Jane Lynch
Jane Lynch plays Sue Sylvester in Glee
There are a few certainties in Hollywood: Meryl Streep gets the nomination; gray hair makes George Clooney more handsome; and small indies outshine big studio productions every award season. When casting a comedy, insiders also know one other thing for certain—Jane Lynch is a genius.

You may not recognize her name, but if you've seen a funny movie or TV show in the last decade, chances are this actress has made you laugh. Since the early 1990s, Lynch has guest starred, co-starred and pretty much stolen the show in more than 100 productions, including Christopher Guest's ensemble comedies and movies like 40-Year-Old Virgin and Role Models .

After many small but memorable roles, Lynch is finally stepping into the spotlight. In 2009, she earned rave reviews as Dorothy, Julia Child's sister, in Julie & Julia . Lynch also co-starred alongside Alexis Bledel and comedy legend Carol Burnett in Post Grad , a coming-of-age film available on DVD January 12, 2010.

But in her breakout role of the year, Lynch plays Sue Sylvester, a sinister cheerleading coach whose one liners are so scathing you're not sure whether to laugh until you cry, or just cry. Sue is the villain on Fox's smash hit Glee , a dark comedy about a high school glee club.

Since Glee premiered in May 2009, its lyrical mash-ups, twisted storylines and Sue's track suits have helped attract millions of loyal viewers. Critics are also singing its praises. In December 2009, Glee earned four Golden Globe nominations—more than any other series on television—including a nod for Lynch for best performance by an actress in a supporting role.

Days before these nominations were announced, Oprah.com caught up with Lynch in a place more cut-throat than glee club sectionals—the mall. As she browsed for holiday gifts, Lynch reflected on her early days in Dolton, Illinois, a small town just south of Chicago, and how she turned childhood dreams into a career.

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