At last year's Primetime Emmy Awards, Jane Lynch showed up in the red tracksuit made iconic by her Sue Sylvester character on "Glee," threw slushies on Jimmy Fallon and Tina Fey, joined in on the exuberant "Born to Run" opening number and went on to win the trophy for supporting actress.
How do you top that? By actually hosting the ceremony this September. But whether the track suit will be back remains to be seen. For despite the huge audience affection for the character who wears it, Lynch is downplaying the role the menacing McKinley High cheerleading coach will play in her award night antics.
"It's definitely going to be more me than Sue Sylvester," Lynch said last week of her planned approach to MCing the awards. "In fact, if Sue were hosting, I don't think many people would watch it, because a little of Sue goes a long way."
Maybe she's referring to the withering but hilarious put-downs Sylvester dishes out — and to the audience backlash over Ricky Gervais' rather scabrous approach to hosting the Golden Globes this year. While she's careful to say she won't be competing with Fallon, she praised the tone he set as an Emmy host: "It was the right mix of sarcasm and good-heartedness."
Certainly, the Sylvester character — conceived and scripted by "Glee" co-producer Ian Brennan — has taken Lynch a long way, to a second Emmy nomination this year and a recent Golden Globes win. ("Every heinous, insane line that comes out of my mouth was written by him," she said at the Globes.) But equally important is that it's brought her the steady job she has long yearned for, as a self-described "jobber" who spent two decades moving from one guest spot to another in countless television shows (along with quite a few movies).
"You get an award and it's a great thing," says Lynch, "but then you just go to work the next day and keep at it. What's really fabulous is that I have a job that I know I'll have for at least the next year. That hasn't been the case before for me as an actor, and it's really nice to have that certainty."
Speaking by phone from Atlanta, where she had just wrapped up a role in the Farrelly brothers movie "The Three Stooges," Lynch admitted to a case of nerves about the engagement, which will have her following in the footsteps of Ellen DeGeneres, Neil Patrick Harris and others.
"I'm absolutely nervous — but I think it's the perfect cocktail of fear and excitement," she said. "I'm really glad I hosted 'Saturday Night Live' last fall, because it's the same skill set — it's live, and it's jumping out there in spite of the nerves."
Still in the earliest stages of planning for the event, Lynch said she's conferring with "Glee" creator Ryan Murphy about some of the musical numbers and has hired writer Jill Soloway ("Six Feet Under," "United States of Tara"), a friend and fellow Chicagoan, to help craft the evening's entertainment. "I'll be writing, but everything will go past Jill," said Lynch.
Along with everything else, Lynch has had to scramble this year to complete an autobiography, "Happy Accidents," which is coming out in September from Hyperion Voice. She co-wrote it in three months with her wife, therapist Lara Embry, and says that, from all the reflection she had to do during the writing, she drew this conclusion: "Where you're supposed to be is probably right where you are, or you wouldn't be there."
Perhaps when she takes the stage to host television's big night, she'll reach that conclusion again. And that'll take care of those nerves.