Jane Lynch receives the Maverick Spirit Award at this special Cinequest event.
“Making people laugh is a really fabulous thing because it means you’re getting deep inside somebody, into their psyche, and their ability to look at themselves.” – Jane Lynch
Emmy award and Golden Globe winner, Maverick Spirit Award honoree Jane Lynch brings her very special presence to every project with which she’s involved.
Multi-talented, statuesque, and undeniably charismatic, when she’s on screen, be it big or small, it’s impossible to take your eyes off her. The Dolton, Illinois native has had performing in her blood from the time she was a little girl, loving to sing and act in school plays. But unlike girls with similar dreams, she had the talent and drive to go much further, honing her craft first at Illinois State University, then in Cornell University’s graduate fine arts program. Though many aspiring performers eschew the college route, Lynch’s time there was well spent. As she told Curve Magazine, “I have some techniques and skills that I learned when I was twenty-one that have been hammered into my consciousness that are now second nature.” Following an extended stint in New York, Lynch returned to Illinois to work with the renowned Steppenwolf Theatre Company and the improv-centered Second City Touring Company.
Though things didn’t exactly soar at first for Lynch, she continued to learn the ropes and snagged steady work in the business, including doing voice-overs and commercials. On a cereal commercial, she met the ad’s director, Christopher Guest, who was then putting together his send-up of the strange sub-culture of dog shows (Best in Show). Eventually he asked her to join the project, where Lynch cashed in her improv chips to memorably create steely dog trainer Christy Cummings. As the film was nearly 100 percent improvisational, where all the dialogue was created within a rough sketch provided by Guest, Lynch’s time in Chicago proved to be a very wise investment. Best in Show hilariously showcased her extemporaneous skills and moved her career another important rung up the ladder.
Though considerable guest acting jobs (The 40-Year Old Virgin, Arrested Development, Desperate Housewives, Weeds), and more voice over work (Family Guy) followed, it was her continuing guest role as lawyer Joyce Wischnia in Showtime’s The L Word that started garnering more concentrated attention. Though unabashedly soap-opera-y, the show was ground-breaking in its depiction of lesbian women as normal people, struggling with all of life’s messiness and fitful joy. As a gay woman, Lynch reveled in the show’s matter-of-fact presentation of lesbian life. As she remarked to the Huffington Post, “They rarely talked about how ‘horrible it is to be a lesbian in this world.’ It was just the characters’ drama, it was their lives. It’s who they are and I loved that.”
Lynch finally, after years in the business, hit the bona fide big time in 2009 with the TV series Glee. Its huge and faithful followers brought a new focus on the accomplished actor, singer, and comedienne. Her portrayal of ruthless cheerleading coach Sue Sylvester, constantly trying to undermine glee club leader Will Schuester, added an ongoing darker, yet fun conflict that counter balanced the show’s catchy musical interludes. This time, it wasn’t only the audience that noticed. Lynch nabbed both the Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series Emmy in 2010, and the Best Supporting Actress in a Series Golden Globe.
As if those awards weren’t enough, Lynch continues to rack up more hardware. As host of Hollywood Game Night, she won consecutive Emmys in 2014 and 2015 for Outstanding Host for a Reality or Reality-Competition Program. Based on her friend, actor Sean Hayes’s real-life party game nights at his house, the idea was pitched to NBC, which green-lighted the show and as Lynch recalls, “Before I knew it, I was hosting it and we rented this mansion, that is ostensibly mine, and we put couches in there and got everybody tanked up on booze and we played these games.” Talk about putting on a show!
Where this fascinating dynamo is headed next we don’t quite know. But wherever that may be, you can bet it will be bursting with Lynch’s scintillating skill and tremendous talent. And you can bet we’ll all be watching.
Cinequest runs from Feb. 12-March 12 at various venues. For a schedule of all Cinequest events, you can click here.
To see a list of Cinequest events being held at the California Theatre, please click here.