to-the-grindstone kinda person. I’m always looking for what’s next. One of the reasons that I wanted to get a television show was to relax, to sit back and just focus on one thing for awhile.
When’s the last time you called your agent in a panic, leaving an inconsolable message on their voicemail at 3 a.m., something like, “I’ve got bills to pay, you worthless prick! Get me an audition or I will cut you open like a shark on Amity Island!”
I’ve never made that phone call. Even if I felt it inside, I’ve never made it. I think that’s a good thing. You don’t want to give into those feelings of panic.
That takes a lot of self-control. I make a panicky call to my agent at least once a day.
You do? Well, good for you. As long as you know it’s coming, you can let go of those negative emotions and move on with your day.
Y’know, it’s okay to mock me for being a spineless pussy.
(Laughs.) Sorry, I just don’t have it in me.
Your agent once said that you’d take any job for a steak and $1.50. Has your price tag gone up?
Yeah, it’s gone up. And the cut of steak has gone up. My asking price is now a 20-ounce porterhouses. I’m not fooling around anymore.
If I was a casting director and I wanted to put you in a film, would I have to break a ten?
Yes, you’d probably have to break a ten. But I’m holding out for the porterhouse. I’ve reached an age when I realize that it’s all about valuing yourself.
Christopher Guest discovered you after directing you in a Frosted Flakes commercial. I think I remember this one. Is this the ad where you were stalking Tony the Tiger?
Yeah, that’s right. It was me and Sean Masterson. We were a Midwestern couple at the Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes headquarters in Battle Creek, Michigan, trying to find Tony.
What would’ve happened if you’d caught him? I think you know where I’m going with this, right?
I know exactly where you’re going. And it would’ve been a threesome the likes of which you couldn’t imagine.
Would you have serenaded Tony with a lovely Guatemalan love song?
I probably would have come up with a new one for Tony.
Off the record, just between you and me… Tony the Tiger, a top or a bottom?
He’s got a bad back, so I think he’s probably on top.
Really? Even with that red scarf? I would’ve guessed that Tony was a receiver.
Well you know what? With my husband, he was definitely a bottom.
Ah, I get you. The ol’ switcheroo.
That’s it exactly.
Let’s make sure I understand what you’re telling me. Meryl Streep? Entirely pleasant and professional. But Tony the Tiger? A dirty tiger whore.
I don’t think I’d put it in exactly those words, but yeah, I guess so.
(This story originally appeared, in a slightly different form, in VanityFair.com)