In Walt Disney Animation Studios hilarious, arcade-game-hopping adventure, “Wreck-It Ralph,” which opens in theaters on November 2nd, Jane Lynch gives voice to tough-as-nails Sergeant Calhoun from the first-person action game Hero’s Duty. In the sci-fi battle zone of Hero’s Duty, Sergeant Calhoun is more than just a pretty face – she is the unrelenting take-charge commander who fights for humanity’s freedom. When she’s not offering in-game intel, she’s training her troops for the next attack wave. Driven by a personal vendetta, she will stop at nothing to protect the player and the arcade from a virulent Cy-Bug invasion.
At the film’s press day, we sat down with Lynch, who has won Emmy and Golden Globe Awards for her role in “Glee,” to talk about what it was like to head up a platoon of soldiers fighting off Cy-Bugs that are annihilating the universe. She told us how much she enjoyed playing a character that’s encoded with a great back story, what fun she had recording her scenes, and why it was a huge honor to voice a Disney animated character. She also discussed what she loves about portraying Sue Sylvester on “Glee,” why she’s not a fan of reality TV, and what it was like roasting Roseanne Barr at Comedy Central.
Q: Did you have any input on your character design, because for your character specifically, what lady wouldn’t want her hyper-realized form?
Lynch: Oh my God. I’m so thrilled. I kept saying in the movie, I’d lean over my wife and go, “I look so good.” Well, it’s animated. Yeah. I had no input at all, but they videotaped us. And obviously, they replicated my own figure. So she’s much younger and much more fit and much more militaristic, of course, than I am, but I think they did use us. As I was watching the movie, I could see Sarah [Silverman] all over Vanellope and John [C. Reilly] all over Ralph and Jack [McBrayer] all over Felix. Pretty cool.
Q: My favorite scene is the Nesquik scene between you and Felix. Did you and Jack bring something different to the scene that wasn’t on the page?
Lynch: We did get to do that one with each other. We recorded that looking at each other doing it. So that was a lot of fun. I think so. When you can get the two actors in the room, you’re going to get more spontaneous. You’re going to get more chemistry, and I think just for technical reasons, they don’t keep us in the room together for the most part. But I know they did for John [C. Reilly] and Sarah [Silverman], and boy, you can hear it. You can hear them. It sounds like they’re in the same room just bouncing off each other.
Q: Was being in a Disney film, doing a voice for an animated character, one of the actor dreams for you to check off?
Lynch: It wasn’t even on my bucket list that’s how preposterous it was. I was thrilled to, and I jumped at it. It’s a huge honor to be on a shelf with “The Jungle Book” and “The Aristocats” and “Cinderella.” Pretty cool stuff, and John Lasseter, of course, is heading up animation now, I believe, and he’s just the greatest guy in the world. And when he asks you to do something, you say, “yes.”
Q: Were there any films that you were particularly obsessed with when you were a kid?
Lynch: Not so much obsessed with because we didn’t have copies of films back then. There were no DVDs and there were no VCRs, but I loved “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves” and the “The Aristocats,” “Cinderella.” I loved “The Wonderful World of Disney” on Sunday nights. That was a big deal.
Q: With this character, you get to play the complete range of emotions. She gets to be the bad ass. She gets to be sensitive. She gets to be really funny.
Lynch: Again, we have a great backstory. The broken heart. It’s encoded with a great backstory. It didn’t really happen, but it was just encoded. She, of course, doesn’t see vulnerability as strength, and I think she learns that. That’s her journey, is that having your heart open is not a sign of weakness because she had hers shut. She felt so guilty about allowing the Cy-Bugs to kill the love of her life, and she had committed herself to the destruction of the Cy-Bugs to make it right. And then comes along this sweet, little open-eyed, open-faced guy, just so simple and so sweet, she can’t allow herself, but, of course, she ultimately does.
Q: And she gets to smack him around whenever she wants and all it takes is a quick fix and he’s fine?
Lynch: Yeah, you’re right, exactly. I can do anything to him. He fixed my heart, and then I can boom, boom, boom.
Q: Were you ever a fan of video games?
Lynch: No. Not at all. I was not an arcade kid.
Q: It’s such an interesting concept for a movie, “Wreck-It Ralph.” If you had to be stuck in a video game, would you choose one of the old-fashioned ones, or would you choose the virtuals?
Lynch: Well, I’d never done a virtual. So I can’t really say, but what I love about Fix-It Felix, Jr. which would probably bore the hell out of me after about a week is that you can mess things up and then just with a [pop sound] of a hammer. I wish I had one of those hammers, not just to fix people in my life, but like the thing came off my faucet in the bathroom. And I don’t know how to put it back on. Just a [clink sound]. Instead of having to call somebody. Who do I call?
Q: How young from “Glee” does your fan base go now, and are you ready for it to get really little?
