Jane Lynch has "never" felt like the weakest link in the entertainment industry.
The lesbian host of Weakest Link credited forerunners like Ellen DeGeneres, k.d. lang, and Melissa Etheridge for paving the way for her own success as an out entertainer — allowing, for example, her to helm the NBC revival of the beloved 2000 game show, in which contestants go through rounds of trivia questions and vote out the team member who is the "weakest link."
These women, "at the height of their careers, with everything to lose, came out of the closet and took these huge samurai swords and forged the path for the rest of us," Lynch told The Advocate in a recent interview.
"I've never felt like the weakest link in Hollywood, and nor did I feel that way in theater either — you know, we're just teeming with gays," Lynch said. "When you're in different artistic communities, I think, the lack of black and white in sexuality is an accepted thing — an embraced aspect as well."
Of course, Lynch is well-versed in Hollywood history and how it has closeted many performers before her, including in the game-show world, where figures like Hollywood Squares' Paul Lynde and Match Game's Charles Nelson Reilly could be flamboyant but never out due to the "macho studio system."
Lynch said it was easier for queer women like Agnes Moorehead and Marie Dressler — "for a woman, I think you were kind of protected" — although even they had to stay publicly closeted. "I am aware of that — that I can say, 'Hey, I'm a gay person!' and then I get a job like this, which is really quite wonderful and would not have happened 15 years ago," Lynch said.
Even though Lynde never came out, and Reilly didn't do so until late in his career, their obvious queerness made them a big draw to audiences, said Lynch, who named the "plethora of fun-loving people who were comedic" as among the reasons gay folks loved and continue to love the genre of game shows. The "celebrity aspect" and "rapid-fire questioning" that require a quick wit are also part of their queer appeal.
Lynch, known for comedic roles in movies and TV series like Best in Show and Glee, has been honing her own game-show hosting chops since 2013 as host of NBC's Emmy-winning Hollywood Game Night. Now she steps into the role once inhabited by the British journalist Anne Robinson, whose own biting wit and sometimes villainous appeal were pioneering for a woman host and made The Weakest Link an international hit.
Lynch said it would be "foolish" to try to replicate Robinson's iconic style; rather, she is "bringing my own self" to the gig. However, Lynch did rewatch old episodes in order to try to "mimic" her predecessor's "conciseness," her "precise, almost militaristic" style, and her "attitude like the stern schoolmarm with an English accent, which of course I don't have."
Sound like Sue Sylvester, Glee's antagonist principal? "There is a little bit of her," Lynch confessed, "that cruelty, if you will."
In addition to the host's biting style, Weakest Link is also iconic for the very British dismissal of the ousted contestant, "You are the weakest link. Goodbye." For Lynch, no practice was required to deliver this line — albeit in an American accent. "I knew that it would come out organically," said Lynch, who shared that when one is "in the moment, and you have the intention of dismissing this person, it comes out right."
Weakest Link, in which the surviving contestant takes home up to $1 million in prize money, premieres Tuesday at 8 p.m. Eastern on NBC, with episodes to also stream on Peacock. Watch the conversation with Lynch below.