Celebrated Chicago actress and comedian Jane Lynch recently stopped by the Chicago History Museum, 1601 N. Clark, for an intimate chat Sept. 30 with Chicago Tribune columnist Mark Caro about her Chicago roots and her experience in Hollywood.
Lynch is best known for her roles in various Christopher Guest comedies such as Best in Show and For Your Consideration, as well as her regular appearances on Showtime's The L Word. Other films she has done include the comedies Talladega Nights and The 40 Year Old Virgin. She was also host of the recent PBS documentary Out & Proud in Chicago.
Lynch was born and raised in Dolton, Ill. She revealed to Caro and the audience that when she was growing up, she loved Shakespearean theater and The Sound of Music, and aspired to become 'a diva-type theater person.' She quickly quipped, 'But there is no money in that, so I went in the total opposite direction.'
The actress discussed her Second City experience, where she cut her theatrical teeth. Although her roles in the Guest films required a large amount of improvisation, Lynch said those two life experiences were 'very different.'
With Guest's movies, there is no script and no rehearsal. 'They are the longest takes you've ever imagined,' she said. 'You've thought about it for three or four months, and in 25 minutes, you are done.'
During the interview, Lynch said that she felt her real 'breakthrough' was playing the role of a lesbian dog trainer in Guest's 2000 mockumentary Best in Show. It wasn't until then that she started to receive recurring roles on national television shows.
Caro asked Lynch about her continued success, which started late in her career, and how difficult Hollywood makes it for older women to get work.
'I really started to work when I turned 40,' Lynch said. 'I think a lot of actresses peak when they are younger, and either they won't let themselves grow older or Hollywood won't let them grow older.'
She added that if one loves what they are doing, he or she will just keep at it.
The actress attributes most of her success to being in the right place at the right time. 'Everything is a happy accident,' Lynch said. 'Nothing was planned.'
She later added, 'The best thing I did was to take my hands off my own life.'
Lynch also spoke about working with actress Meryl Streep in the upcoming film Julie & Julie, where Lynch plays Julia Child's sister, Dorothy. Lynch described Streep as being 'spontaneous and odd' and 'not of this world.'
During a portion of the evening when the audience was able to ask Lynch questions, one individual asked the actress how difficult it is being openly lesbian in Hollywood.
Lynch said that she has never encountered any problems, and doesn't believe she was ever turned down a role because of her sexuality—at least not to her face.
'I've had people before me—trailblazers—so I haven't had to think about it,' she said. 'Thank you, Ellen. Thank you, Rosie. Thank you, Melissa.'