Dot-Marie Jones has quickly become a breakout character on this season of Glee, thanks to her heartbreaking and hilarious performance as McKinley High’s newest faculty member, Coach Shannon Beiste. The series’ most recent episode, “Never Been Kissed,” was a showcase for the 46-year-old actress: In the episode, her character revealed that she still had never been kissed at the age of 40. (On the upside, she did get to pucker up with Matthew Morrison mere seconds later.) Jones had previously guest-starred on various series, like Married… with Children and Lizzie McGuire, but now has her biggest role to date on the hit Fox series. And it’s all because of a lucky trip to the grocery store. “It’s true that I ran into [Glee co-creator] Brad Falchuk at Whole Foods,” says the actress, who knew Falchuk from doing guest appearances on Nip/Tuck. “I didn’t corner him like the National Enquirer said and refused to let him go until he said he’d consider me for a part. I said, ‘Oh my god, I love [Glee]!’ I said, ‘Please, you guys, write me something!’ Not two months later, my agent called me and said that [Glee co-creator] Ryan Murphy wanted to know my availability in mid-July because he was writing something for me. I mean, come on. I know how lucky I am. There are 5,000 people who would do this job in a second and 5,000 behind them.” For more with Jones, including her Olympic past and a photo of her as a medieval warrior (yes — you heard that right), keep reading after the jump.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: “Never Been Kissed” is your biggest episode so far and has some really emotional moments. Was that exciting? Or intimidating?
DOT-MARIE JONES: I was so excited. It’s such a heartbreaking episode and yet so rewarding. And how cute are those boys singing that Katy Perry song? I have it on my Facebook page. We watched the episode on the set. I was like, “Oh my God, this is amazing.” Matt [Morrison] and I saw each other afterwards and he goes, “Come here. Give me a kiss!”
Growing up, were you always this tall [Jones is about 6’3”]?
I grew really fast. It’s true I went from 5’6’’ to 6’1’’in six months in 8th grade. By the end of 8th grade, I was 6’1’’. Everyone was freaking out.
And I’m assuming you were pretty athletic?
I did volleyball, basketball, and track all through high school. And then I went to junior college and I stuck with track because I was good at shot put and discus. And then I got a full ride to Fresno State for their track program. Shot put was my main thing. I was the five-time All-American, and I set a couple records. Then I did get to go to the Olympic trials in ’88 and ’92. I was 7th and 11th, so I didn’t place high enough to go to the games, but, still, it was a blast. I also competed [as] a professional arm-wrestler. I won 15 world titles.
I read that you also were on an American Gladiators rip-off called Knights and Warriors.
I was Lady Battleaxe. It was awesome.
Were there particular challenges that you excelled in on that show?
I was really good at the Sorcerer’s Wheel, which is a wheel that went in a circle and had these little hurdles on it. The warriors were swinging this 80-pound mace back and forth, and I was really good at knocking [the contestants] off the wheel.
Did Ryan or the other writers tell you anything about Coach Beiste before you joined the show?
I signed a blank contract. I didn’t know anything about the character. I didn’t care.
There are moments, especially in “Never Been Kissed,” where Beiste’s physical appearance is used as comedy. Does that bother you at all?
You know what? I think that’s hilarious. It serves a purpose for the message. I wasn’t offended at all. I thought it was hysterical. Maybe it will make people think outside of the show.
Would you ever want to sing on the show? If so, what song?
Absolutely. I like old-school rock. Heart is my favorite group. I would be too embarrassed to do their songs because I couldn’t do it justice. Ann Wilson is a goddess. I told Ryan [Murphy] something like AC/DC or Cher would be cool. I can sing both of them which is hysterical. [In Cher voice] “If I could turn back time!” [But] only if I could sing it like Jack on Will & Grace.