Lynch: I think “Glee” the cut-off is about 10, and even that is kind of young for some of the things that go on in our show. But, yeah, it will be really cool. I’ve done a couple of Disney things. I’ve done “Another Cinderella Story” with Selena Gomez, and there are three and four year olds all over the country. They go [gasp]. They know me from somewhere, and then they figure it out quicker than their parents do.
Q: Since we get to see you on TV every week, what’s on your TV watch list?
Lynch: “Episodes,” “Mad Men,” “Homeland,” and “Girls,” I love “Girls,” and “Modern Family,” and, of course, “Glee.”
Q: You watch it when it comes on?
Lynch: Yeah, I watch “Glee.” My daughter loves it. So it’s a big deal. It comes on Thursday now, right? Yeah, she loves watching it.
Q: Are you a tough critic of yourself?
Lynch: No. Not really. I’m able to divorce myself from it. If they don’t like me, well, then I get mad. I’m like, they need to like me better. Or if they cut out – some of my monologues are so long, and I work so hard. And my head is bleeding from the effort, and they’ll cut out half of it. Every time I see a long monologue, I’m going, what part of this are they going to cut that I’m going to bother to learn? Because they have to. The show has to be however long, 48 minutes or something like that.
Lynch: 42, and I know that some of that cutting is going to come from my run-on sentences.
Q: Do you have any guilty pleasures as far as reality TV?
Lynch: I don’t feel guilty about this at all, I love “What Not To Wear.” It’s a great show. I’m not a reality TV person. I get nothing out of it. Although, I must say, we were on vacation, and we watched one episode of the Kardashians that led to like a marathon. It was a beautiful day out. We stayed in the hotel and we were transfixed by the Kardashians for one Saturday afternoon because you never know when a new episode starts. It just keeps going. It’s not like there’s credits and the curtain falls, and it goes up again. It just keeps going. Hours, hours, and we all felt so dirty afterwards.
Q: What happens when you watch a show like that and have that binge on it, and then you go to a party, and you run into Kim Kardashian?
Lynch: It’s weird that she’s in the same league as me.
Q: Do you feel like you know stuff about her life even though it was put on television to be watched?
Lynch: No. I don’t.
Q: I do.
Lynch: Well, if you do, then you buy it too much. I think they’re just stupid enough to actually allow us to watch their life, and they’re conniving enough to manipulate it. But I think there are some real moments there. I saw someone from the “New Jersey Housewives” being interviewed on a talk show, and she was talking about it like this is her life. And that angered me so much, but I forgive them. I go to church, and I pray. And I think it was a bad thing she did, but I forgive them. And she was serious. That’s stupidity. That’s just dumb.
Q: Is that experience unfathomable to you to put your life out there like that?
Lynch: Oh my God, yes.
Q: I imagine it must be hard as a working actor to see all of these reality shows just eating up all of the time slots?
Lynch: Oh, we have tons of channels. First of all, I don’t worry about that, but this is the greatest time to be on television. Look at the shows we have. “Nurse Jackie,” look at all these great [shows]– and we’re all over the place. It’s not just 2, 5, and 7. We’ve got hundreds of channels that people can watch. So go ahead. You can do it.
Q: Are you surprised that Sue Sylvester has endured this long and stayed so consistent to her character?
Lynch: Yeah. What I loved about her is they’ve allowed her to evolve because if I was just beating people up and throwing them into their lockers every week, it would get old. And they know how to use me so that a little bit of me goes a long way, although this episode coming up is pretty heavy Sue Sylvester, but then I’ll be light for the next three or four episodes. So they know how to use my character, and they also have allowed me to grow. I mean there are times when my character sounds so empathetic and reasonable, and then the next moment, she’s throwing somebody into the lockers.
Q: She hasn’t lost her Sue-ness?
Lynch: She hasn’t changed her stripes, no.
Q: That must be really fun to get there with the writers.
Lynch: Right. They do it. When they gave me the Down Syndrome sister in the first episode, I thought that was brilliant. It’s almost like the backstory for Sergeant Calhoun. They gave me a reason to be so mean. Why is she so mad?
Q: In this movie, you get to throw out a lot of one-liners. Did you get to ad lib any of those?
Lynch: No, they wrote them. In fact, as the script became more and more the one that we ended up with, it started to sound more like me. I think that happened for all of the characters. The writers not only started to capture us physically – the animators captured us physically – but the writers captured our voices.
Q: Did you have a favorite?
Lynch: Yeah, something like “If Hell and Armageddon had a baby, it would look like this.”
Q: Do you have a favorite memorable behind the scenes moment from any of the Globes ceremonies you’ve been to? It’s a really different award show.
