Jane Lynch on Game Night: No To Chips and Dip; Yes To Drinks

The hardworking actress is the host of the new show 'Hollywood Game Night'

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Trae Patton / NBC

As cheerleading coach Sue Sylvester on Glee, actress Jane Lynch, turning 53 this Sunday, gets lots of practice bossing people around. Now, as the host of Hollywood Game Night, premiering July 11 on NBC, she gets to put that skill to use wrangling celebs and civilians into playing party games (and following the rules). Lynch found a moment to talk to TIME.

TIME: So you’re the host of Hollywood Game Night. But you don’t actually get to play any of the games.

JANE LYNCH: No. I’m the host, so I’m keeping everybody in line.

Isn’t that kind of sad?

Well, I love being a part of game night and I love playing them, but I’m also one of those people who loves to host parties. And I like making sure everyone’s having a good time and rallying people so that they follow the rules and keep it moving along, but also giving everybody enough space to have fun and enjoy themselves.

I assume your hosting duties don’t extend to chips and dip.

[The producers] do that for me.

For you, what makes a great game night?

What makes a great game night is where everybody comes game and they come to have a good time and nobody’s afraid of making a fool of themselves. Because you most certainly will on a night like this, and that’s when it works the best. We were really fortunate. We did eight episodes with people who just had the best time. If they started out a little reticent they broke through it by the time they got into the games.

Did you ever have family game night growing up?

No, we didn’t play like this. This is a whole new thing. I’m not a big board-game person; we would play board games from time to time. But no, this is a new thing, relatively new in my life, since I’ve been living in Los Angeles, like 20 years.

So did you get game-night advice, when you started?

I don’t know that anybody advised me, but I’m really aggressive and especially with [the game] celebrity and my mind works pretty quickly. I’m kind of a caffeinated person as it is, and those qualities have served me well.

So you’d recommend to someone coming on the show that they be caffeinated.

Or slightly tipsy. Either way.

You should have a signature cocktail.

That would be a good idea if we got another season. I will absolutely suggest that.

(JANE LYNCH: Best In Show)

Can you tell when someone shows up whether they’ll be a good competitor?

Yeah, you can kind of tell who’s going to come out of the gate charging, and who’s going to be kind of slower to get into it. What happens is, the people who are out of the gate going really well and charging up the hill usually grab the people who aren’t. And everybody’s on a level playing field by the time you’re into the first game.

And some of the games on the show are original games, not like charades…

It’s our version of charades, our version of name-that-tune. It’s all pop-culture references and it’s all good fun. We have this wonderful game where you have to identify a cross-section of candy bars and it takes you back to your youth, like, ‘Oh my God, that’s a Baby Ruth, I haven’t seen a Baby Ruth in 25 years.’

Which game is the hardest?

Sometimes the one where you have to put magazine covers in chronological order. [And] we have this game that features things where you have to, in a charade-like fashion, act out particular movies. So we’ll have a Stephen Spielberg category, or Meryl Streep movies. And that gets a little challenging.

Do the non-celebrity contestants get any time to practice in advance?

Not at all. Everybody just comes in and it’s new for all of them. We tell them the rules of the game before we do the game but they kind of just have to jump in. The great thing about this game night is the celebrities and the civilians are all on a level playing field. You don’t know which is which by the time you get into the game, because it’s the great equalizer.

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Who’s your dream celebrity guest, if you do a second season?

I’d love to see Katie Couric. She already said she wants to do it if we’re doing another one. My friend Kate Flannery from The Office and all those guys—I think it would be fun to dedicate an episode to a particular show. Wouldn’t it be fun to have all those people from The Office come and play? I think that’d be great.

That sounds really fun. You’re also just finishing a run on Broadway as Miss Hannigan in Annie. Do you hope to be back there soon?

Oh yeah. I got the bug. I’m reacquainted now with why I wanted to get into this crazy business. I love being on stage. I love performing. I love the immediate response from the audience and it’s the best. I love theater people. I love theaters. I love putting on my own makeup. I love the whole thing.

Miss Hannigan and Sue Sylvester are sort of cut from similar cloth.

They are. I would say that Miss Hannigan’s a lot sloppier and messier and a little more drunk. I don’t think Sue Sylvester would ever drink. Sue Sylvester has the stealthy manner of a warrior. She’s more manipulative and a little better at being conniving.

Would Miss Hannigan be good at Hollywood Game Night?

No. She’d get way too drunk to be of any use to anybody.

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