By Maureen Lee Lenker
September 28, 2020 at 11:00 AM EDT
Chris Haston/NBC

Jane Lynch is the queen of mean. At least on screen.

Best known for playing the caustic cheerleading coach Sue Sylvester on Glee, Lynch has perfected the art of the eviscerating one-liner, and she puts it to good use in her new job as host of NBC's reboot of game show Weakest Link.

In real life, Lynch couldn't be any further from her screen counterparts. Soft-spoken, kind, and gentle in her interactions, it's hard to see the through-line between this and delicious takedowns she drops with aplomb. She admits she was initially concerned people would perceive her hosting alter ego as indicative of a personal mean streak — but she quickly got lost in the role.

"Now I'm used to it," she tells EW. "There was a part of me that was like, 'I hope these people know that this is just my job,' but I got over that after the first episode. I say lots of cheeky things to people. I was inspired by [original British host] Anne Robinson; she definitely has her own way and I wouldn't be foolish enough to try to imitate her, but it was really fun to watch her dish it out. It was really a blast to be a bit cheeky."

Still, she wouldn't go so far as to say she's delivering the kind of menace she served up on Glee. Imagining what would happen if Sue Sylvester hosted Weakest Link, Lynch says, "She would be relentless. She would not give up until everybody was crying. I stopped short of that."

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Perhaps even more impressive is that Lynch is coming up with her one-liners on the spot. She has showrunner and executive producer Stuart Krasnow in her ear, feeding her ideas, but together they're thinking on their feet to deliver humorous retorts.

Lynch, who says she was a fan of the original Weakest Link (both in its first British iteration and the American rendition on NBC), revisited episodes to prepare for her new gig, and she confesses that if there was one game show on her dream list to host, it was this one.

She already honed her skills as the Emmy-winning host of NBC's Hollywood Game Night, and now she's taking things to the next level. Lynch never planned to get into game-show emceeing, but she's taken to it swiftly, finding that her personality aligns well with the gig. "I enjoy taking care of people," she says. "Like when I have a party, my objective is to make sure that I create an environment where people can relax — they're not worried about when the food is coming, will there be something to drink, where will I park. I just want everything to be taken care of so that they can have a good time. The same thing with game shows.

"[With] Hollywood Game Night, I just made it a party where everybody could relax and have a good time. Then I lay down the law, and I herd the cats," she continues. "In this show, I want everybody to know that I'm steering the ship. Yeah, I'm going to do it snarky every once in a while, but they don't have to worry about anything but digging deep into the recesses of their own brains to come up with the answer while the clock is ticking. I want to create the environment where they're able to do just that and not worry about anything else."

Lynch also had the unenviable task of making Robinson's catchphrase — "You are the weakest link, goodbye!" — her own. "I didn't play with it at all," she notes. "I knew that if I played with it, it would become contrived. Just as an actor, always in my mind I'm thinking, 'Just experience this.' So, let's move on, we have to get rid of this weakest link."

As for how she'd fare playing the game herself? Lynch says she thinks she'd be better at this than Hollywood Game Night because she's such a trivia fan, but she gives herself 50-50 odds. "It's breadth of knowledge and the question you get," she says. "There was a smart guy in one of our first episodes. He had like four technical degrees, one from MIT, and he was eliminated in the first round because the questions he got [were about] pop culture. But probably with the help of a little bit of luck and some happy accidents, I might do well at Weakest Link. I know I would rather play that."

Weakest Link premieres Tuesday, Sept. 29, at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.

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