Few actors delight like Jane Lynch. She has long amused audiences with her work in films like Best in Show and For Your Consideration. She’s also won three Emmys, two of which for her acclaimed performance as battle-axe gym teacher Sue Sylvester on the musical sit-com, Glee. This month, she embarks on her latest project, executive producing and starring in the new sit-com Dropping the Soap. The story of the behind-the-scenes (and on-camera) drama of long-running soap opera, Ms. Lynch plays hard-broiled producer Olivia Vanderstien, tasked with making the show a ratings winner. Dropping the Soap debuts March 7.
Queerty chatted with Jane about her new series, the legacy of Glee, and the current political climate.
What was the inception of this, and why do a sitcom about a soap opera?
Oh yeah. Well the whole creative team–Paul [Witten] and Mandy [Fabian] and Kate [Mines]–the three of them kind of came together with the idea. They thought it was funny. All three of them watch soap operas, and it’s very much a dying art. Like, I grew up too watching All My Children, General Hospital. We loved them, but now they’ve become…it’s hard to keep them on the air. They’re like cancelling them left and right. So you have all these actors who’ve been on the shows since they were like young ingénues, and now they’re like the older people who are dying their hair. They have nothing else; no other marketable skills. So it’s basically about this soap opera circling the drain. And then Paul and I, we met about seven years ago at a beauty supply store.
I was looking at some conditioner, and he walked up to me and he said something like “that’s a good conditioner.” And we started talking and we became best friends. So he had already shot the first incarnation—he and Mandy and Kate had shot it—and then I asked if I could come on board. We decided we would sort of redo it and add some other people, and that’s the series you see.
It looks like you had fun making it
We did it on the cheap, but I don’t think it looks like it. We shot everything so fast. We shot it all in about two weeks, all ten episodes. And I love working that way too, where you just move from location to location. We stayed in one soundstage the whole time. But, you do it fast, furious and funny. And nobody’s getting rich doing this. You do it for fun, and almost free.
How much of it are you improvising?
I don’t think I did at all. The writing, I felt, is just so tight and so funny. Mandy’s the writer, and she really knows all of our voices.
So I guess the next logical question would be why go to the web with it?
We did it all ourselves. We did the rounds of trying to get someone to make it with us, and it didn’t happen. So we just got some money—not a bunch, but enough—and we just did it ourselves.
So you’ve been part of many films and shows over the years, including a special show called Glee. Do you think it made it easier to grow up gay?
I do, yeah. I mean, we didn’t have anything like that when we were growing up. Can you imagine if we had a show on network television that had a character like Chris Colfer’s character or Darren Criss’ character? And I think kids—not even gay kids, just kids in general—were able to identify with at least a couple of the characters on the show and say, Hey, that’s me. And I think a lot of kids who aren’t gay identified with Chris—you know, he’s a big, bestselling author right now.
And he has fans that run the gamut of different kinds of kids. Not just gay kids, all kids of kids, because he was one of those unique, special, said what he thought, stood up for himself, and didn’t let anyone tell him there was something wrong with him. Kids just jumped on board. And then you have my character (Sue Sylvester) of course, who just is the person that told them what was wrong with them. And at the same time, was kind of the protector. And I think that was, kind of, the ideal place to be. McKinley High. The world of McKinley High, the hallway, was kind of like the real world. Kind of mean, racist, homophobic. And then you get into the choir room, and everybody has each other’s back. It’s a kind of utopia.
I was a choir kid too. I know when I sit down and watch Glee, it brings back a lot of memories. I want to ask about [Glee Creator] Ryan Murphy. On Queerty, we recently asked why Oscar so not gay. There has only ever been one out-gay actor that has won an Academy Award.
You’re kidding me.
Seriously. Linda Hunt, god bless her.
You’re kidding. There’s only been one out-gay actor to win an Academy Award? I’m shocked.
They have been nominated—Lily Tomlin, Ian McKellen—and obviously there have been gay actors who have won, but they were in the closet at the time. I bring up Ryan because one thing I think he’s really great about is including openly performers in his work.
As far as I know, you’ve been out your entire career. It seems like out actors seem to have it a little bit easier on television than they do working in film.
I think so.
What’s you’re experience?
I don’t know. I mean, I’ve not experienced it being hard for me. I really haven’t. I’m really lucky to be where I am in time, which is post-Melissa Etheridge, post-Ellen DeGeneres, k.d. Lang coming out. So they kind of did the heavy lifting on that. I’ve not experienced that in film or on television. I don’t think it’s easier one way or the other. I will say that I think it might be a little easier for a gay woman to be accepted in a straight role than a gay man. I think it’s still a little hard for a gay man to be—I don’t think they’re going to be accepted as easily as a woman. Although, I think it’s changing. Look at Matt Bomer. He plays a straight guy a lot, so I think that’s changing too.
Why is it easier to accept in a woman than it is in a man?
I think it’s just about homophobia around men. I think it’s a bigger deal for them. Its ok that women–I think it’s a little bit easier to digest. (laughs) But I think it’s straight men that have the hardest time with that.
Well, that may be true, but I hope it’s changing. I think it is…
I think it is too. It’s only a matter of time.
I know you’ve been active on Twitter yourself. What would you do to respond to Trump? How do we counter?
I don’t think we counter it. You know what? I look at my Twitter feed. I go through phases where I’m retweeting things. Just yesterday I watched a lot of news and did a lot of tweeting, but I don’t think you fight it. I think it’s all part of this energy. I think we’re doing a little movement backward so we can take a huge leap forward. It does scare me, but I have to look at the big picture. Can I step outside? Can I stop watching the news and step outside of it and go, ‘Ok, we’ve stepped back a little bit, but we’re getting ready for the big jump forward.’ I hope he doesn’t last for four years. I have a feeling he will probably either resign and blame it on us, and that’s fine with me. I think that’s kind of the best the best scenario for it.
Is there a season two of Dropping the Soap?
Oh yeah, we’d love that. I know there is a really good outline of where we can go in the second season. But yeah…it’s really fun, it’s really fast. It’s a really well-made comedy with terrific actors. It has some really great people in it. So yeah, we would love to keep doing it.
Dropping the Soap debuts on Dekkoo March 7. Dekkoo is available via iTunes, Google Play, AppleTV and Roku and now via the new Amazon Dekkoo Channel.