See Jane's Run: "Glee" Star Jane Lynch Turns Fantasy Into Reality With Annie

By Brandon Voss
20 May 2013

Lilla Crawford and Jane Lynch
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

In other words, New York is better when you have money, fame, and a great job.
It's the only way to fly.

You returned to New York in 1991 to perform in The Real Live Brady Bunch at the Village Gate. Was the city kinder the second time around?
I had a hard time, but I enjoyed the city much more during Brady Bunch. In '84 I had been at the height of my alcoholism, the height of my own self-contempt, so in '91 I reclaimed the West Village for myself and grew to love New York again as if for the very first time. Now I just adore New York.

What did you learn from your last stage appearance in Love, Loss, and What I Wore?
I learned that New York theatre is exhausting. I was sitting in a chair with a script in front of me, but it was still eight shows a week, and I remember stealing yawns even then. Tyne Daly was in the show with me, and I said to her, "How did you do Mama Rose in Gypsy eight shows a week?" She said, "I only existed during the shows. The only time I talked or moved was to do the show." So I guess that's the way to do it.

Did the experience make you want to do more New York theatre?
Actually, when I was doing Love, Loss, and What I Wore, I said, "I don't know that I really need to do this again. This is a lot of work!" And then I was pretty satisfied doing "Glee." When I got "Glee" I felt relieved and stopped wanting so much. But just recently my ambition kicked in again. I got the itch for more and I started thinking about other things I wanted to do. Then Annie came along.

What's your relationship to Annie?
Well, I'm a musical theatre person. I didn't see a lot of musicals growing up, but I knew all the cast recordings, so I know every breath of the Annie score. I hadn't actually seen Annie until I came to see this production a few months ago. I'd never really seen the movie either.

That's a surprise, especially considering you've worked with Carol Burnett, the film's Miss Hannigan. She even wrote the foreword to your memoir.
I know! She's a friend. When it was announced that I'd be playing Miss Hannigan, she was actually the first person to text me to say, "congratulations" and that I'd be a great Hannigan. I've since watched the movie.

You weren't worried about being influenced by Carol's performance?
Well, I didn't watch the whole thing. [Whispers] I didn't really like the movie. But Carol Burnett was amazing!

Lynch with Lilla Crawford, Brynn O'Malley and cast
photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

You've made "Glee" character Sue Sylvester a famous villain, but Miss Hannigan is already an iconic role that's been played by many celebrated actresses. How do you step into those shoes?
I just try not to think of words like "iconic" and "stepping into shoes." [Laughs] Katie Finneran was so great. And, although I never saw her, Dorothy Loudon's voice from the original Broadway cast recording is always in my head. I don't think anybody's ever sung it like she did. It was the best.

How do you go about making a role like Miss Hannigan your own?
I find it from the inside out, the way I always do. And I don't try to be different just to be different.

You recently performed Miss Hannigan's big number, "Little Girls," as Sue on "Glee." How did that come about?
That was [show creator] Ryan Murphy's idea, and it was all about cross-promotion for me and Annie. It was his little gift to me, and I thought that was really sweet. When I got that script, I said, "Oh, we're doing ‘Little Girls,'" and he said, "Yeah, I thought it would be nice to do a little cross-promo."

It's easy to see the similarities between Sue and Miss Hannigan. How are they different?
Miss Hannigan is just sloppier. She's also more transparent. She's beaten and bitter, which could you also say about Sue, but Sue hides it behind the stealthy veneer of a warrior. Miss Hannigan isn't a warrior. But there's a tenderness to Sue, and I hope you see the tenderness and vulnerability in my Miss Hannigan too.

Miss Hannigan also appears to be an alcoholic, and you've been candid about your own battles with alcohol in the past. Are you drawing on those experiences for this role? 
Sure. Miss Hannigan definitely drinks too much. When we see her in the first scene, it's about three in the morning and she's frickin' loaded, half-dressed, half in her pajamas. It's one of those nights when you're looking in the mirror, talking to yourself, creating some kind of scenario where you're awesome. That's what I used to do when I got loaded.

Is there any of Miss Hannigan in you today?
I'm not that crazy about kids. I don't really know how to talk to them. It's funny, though, because kids always come toward me. It's like how cats seem to love people who aren't cat people. Of course, the kids in Annie are just delicious, and I love them all. But I don't want to take any of 'em home!

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Anthony Warlow, Lilla Crawford, Jane Lynch, Brynn O'Malley and cast
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN