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A Conversation with Actress Jane Lynch

Actress Jane Lynch

Luis Giraldo / OPB

Emmy-winning actress Jane Lynch, who can currently be seen in the hit TV show Glee portraying the hilariously ruthless cheerleading coach Sue Sylvester, has penned a memoir about her life called Happy Accidents.

Lynch recently appeared before a live audience at Portland’s Third Rail Repertory Theater for a candid question-and-answer session with Think Out Loud’s Dave Miller where they covered everything from her sexual orientation to her roles in television and movies.

Growing up outside of Chicago, Lynch didn’t fit into any of the social groups that exist in many high schools and that are dramatized in Glee. Instead, she stayed under the radar.

As Lynch explained toDave Miller, “I was happy with everybody… I didn’t let anybody get too close… I wasn’t brave enough to be myself.”

Jane Lynch has written a new memoir about her life on stage.

Luis Giraldo / OPB

Lynch feared that letting anyone get too close would expose a secret she had been hiding. “At that time I knew I was gay,” she said. “And it was, as far as I was concerned and society was concerned, a sickness and a curse.”

While earning her MFA at Cornell, Lynch studied theater and acting, which helped her feel more comfortable with her sexual orientation. “It doesn’t really matter if you’re gay or straight in the theater,” she said. “It’s very accepted… We’re all… practitioners.”

As an actress, Lynch tried everything from voiceover work, to heartburn medication ads, to stints on an early version of a home shopping network. And in 2000, she got her big break: She landed a role in the movie Best in Show.

Her portrayal of the stern dog trainer Christy Cummings led to memorable roles in movies like The 40 Year Old Virgin and Julie and Julia, and television shows like Party Down and Glee.

Lynch is clearly well known for her comedic work, and at the end of her memoir, she recalls a conversation with actor Alec Baldwin. He tells Lynch, “People expect you to be funny, and from now on, everything you do will get a laugh. That’s the good news and the bad news.”

Lynch sees this as motivation to stay fresh. “It’s really easy to become complacent and play Sue Sylvester, no matter what role I’m doing, for the rest of my life.” But just like the teachers who pushed her in theater she believes, “You have to keep reinventing yourself.”

Hear Think Out Loud’s full conversation with Jane Lynch.

This article includes contributions from Think Out Loud’s Dave Miller.