Jane Reaction: Pride Life meets up with Glee’s Sue Sylvester
There is an entire generation of lesbians coming through that will always have a soft spot for a slightly older woman in an Adidas tracksuit ? if they didn't already. It's a phenomenon that can be laid squarely at the betrainered feet of Sue Sylvester; gym teacher extraordinaire and chief torturer of cheerleaders in the global smash-hit that is Glee.
For those without a television or access to the outside world, Glee is a show about high-school but with a twist: the Glee club (a US showbiz after-school thing) puts on huge musical numbers while characters often break into song or find themselves in the middle of re-imaginings of famous pop videos. The new season has one glorious episode celebrating Britney Spears' back catalogue.
And Sue Sylvester, probably the show's most popular character, in Britain at least, has it all: balls, attitude, a great figure in a tight-fitting range of sporty trackies (even her wedding dress in the new season turns out to be track-suit inspired). And she's played by out lesbian Jane Lynch.
"It was the way Sue was first described in the script that I really tapped into," says Jane, looking fierce yet pretty in all black with sky-high heels, slim trousers and a frilly blouse at a Beverly Hills hotel. "The script said, 'Sue Sylvester may or may not have posed for Penthouse and may or may not be on horse oestrogen'. So I figured, she just does what it takes."
And what it takes, explains Jane, is to find a character's weak spot and go straight for it. So how does she feel about bullying? "I'm in favour of it," she says, just to point out what a silly question that is. "I think it builds character," she continues, in ful Sylvester mode.
"I love the scene with Kurt [the show's out gay student] when I call him Ladyface. He says, 'Every time you call me Ladyface, that's bullying!' And Sue says, 'I'm so sorry, I thought that was your name'."
She then gives me her real answer, explaining that Ryan Murphy, the man behind Glee (along with Nip/Tuck and Popular), really wanted to make a point about the casual homophobic bullying that goes on in high schools, not only by students but also by teachers. "I think Ryan has felt a responsibility to do that. One of the things he has said about Kurt is that he will never be a victim. He comes right back at that bully and says, 'You can't punch the gay out of me any more than I can punch the mediocrity out of you'. I love that line."
But she appreciates that it's not just about having a snappy comeback for bullies; homophobic bullying in schools has reached dangerously epidemic proportions. "There have always been problems with bullies," she says, thoughtfully. "But some kids have taken their own lives here in the States for being gay and that's so incredibly sad… There are a lot of bad parents out there who are teaching their kids that being aggressive and knocking down someone who is different is the way to go. That sucks."
Issues of parental behaviour and responsibility have recently come to the fore in Jane's own life ? something she never thought she'd have to deal with ? having married her partner, clinical psychologist Dr Lara Embry, who has a daughter. "I'm a step-parent right now," says Jane, realising how that must sound and laughing, "and forever, I guess. I guess I'm committed." She furrows her brow in determination. "I'm going to do it. I tell you right here and now."
As she explains, however, it's not something she ever expected to happen. "I have never been much of a child person," she admits. "I love dogs much more. The minute I meet a dog, I am in love and could take that dog home with me. Cats too. But children. I've always been a bit like, 'Hmmm, cute…' So it had to be a very special child for me to want to do it ? and she is. My parenting instincts are lacking, but my wife is a wonderful mother and thank god I'm not expected to do the bulk of the parenting. I'm not even expected to do 50 per cent of it because she is so good. It's wonderful though, and it's a part of myself that I never expected to know."
As for being married, it's better than she ever dreamed it would be… "I love it," she says (she, Lara and their daughter have a date to see Tangled right after our interview ? just the sort of thing that Jane never imagined for herself ? and regularly watch Glee together as a family). "I know I always wanted to have a partner, I always wanted to have someone to walk through life with and I really have not had that before. It is just great. We spend all day together and we make home together very well. In a way, I feel like we have been together forever and then I remember that two years ago, I had a completely different life. I didn't know that I could have this, but I do and it's pretty great."
With a very respectable acting career behind her ? she's done numerous kids films, starred in such Christopher Guest movies as A Mighty Wind and Best in Show, and played the sexual predator in The 40 Year Old Virgin ? Jane's time has very much come. Especially in the UK, where she received an overwhelming ovation at the BAFTAs and where she can't walk down the street without being mobbed.
So, what have been her stand-out moments since, with the help of Sue Sylvester, she has taken over the world? "Singing with Olivia Newton-John was just incredible," she says. "Growing up, I didn't know if I loved her or John Travolta more. When they did Grease together, I imploded. The Emmy was also a pinch-me moment, of course." And then she laughs. "But I still don't actually believe that happened."
Pull on a tracksuit and channel your inner bitch with some choice Sylvester sayings
"You may be two of the stupidest teens I've ever encountered ? and that's saying something. I once taught a cheerleading seminar to Sarah Palin."
"You think this is hard? I'm passing a gallstone as we speak. That's hard."
"You are about to board the Sue Sylvester Express. Destination: Horror."
"I will go to the animal shelter and get you a kitty cat. I will let you fall in love with that kitty cat; and then on some dark cold night, I will steal away into your home, and punch you in the face."
"I'm about to projectile express myself all over your Hush Puppies."
"Your hair looks like a briar patch. I keep expecting racist, animated Disney characters to pop up and start singing about living on the bayou."
"Some people like to film themselves getting physical with their partner. I happen to enjoy revisiting the impeccable form of my jazzercise routines."