“Hey, Cathy, this is Jane Lynch. Do you have a few minutes to talk?”
Uh, yeah. Of course I do. The only thing is, I wasn’t expecting her call. The last-minute interview, scheduled and then un-scheduled, is apparently happening now, and the last thing on my mind are the questions I prepped the day before, then scrapped when the call fell through. Except, of course, it didn’t fall though, which I know because Jane Lynch is on the other end of the phone and expects me to ask her something. I start by asking her what she wishes reporters would ask her. I mean, she has two great TV shows, no small amount of celebrity, and may be the only person who can out-Ellen Ellen on Ellen. What’s on her mind, I wonder, and I really want to know. Let’s talk about Jane.
Jane Lynch: Sat., Jan. 16 , 8 p.m. $40-$85. Capitol Theatre, 405 Cleveland St., Clearwater. 727-791-7400. rutheckerdhall.com.
"Oh, I don’t have an agenda like that,” she laughs, and I believe she means it. “Let’s talk about what you want to talk about.”
Let’s. We start with her upcoming movie, Mascots. Lynch charmed America – in a way only she can – the moment she stepped on camera as lesbian dog handler Christy Cummings in the 2000 mockumentary, Best in Show. She took what could have been a static role (jackass high school cheerleading coach) on Glee and added dimension and heart. She hosts NBC’s Hollywood Game Night, which shows you how your game nights would go if only you’d invite Jane Lynch. Her assumption of the titular role in the CBS series Angel From Hell makes you wish your guardian angel would lose the wings and grab a flask. Off camera, she starred as mean ol' Miss Hannigan in a Broadway revival of Annie. Essentially, she’s done all the things in the 16 years since Best in Show. Some things, fortunately, never change, and some of those things are Christopher Guest films.
“We’re getting the whole Christopher [Guest] gang back together,” she says. “It’s about folks who put on big furry costumes and rep athletics teams. Our movie culminates in that competition and it’s all these stories of these mascots.”
Lynch’s character, an embittered former moose mascot herself, judges the competition.
Unlike other Guest films, fans will find Mascots only on Netflix.
As nontraditional production venues become more traditional, actors like Lynch embrace the format. In addition to Hollywood Game Night and Angel From Hell, she’s making a web series. Not for Amazon or Hulu or Netflix, though.
“It’ll be a YouTube channel,” she says. “It’s called Dropping the Soap and it’s about a soap opera that’s been circling the drain for quite some time. We called in some tips from some celebrity-type friends. I play the head of the network who is kind of power hungry. You never know where she’s at, whether she’s on the verge of canceling them.”
Expect to see it – along with all those other projects – this year. For those of us struggling to remember to buy dog food, it’s impressive. How, I wonder, does she handle her schedule?
“A moment at a time, truly,” she says. “I don’t look too far ahead. I do one thing at a time, and I really do it focused. In between [her performance in Clearwater] next week, I’ll be doing [the] web series and prep for Angel from Hell. I don’t feel overwhelmed if I just do one thing at a time.”
When I ask her if she has a dream role, she laughs and says she takes life as it comes.
“I don’t watch TV,” she says. “Should I be admitting this?"
“I don’t really have goals or plans,” she says, and when I confess that my answer for the “Where will you be in five years?” interview question is always “If I made plans, I wouldn’t have this opportunity,” she laughs some more and calls me a “smart woman.” Which is nice, but this isn’t about me, Jane. We need to talk about you! I try another tack: Which role would she call her favorite?
“I cannot give you one thing. Every single one of them pushes you in a certain way. Everything lives in you and it’s nice to dive into it and pick it all up,” she says.
Fair enough. She’s direct, I’ll grant her that. The conversation shifts to her own TV-watching habits.
“I don’t watch TV,” she says. “Should I be admitting this? I have a couple of pet shows that I love, Episodes being one of them. House of Cards, I devour that like chocolate cake. I have cable, and we never watch it, we were just talking yesterday, having a household discussion: Do we need cable? And we got it down to $67. I watch Amazon and Hulu and Netflix. I watch Showtime, I’ve got my Showtime Anytime password, [and] an HBO thing here and there. I love Modern Family, I think it’s a perfectly done sitcom.”
Speaking of perfectly done, what should audiences expect at her show this Saturday night?
“You’ll be laughing,” she promises, adding to expect a breakneck speed and an entire catalogue of emotions. “Kate Flannery [of The Office] joins me and we do a lot of funny stuff together. Also joining us is Tim Davis, the vocal arranger for every song on Glee. We do a medley of songs that made us cry when we were kids. We have a bunch of eclectic songs in the hour, a lot of comedy.”
Clearly, Lynch loves a challenge, even if she doesn’t think of her multiple simultaneous projects as such. But certainly one thing challenged her more than others. What, I ask, is the hardest role she’s ever undertaken?
“I don’t have hard, easy, or whatever,” she says. “I just do everything joyfully.”
Even an interview with a clearly surprised reporter.