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Lynch, Jane (b. 1960)  
 
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Actress Jane Lynch has forged a very successful career on television, in movies, and on the stage. She has appeared in a wide variety of dramatic and comedic roles, including some memorable turns portraying lesbian characters.

Jane Lynch, born July 14, 1960, grew up in Dolton, Illinois, a small southern suburb of Chicago. She studied acting at Illinois State University in Normal, where she earned her bachelor's degree in 1982. She continued her education at Cornell University, from which she received her M.F.A. in theater.

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The program at Cornell was intense but rewarding. Since there were only seven students in Lynch's class, she had an extraordinary opportunity to explore a broad spectrum of experiences as a performer. "I was just thrown into parts I would never have played otherwise; I was stretched to within an inch of my life, and it really revealed that I had more talent than I thought I did . . . . I played ingénues, I played old ladies; I learned to fence, to dance, to sing," she recalled.

After graduation Lynch returned to Chicago, where she appeared in The Real Live Brady Bunch, on-stage performances of episodes of the television situation comedy The Brady Bunch, which first ran from 1969 to 1974. The show became a cult hit and, after its Chicago run, moved to New York for eight months and to Los Angeles for seven. Lynch subsequently went back to Chicago to do more theater, but she soon headed once again for southern California to pursue a career on screen.

The move was a success. Lynch made her film debut with a minor role in Stelvis Massi's Taxi Killer in 1988. During the 1990s she acted in several other movies, including Andrew Davis's The Fugitive (1993) and Carl Reiner's Fatal Instinct (1993). She also made numerous guest appearances on television shows.

Lynch returned to the theater in 1998, writing and starring in the comedy Oh Sister, My Sister, which earned the Best Comedy Ensemble of the Year Award from LA Weekly. The play was revived in 2004 as the initial offering of the Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center's Lesbians in Theater program and was again enthusiastically received.

A cereal commercial eventually led to Lynch's break-through role in the movies. Her pitch for Kellogg's Frosted Flakes was directed by Christopher Guest, best known for his cinematic work but also extremely successful in advertising. A chance encounter in a restaurant some months later led Guest to invite Lynch to participate in his upcoming film project.

Best in Show (2000) is one of Guest's "mockumentaries," parodies of some aspect of society, in this case dog shows. Guest provided a script in broad outline but allowed the actors to explore and develop their own characters.

Lynch played the trainer of the odds-on favorite, Rhapsody in White (call name Butch), a female standard poodle, owned by an elderly gent and his trophy wife (played by Jennifer Coolidge). Romance bloomed between the trainer and the wife. The relationship was clandestine at first, but by the end of the film, the women were happily out. In the epilogue portion of the movie, Lynch's character describes the couple's post-dog-show activities: "We started this magazine, American Bitch. It's a focus on the issues of the lesbian purebred dog owner."

Best in Show also featured an openly gay couple (played by Michael McKean and John Michael Higgins) whose characters are among the funniest and most sympathetic of the film.

Lynch's work in Best in Show not only brought her to wider public attention but also earned her a special place in the hearts of lesbian fans, some of whom, she noted with amusement, have jokingly asked her where to find a copy of American Bitch.

In a 2005 interview Lynch stated that although she had her first lesbian relationship at the age of twenty, she did not come out to her family for another twelve years. Living far from her parents, she did not have to deal with the issue on an immediate daily basis, but the weight of it led her to seek psychological therapy. In the course of therapy, she did an exercise of writing a letter to her parents. "It just felt so right that I sent it," she said. "My parents were just wonderful about it."

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Jane Lynch at the premiere of The L Word's fourth season in 2007. Photograph by Angela Brinskele.
  
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