Lynch: It is. It was my first award show, when we were nominated. I was nominated the first year of “Glee.” Well, I mean, Ricky Gervais was the host, and he just said whatever he wanted. And I thought he was hilarious. You could see the Golden Globe people, they didn’t care for it at all, but they asked him back, which I loved that they keep asking him back. I don’t know if he’s doing it again this year, is he?
Q: They haven’t said yet.
Lynch: I remember when I met Glenn Close on the red carpet. It was a very strange thing because it was my first time on a red carpet like this, an awards show red carpet. And I’m looking around, and there are all these people that I admire and that I see on TV. And Glenn Close came up to me, and she went, [gasp], like that. And she said, “I just love what you’re doing.” I do say in interviews I think Sue Sylvester is –what’s her name on “Damages”? It’s my favorite show in the world. Patty Hewes. I have said that I think Sue Sylvester is a less refined Patty Hewes. And she was very flattered by that. “Damages” is another show that I think is over now. I think it’s one more season.
Q: You’ve gotten to play such diverse characters over the years. Is there any particular type of role that you’re just chomping at the bit to play?
Lynch: Not so much. I’m not chomping at the bit to play a role so much – although I love acting – I’ve been writing. I’m really enjoying that, and I hope that I’ll be able to bring it to television. I hope that I can sell what I’m writing, and I’ve been working on it for – I work fast. I’m one of those people. I decided three weeks ago. My wife told me an idea, and I went, ah. And I kind of went into a cave and started working it out. So that’s kind of what I’m all about right now, and it’s great. I can do “Glee” and still be cooking away at something.
Q: How was it doing the Comedy Central Roast with Roseanne Barr?
Lynch: It’s such an honor. I jumped up and down. I love Roseanne. I hosted the Roseanne Roast at Comedy Central. And I got to be friends with her. It was a huge deal. I had these great writers writing things for me, and what a great night that was. That was so much fun. I’d do that again.
Q: Had you met her before that?
Lynch: No. We’d never met each other before, but she asked that I host it. So I was absolutely flattered.
Q: It seems like you’re in such demand. Do you have to say “no” to some opportunities to maintain some family time?
Lynch: Yeah. It’s not so much work because I’m in “Glee,” and you just can’t do anything while you’re doing a television show. But it’s a political season, and everybody wants someone to stand up for their cause. And I’ve done a fair bit of that. In fact, you’re probably getting a lot of, “This is an email from Jane Lynch” in your inbox. So I try to be discriminating about that, but it seems like there’s a lot of me out there. I remember how exciting it was when you’d be invited to a magazine’s party, and I would go. They’re just not very fun.
Q: What are your hopes for this election, and are there any frustrations with the debate season so far?
Lynch: I don’t know. It’s just so partisan. It’s just so awful. And everybody’s complaining about Candy Crowley. Even the Obama side’s saying she said some things in the press about – I don’t know. Who cares? Just get it over with and let Obama be re-elected. It’s just getting so ugly. I have to stop reading The Huffington Post is what I have to stop.
Q: Was it ever a choice some actors don’t want to take political positions because they don’t want that associated with whatever they’re doing. Did you have to make that decision?
Lynch: I did. And sometimes I regret that I jumped on some band wagon, even though I maybe support it, I want to be an actor first. I have to be very careful about it because you stop suspending disbelief, if you go, “Oh, there’s that gay activist trying to make us believe that she’s married to that guy.”
Q: I ran the Race for the Rescues last week, and I saw you host.
Lynch: Well, that’s a worthwhile thing.
Q: Is that an easy thing?
Lynch: That’s an easy thing. There are tons of organizations too. There’s PETA, and then there’s the smaller rescues, and you want to do it for everybody. But I have a connection to that organization, so I do that every year. I love it. And you know they adopted every animal that came in. There were a lot of tears, some terrible stories behind why these dogs were orphaned. Everybody’s there to support it. It’s all animal lovers. It’s a great day to see all those animals get adopted out.
Q: Going back to “Wreck-It Ralph,” I was wondering what the most surprising part of being in the movie was for you?
Lynch: Seeing the movie, I think it’s so beautiful, not just visually. The animation is great and everything, but I think the message is so good and so powerful. And at the end, I did not expect to be shedding tears, and I was. I loved the relationship between Ralph and Vanellope and how my character, Calhoun, finally opens her heart, and there’s a wedding. It’s about people – you’re stuck in a game, doing the same job, over and over again, and you’re not getting any appreciation. And you finally go, “to hell with this,” and you leave. And when you leave, everything falls apart. And when you come back, after your journey, they all appreciate you. And now you’re doing your job for the love of doing your job. I mean I just think it’s a great message, and that your greatness is in your code, that Vanellope found out. We all have a glitch. I think that’s kind of the success of “Glee” too, to tie it all in. We all feel like we have a glitch in some way, and we’re kind of ashamed of it. You find somebody, and you look in their eyes, and you realize there’s nothing wrong with me. They totally support me.