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Q&A: Jane Lynch on Being the Toughest Video Game Vixen in 'Wreck-It Ralph'

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Jane Lynch is one of the funniest women working in movies and on TV today. She's most recognizable for her award-winning role as powerhouse coach Sue Sylvester on "Glee," but she's also had memorable roles on TV shows like "Two and a Half Men," "Criminal Minds," "Party Down," "The L Word," "Weeds" and many more.

On the big screen, Lynch's knack for improvisation is apparent in Christopher Guest's ensemble comedies, including "Best in Show," "For Your Consideration" and "A Mighty Wind." She also had hilarious supporting parts in movies like "The 40-Year-Old Virgin," "Role Models," "Talladega Nights" and "Smiley Face."

In the new animated feature "Wreck-It Ralph" — a movie that explores the trials and tribulations of various video game characters once the customers have left the arcade — Lynch lends her voice to Sergeant Calhoun, a tough-as-nails leader who fights wave after wave of Cy-Bug attacks with her soldiers in the game "Hero's Duty." Despite her hard demeanor, Calhoun warns up to Fix-It Felix Jr., the sweet-natured hero of a 30-year-old video game in which Wreck-It Ralph is stuck with the role of a bad guy.

We sat down for a short tête-à-tête with Lynch and asked her about video games, improvisation, what's next for her "Glee" character and who makes her laugh the hardest.

Disney

Your improv skills are unrivaled. Was any part of your Sergeant Calhoun character in "Wreck-It Ralph" improvised?
A little bit. When I worked with Jack [McBrayer, who voices Fix-It Felix Jr.] and also in some of the sessions when I was by myself, [director] Rich [Moore] would say, "Come up with something yourself." Jack and I did some fun little things in that Nestle quicksand scene and it all ended up in the movie. That always adds to the chemistry when you're able to do that.

Sergeant Calhoun is a tough but damaged woman. What attracts her to Fix-It Felix Jr.? Is it his magic hammer?
[Laughs] First, the sincerity and openness of his heart repels and repulses her. He's just a very simple, open, supportive, nice guy, and her heart is clamped shut and it's been severely wounded. She doesn't trust him or want him around. It reminds her too much of the softness that is inside her, and she has vowed to never feel vulnerable again… but he wins her over.

"Wreck-It Ralph" is a pretty fantastical adventure, so as a voice actor reciting lines in a booth, did you at any point say something like, "Cy-Bug? What the hell am I talking about here?"
Yes! Someone would say, "The Cy-Bug is coming toward you." "What's the Cy-Bug again?" "Oh, it's your mortal enemy that killed your man." "Oh right, we hate the Cy-Bugs." Or someone would say, "Can you just give me some grunts… you're going to be falling off a taffy tree." I was like, "A what?!" You're doing a four-hour session, and Rich showed us the storyboards, but it was hard to keep track of all the crazy things that were going on.

We'd be remiss if we didn't ask what your favorite video game of all time is.
You know, I'm not a gamer. I've learned a lot during the making of this movie. But when I was in college, I played "Asteroids."

You have won so many awards and praise for your role as Sue Sylvester on "Glee." How far is she going to go to sabotage the glee club?
I think she's changed her focus now. She's always looking for a good fight, but she's had a baby now and she's mellowed a little bit. She's championing Will and giving him sound advice. [The writers] are evolving and growing me, so it'll be interesting to see. In an episode this week, I am back on the attack — somebody has said something bad about my baby so I must, of course, destroy them!

Jane Lynch and Fred Willard in "For Your Consideration" Warner Independent Pictures

You are heart-attack funny in Christopher Guest's ensemble pictures, but the last one was 2006's "For Your Consideration." Is there any talk of getting the gang back together for another movie?
No, but I know he's doing a TV show, which I wish I could do. I haven't heard anything about movie, though. It's been a long time, too.

You always pop up in hilarious supporting bits in movies like "Smiley Face" and "Role Models." When can fans see you next on the big screen?
"Adult Children of Divorce," or "A.C.O.D." as we're calling it. That is with Adam Scott. We shot it in Georgia, and I play this researcher who has written a book about his childhood and his being a product of divorce. It's really funny. Also, in Jill Soloway's "Afternoon Delight," I play a therapist. Those are both independent films that are coming out.

Is there a character you've played on TV or in movies that you'd like to play again if given the opportunity?
I love the character I played in "Criminal Minds." Reid's mother is in an institution and she has schizophrenia, and she has a complex relationship with her son. That was a delicious part to bite into. I would love to do the therapist on "Two and a Half Men" again or just work with Charlie Sheen. That would be fun.

Who makes you laugh the hardest?
Jennifer Saunders. All she has to do is look — not at me, I've never met her — but look at somebody and I fall apart. I love Matt LeBlanc in "Episodes" — he's very good. And the "Modern Family" cast just cracks me up.

What message do you want people to take away from your memoir, "Happy Accidents"?
I did the commencement speech at Smith, and I kind of boiled down the advice to the only rule of improvisation: whatever comes your way, say yes. Don't wish it looked like something else or wait for something else to come. Whatever comes your way, say yes to it, embrace it, and do your best with it that you can. Even if it's off in left field, see where the gift is in it. Life is going to take care of you and bring you the opportunities that are going to best serve you, and I have great faith in that.

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