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‘Glee’ puts smile on her face

Mon., May 24, 2010, midnight


These are the glory days for Jane Lynch, “the TV season’s biggest breakout star,” according to Entertainment Weekly.

It’s not every year that a workhorse character actress like Lynch – a veteran of more TV episodes than you can count, a mainstay in the film comedies of Christopher Guest and Judd Apatow – suddenly becomes the biggest thing in funny.

But she’s not letting it go to her head. She’s hanging on to her roots, taking a bit-part ogre role in “Shrek Forever After.”

Because there was a time, long before “Glee,” when Lynch was more a voice than a face.

“I was a voiceover person for years, before the Christopher Guest movies came along,” she says. “That’s how I made my living back then.”

Lynch, a Second City comedy troupe alumnus, had done a lot of TV pilots that went nowhere before “Glee” caught fire.

Her Sue Sylvester – the bullying, scheming cheerleading coach who is the nemesis of the nerdy, glee-club outcasts – “is a lot like a teacher I had in college who was harsh and had great power and we called her ’The Dragon Lady,’ ” Lynch says.

“She’d walk down the hallways and the Red Sea would part. She was great at knocking kids down, but not good at building them back up.”

Soon we’ll see Lynch in “Paul,” an ensemble comedy about two “alien enthusiasts” who stumble into a real alien at Area 51.

“I get asked to do things, because I kind of go out there,” Lynch says, laughing. “I don’t think anybody would call me if they wanted a run-of-the-mill-vanilla read on a part. I never edit myself.”

But Lynch, who will turn 50 in July, isn’t taking it for granted. She knows that what’s happened to her has struck-by-lightning odds, and lightning can be over in a flash.

“A lot of character actors have come up to me and told me how great it is for a character actor like me to get a little chance to shine a little brighter,” she says. “If only for a while.”

The birthday bunch

Actor-comedian Tommy Chong is 72. Musician Bob Dylan is 69. Actor Gary Burghoff (“M.A.S.H.”) is 67. Singer Patti LaBelle is 66. Actress Priscilla Presley is 65. Actor Alfred Molina is 57. Singer Rosanne Cash is 55. Actress Kristin Scott Thomas is 50. Actor John C. Reilly is 45. Country singer Billy Gilman is 22.


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