Jane Lynch, who plays Sue Sylvester, the cheerleader coach/sociopath that Glee viewers love to hate, never stops marveling at how outrageous and over-the-top her character is. "Every script I read, I go, 'You've got to be kidding!'" she says. "It always goes too far. It's always ridiculous. Some of the things that I do look at how mean I get to be and how everybody lets me get away with it. It's all ridiculous and I love it." Lynch says the lion's share of credit goes to the writers. "I'm glad I'm not writing the show," she says. "I would have made it more realistic and I would have given her kind of altruistic motivations." But it also takes a special performer, someone with Lynch's deft touch, to make a character like Sue Sylvester work. "As long as I keep it rooted in some truth," she reasons, "anything can work." Glee airs at 7 p.m. CT Tuesday on Fox.
Most of the time, Sue is determined to destroy the glee club. Yet there are times when she seems like she's trying to help the group through tough love. Which do you think is her primary agenda?
"What motivates all these different ways that Sue goes after them is she just wants an enemy. She's looking for the next fight. Sometimes, yes, it's to destroy them because they threaten her spotlight in the Cheerios that she works so hard to make a world-class cheerleading squad. Other times, the fight is to get these people to stand up for themselves instead of being so weak and wussy. But she's always looking for a formidable enemy. I think she also has a fondness for Will Schuster [the glee club director, played by Matthew Morrison] and for who he is and how he's genuinely just a good person. In certain moments, she hates him for it; other moments, she has great admiration for him."
Now that you're well into your second season as Sue, what are some of the most surprising things you've learned about the character?
"The addition of my sister, having a sister with Down's Syndrome, took me completely by surprise. Carol Burnett coming on as my Nazi hunter mother took me by surprise. I was also very surprised by the fact that, when I said my mother was a famous Nazi hunter, it turned out to be true. There are so many bizarre things that I've said as Sue, like, 'I smoked out Noriega with Special Forces.' Now I'm quite sure we'll do an episode one day where maybe an old war buddy of mine comes back and indeed that was true, too."
Although Sue has an evil side, she occasionally reveals a softer side. Which do you prefer playing?
"I love when I get an equal dose. I like to get the variety. For Sue Sylvester to be firing on all cylinders, I don't like to stick to one thing for too long. The writers make sure of that, which is great."
Of Sue's many zinger one-liners, do you have a favorite?
"I like the one where I say, 'Loving musical theater doesn't make you gay; it just makes you awful.'"
Do you ever worry that Glee might go too far too often with over-the-top episodes?
"What I love about this show is that every episode is kind of a big deal. They do something outrageous or there's a special song or someone has an outrageous moment every week. I look forward to getting the script all the time and these special shows, whether we're doing Britney Spears or Madonna or Super Bowl, where it's special, they're very fun and there's always a lot of anticipation. But actually, if we've had any run-of-the-mill episodes, I can't even think of what they were."
Aside from your own character, who's your favorite character on the show and why?
"I'm loving Coach Beiste [the football coach played by Dot-Marie Jones]. I love how big her heart is and I love how selfless she is and how heroic."
What's the best advice that you can offer to young people about surviving their high school years?
"To not suffer. Don't sweat it. Don't try to control things and just let your life happen. Show up and do your best everywhere you go, but there's no reason to beat up on yourself. That's what I would say."