As a young girl growing up in a small Chicago suburb in the early 1970s, Jane Lynch always felt that there was something a little bit off-kilter in her life and her perception of herself. When she realized she was gay at age 12, Lynch didn’t have the cultural examples of Rosie O’Donnell and Ellen DeGeneres to guide her toward being open, honest and happy about her sexuality.
Instead, despite the fact that she describes her family as loving, Lynch bought into the discrimination of the times and feared that being gay was really a “sickness” and a “curse.” Yet, when she finally came out to her family nearly two decades later, she began a remarkable new chapter in her life that has not only made her an award-winning TV and movie star, but has ultimately led to true love, marriage and happiness at her current age of 50.
Now, the Emmy-winning star of Fox TV’s “Glee” is sharing her life through her new memoir, “Happy Accidents,” and is coming to Vroman’s Bookstore Sunday afternoon to discuss and sign the tome.
During a recent phone interview, Lynch’s unmistakably crisp and direct vocal tone rang clear as she recounted her struggles and ultimate victories.
“I wish I could tell my younger self to relax and have faith that you’ll find the right people and the right steps to keep going up the ladder, and that was what made me write this book,” says Lynch. “The working thesis in this book was that I wasn’t looking for my break so much as hoping and praying for it and doing the best with what I had along the way. From a break like my role in ‘Best in Show’ , all good blessings flow and you keep going forward with that.”
Lynch decided at the age of 14 to be an actress like her idols, Ron Howard and Vicki Lawrence. She pursued it with passion, but she was hindered by an alcohol addiction from age 14 to 31 that stemmed from her frustration with having to keep her sexual orientation secret from her family.
Once she became sober through AA, she found the courage to come out to her family in 1992. That year was also the first in which she landed consistent acting work, and Lynch considers that a prime example of the “happy accidents” in her career and life path that inspired the title of her book.
“As you start to relax and the burdens are off of you, you become energetically open to having better things happen to you,” says Lynch. “A lot of things happened to me then because I wasn’t burdened with a secret anymore. You become a more attractive person and people want to work with you, and I started making connections with the people I really wanted to work with.”
Even then, it wasn’t until her standout supporting roles in “Best in Show” and “The 40 Year Old Virgin,” both of which she landed while in her 40s, that Lynch became a big star. Her performance as Steve Carell’s sexually assertive boss in “Virgin,” however, appears to have set the template for her popular character in “Role Models” and her role as the comically bullying, Slushie-throwing gym teacher Sue Sylvester on “Glee.”
“I don’t think I’d do that kind of role so well if I didn’t have it somewhere in me,” says Lynch.
“It was a wonderful discovery when I found myself creating more characters like that. I do walk through life with my tongue in my cheek but I’m not half as direct with it. But it’s not hard at all and I find great delight in it.”
Lynch is proud of being a part of that groundbreaking FOX TV series, because of its reputation in helping foster greater awareness and accept-ance of gay teens and all outsiders.
“I think everybody feels, especially in high school, like an outsider, and even the football captain in our show’s glee club feels ‘less than’ in some ways,” says Lynch.
“I think that’s why kids are attracted to it — everyone feels ‘less than,’ and glee club is where they can come be who they are and get em-braced for who they are as opposed to getting Slushies in the face.”
Jane Lynch will discuss and sign her memoir “Happy Accidents” at 4 p.m. Sunday at Vroman’s Bookstore, 695 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena. Call (626) 449-5320 or visit vromans.com.