Many comedy fans first noticed Jane Lynch thanks to her standout work as a no-nonsense dog trainer in Christopher Guest’s 2000 mockumentary, “Best in Show,” his follow-up to “Waiting for Guffman.” Since then, Lynch has gone on to acclaim with work in “Glee,” “Two and a Half Men” and hosting “Hollywood Game Night,” but she’ll always have a soft spot for Guest’s work.
Which is why Lynch was so thrilled to get the call for his latest work, the Netflix original film “Mascots.” In it, Lynch appears as a very prominent member of a very small subculture -- nonprofessional sport mascots. She told CBS News that before hearing about the film, she’d just about given up on Guest.
How often over the last decade has the question of when there will be another Christopher Guest movie come up in interviews?
Oh, all the time -- which is, I think, a terrific tribute to his work and the films. Yeah, I always say, “You know what? I think it’s over. He always says it’s over after every movie, but I think he meant it this time, so I’m not going to do it again.” I don’t think he said it after this last movie, but we did wait 10 years, and when the call came it was a huge, delightful surprise.
These films rely heavily on improvisation. How much input do you get in, say, your character’s backstory?
Well, that was spoon-fed to me by Christopher Guest himself. He creates the circumstances of almost everything and we just fill them out. But he’s the one that told me, you know, that I was Minnie the Moose and that I ripped my thigh muscle holding my splits for far too long and that one leg is two-and-a-half inches longer than the other. So that was his brilliant idea and I, of course, just did my best to wrap some psychology and a person around those given circumstances. I think he can do a great thumbnail sketch, and all the dialogue is improvised, but the script is really airtight, you know. It’s like a regular movie script -- it’s scene by scene. So we know what has to happen in each scene, but there’s no written dialogue for it.
You have great chemistry with Ed Begley Jr. Among the people you’ve played antagonistically against screen with before, where does he rank?
He’s right up there. He’s got the most interesting straight, innocent delivery, and the whole content of what he was talking about so matter-of-factly and innocently -- about having a micropenis -- was news to me. I was hearing it for the first time, so it was kind of a herculean task not to ruin his take by laughing.
How much interaction have you had with people involved in these worlds in real life?
I haven’t had any. But I didn’t seek it out, either. I don’t have to talk to a surgeon to play a surgeon, you know what I mean? It might be helpful from the technical standpoint, but mostly it’s about what the given circumstances of this women, in this particular subculture that has this single-minded focus and ambition to be the best of this particular thing, which is non-professional mascotting.
In the intervening years, do you ever run into dog show people or folk music people who have thoughts about the films?
Yeah! You know what’s funny? To a person, they all say, “Oh man, you nailed it, you nailed those people. You know, that’s not how I am, but you nailed those people.”
“Of course, it’s not me.”
“Not me, no, I’m not one of those crazy dog show people, but boy do I know ’em.” And I’m, like, looking at a crazy dog show person.
When you first heard about the subject for “Mascots,” what was your reaction?
Awesome. Great. I get another subculture where, you know, we’re going to get to create really interesting people who really want to be somebody. That’s kind of how I see them -- everybody wants to be somebody and they’re all striving for that. And it can be mascots, it can be World War II reenactors or Civil War reenactors -- which a lot of people have mentioned to me that I should pitch to Chris, which I would never do.
I’ve heard the dirty secret of Civil War reenactments is that they’re all swingers.
That’s brilliant. They just do that as a cover, because they’re all swingers! I like that, actually, I might actually do that myself. I’ll thank you in the credits.
What the actor’s perspective on how things has changed with Netflix producing their own material?
They’re leading the way in this -- the showrunner having his or her own voice. They’ve got a lot of product and they keep changing it and they keep giving creators opportunities to do terrific, interesting shows that say something. And as an actor, that just means there’s a lot more to do. You always see movie people doing television now -- not that they’re better actors than television people -- but it’s the place where the creativity is happening right now. Television is really fertile ground, and it’s because of platforms like Netflix and Hulu and of course the cable channels like HBO and Showtime.
“Mascots” is available now on Netflix.