Jane Lynch Talks Raising the Stakes With the 'Weakest Link' Revival
"Each show will be an education," she says of the tricky trivia asked of eight players, who work as a team to bank cash through increasingly difficult rounds. As in the original American adaptation of the series, which debuted on NBC in 2001, contestants vote to eliminate the least helpful participant in each round (see the title), until two remain for a final face-off.
Amid production shutdowns and a pandemic, you have managed to get yourself another job.
Jane Lynch: And what a fun job this is! God, I love it. What I love most of all is the reference level of the questions. Hollywood Game Night is fun, but that's People magazine-level [challenging]. No offense to your business. [Laughs]
Not at all. I get it. Yeah. Because I re-watched a couple episodes of the original with Anne Robinson and was like, "Oh, these are deep questions."
Oh yeah. They're not fooling around. It's a pretty amazing thing.
What else can we expect?
There’s that built-in drama with the music. Everything is basically the same except Anne Robinson [host of the 2000–12 U.K. hit and NBC's 2001–02 import] has handed the baton to me.
Did she hand you her signature leather jackets as well?
She did not. They said, "Find your own damn look."
Well, you have made an iconic look out of track suits.
[Laughs] I guess I did! Well, we've got some beautiful looks. I don't want to give it away, but yeah, I love a uniform, but basically in a very classy uniform.
I know you're in EP, so how is this being produced? Because right now it's really difficult.
We have these COVID standards and precautions that are followed to the letter. There are markings all over the studio, the entrance to the building, even to get into the lot. We are protected, wearing N-95s and shields. To shoot it, what's so wonderful about Weakest Link is that it's an expansive set anyway. We did put a little more distance between the contestants and me, so we're nowhere near each other.
Oh, that's fantastic. I like the idea of the contestants being lined up almost like a Greek chorus circle kind of thing.
Yes. That's exactly... What a great way of putting it. It's like a Greek chorus and I'm the goddess. I'm Zeus. [Laughs]
And how much money can they win in this version?
Up to a million dollars. So we've raised it. And we start at 25,000. One of the things I noticed from watching Anne Robinson, first the British then the American edition, and also in our rehearsals, is the strategy where you bank. And people don't take advantage of it as much as they can. Now that I've played the game a million times, it will be interesting to see it. I'm always interested to see how much people are paying attention to banking.
Did you imagine yourself hosting so many game shows? You have become the new Regis.
I would love to pick up the mantle from Regis. I loved him and thought he was a national treasure. Yeah. I love it. I love doing this...it's, of course, very different from Hollywood Game Night, which was like herding cats and having a party every night. That was a blast, but this is much more restrained and dramatic.
And are you better at hosting the games than playing?
I'm better at hosting. I don't like them. I'm not a fan of games. I like to host them. I like playing Celebrity. That's fun because I'm very good at that. [Laughs] But if I'm not great at something, I don't want to do it. And I'm great at hosting.
Honestly, you've been hustling in the last couple of years between Mrs. Maisel, The Good Fight, Hollywood Game Night and now this. What are you doing for fun?
Well, I love to act, so I love working. But it's interesting. It looks like I'm probably busy every day of my life and I'm not. Even before quarantine, I have had long stretches where I'm not doing anything and I get bored, although I'm a homebody. But sometimes that backs up on me and I got to get out.
Oh thank you. It's just such a horrifying loss. It really is. And you look at that scene and then you look back at what she did in the show. She started out as just a day player and a singer. And she and Heather Morris [who played Brittany] worked their way into being regulars. And Naya was one of those people who could be given a three-page monologue in the morning and she not only has it down word for word, but she's acting it so beautifully and so heartbreakingly.
And I remember doing that scene with her going, "My God, she threw me up against a wall. She's a tough chick." And she was tough in real life. She was loyal and she had your back. It's a huge loss and my heart breaks for her kid. But I know that Josey has a terrific dad and that it's got to be a hard time for all of them. But boy, he's got a great dad.
Nice. Now, of the people you have worked with in the past, who would you chose to compete on a Celebrity Weakest Link?
Oh my goodness. Who are the smartest? You know John Michael Higgins? He's the smartest person I know. I would put him on the panel and I would have him host it at the same time, if he could do it. He is one of the most extraordinary human beings on the planet. You could write that down.
You've worked with him a ton.
Oh yeah. A Mighty Wind, Best in Show, For Your Consideration. I also sing in his choir. He calls it the 'OK Chorale' and we do devotional music and we've done Christmas concerts. We haven't done one in a couple of years, but we will go over to his house and in two or three hours, he'll teach us two songs and we'll have the bass, the tenor, the alto and soprano. And it's a lot of fun. He knows all the parts. He's the best.
That is some high praise. Since Robinson was dubbed "the queen of mean," what's your vibe?
I'm doing something that comes very naturally to me, which is in between [Glee's] Sue Sylvester and Jane Lynch, the person who can be sarcastic…but there's always more of a wink.
Weakest Link, Series Premiere, Tuesday, September 29, 8/7c, NBC