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Interview: Jenn Lyon

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Sometimes it can be hard to set yourself apart from your peers in Hollywood. Everyone has a dream and everyone will work hard to see that dream come true. Jenn Lyon is an actress who has a leg up on the competition. She is the cofounder/writer/producer for the online sketch comedy group Poykpac. She has a string of credits on and off Broadway and is making her mark in television with roles on series such as Louie, Suburgatory and Army Wives. She can be currently seen on the hit FX series Saint George starring opposite George Lopez and Danny Trejo. Jenn was kind enough to sit down with us and talk about her career and her upcoming projects.

Pop Culture Principle – You are the co-founder of the New York comedy troupe Poykpac. How did you get involved with that project?

Jenn Lyon – Well, a couple of the kids went to the North Carolina School of the Arts, which is where I went as well. They were in the film department and I didn’t know them because I was in the theater department.

We were in New York and when you graduated, you are kind of on your own. You get to audition for different agents and casting directors, but you are basically waiting to get hired. We were all interested in being creative and making funny sketches. We just wanted to create our own work instead of waiting for people to hire us; we wanted to put our own voices out there.

Pop Culture Principle - One of the funniest clips is Movie Title Breakup. How did you come up with the idea for that sketch?

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Jenn Lyon – My writing partner Ryan Hunter and I wrote that sketch. He is just brilliant, very cerebral.

Pop Culture Principle – You are currently starring in the new FX series Saint George with George Lopez. How did you become a part of that project?

Jen Lyon – I was doing the play version of His Girl Friday and on closing night, I got the call to put myself on tape for Saint George. I just really loved the script. I had never seen a family like that before on TV with a successful Mexican business man married to a white lady with this allergy prone kid. It was such an interesting dynamic to me. Many times on TV you have this middle aged man and this hot wife who is always nagging him, but in this case, they also find each other so funny. She doesn’t always storm in and is upset; they love to fight each other. Also, the fact that Danny Trejo and David Zayas were involved was another reason I was so excited to land the gig.

SAINT GEORGE -- Pictured: Jenn Lyon as Mackenzie -- CR. Matthias Clamer/FX

Pop Culture Principle – Can you tell us about your character MacKenzie?

Jenn Lyon – If you look at her from the outside, people would think she is a very white, uppity, country club kind of woman, but she didn’t start out that way. When she and George first got together, they didn’t have a lot of money. They were scrappy and built the business together. I think she wants to be a cool mom, but she just can’t help herself. She looks the part, but underneath it all, she is nerdy, scrappy and hot tempered just like George.

Pop Culture Principle – Your character isn’t the typical sitcom ex-wife. Was that important to you as an actor to put a different spin on that kind of character?

Jenn Lyon – Yes, absolutely. So many times you see the ex-wife wound so tight and you wonder how they got together. You wonder what is lovable about that person. I wanted you to see why they loved each other in the first place. She is the opposite of what George’s mother is. She is calm and centered; things that George needed. Over the years, she has become more anxious while being a parent. As she tries to co-parent Harper with him, that’s when she starts to get really ramped up about things and that’s when the fighting really comes into play. She loves George and loves his family very much. She wishes that she got along with George’s mom and I’m sure she tried for a long time.

Pop Culture Principle – What is it like working with George Lopez and Danny Trejo?

Jenn Lyon – They make me laugh so hard on set. It’s hard to keep a straight face. You never know what’s going to come out of Danny’s mouth and George is so fast on his feet. It’s the most loving work environment and it’s so great to go to work every day.

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Pop Culture Principle – One of your most notable roles was playing Lindsey on the hit FX series Justified. What was it like working on that show?

Jenn Lyon – I was so lucky to do that show. Originally, I was supposed to play a nurse in Season 3, but I was doing a play, so the schedules didn’t work out. Then the role of the bartender came up and they offered me that role and it sort of developed over time. I am so glad I didn’t get to be the nurse because Lindsey was so much better!

Pop Culture Principle – Your character on Justified was totally different from the character you play on Saint George. Which character do you think represents you the most?

Jenn Lyon – Definitely Lindsey! I’m a ponytail and sweatpants kind of girl. I’m just more low country then I am shopping at Barney’s. I think Mackenzie sweats the small stuff and that’s just not my style.

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Pop Culture Principle – The storyline with your character, her boyfriend and Rayland was fascinating to watch. Do you think deep down that Lindsay would have chosen Rayland in the end?

Jenn Lyon – It was so interesting! You didn’t see it coming. The writers on that show are so fantastic. In my mind, the women on Justified are complicated. I think that she did love Rayland as much as she could, but she’s a survivor and had to do what she had to do. I think she would have chosen Rayland as long as he would have let her have a long leash. I don’t think she could have stay tied to any man.

Pop Culture Principle – One element of Justified that doesn’t get enough credit is the comedy aspect. Would you agree?

Jenn Lyon – It’s so fantastic! You’ll get into a scene that is so harsh and terrible and then someone will zing a line at somebody else and it’s so amazing. You get levitas with gravitas right off the cuff. It’s really in the spirit of Elmore Leonard. It’s unlike anything else on TV. I think it is one of the top 3 shows on TV today. It’s also cool that they are going out in the sixth season. They are making it this contained series in itself. They are book ending it in a beautiful way.

Pop Culture Principle – The characters on Justified all seem to have this nice rhythm and flow to their dialogue. Would you agree?

Jenn Lyon – It’s like an August Wilson play or Tennessee Williams. The writers just get it and they write in the spirit of Elmore Leonard. There is that rhythm and cadence and they all respect it. I don’t know how they do it, but each character has their own rhythm and they trade back and forth. It’s just masterful. The writing is the heart and soul of the show and if you have good writing, that is everything.

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Pop Culture Principle – You also had a memorable appearance on the series Louie. What was it like working on that show?

Jenn Lyon – Again, I couldn’t believe my luck. F. Murray Abraham is a legend and just to work in the same space with him and hear that booming voice was amazing. Louis CK is a genius. Not only is he acting, he’s directing, running the set and edits the show on his laptop. I had always been a theater girl and Louie and Justified were my first two things on television. I was kind of shot out of a canon and was trying to keep my pants on. So, to be surrounded by people who are so good right out of the gate was really inspiring and terrifying. I just tried to watch and learn and pick everything up as fast as I could.

Pop Culture Principle – You have a fantastic background with theater and comedy. Do you think it’s important for artists today to be a jack of all trades?

Jenn Lyon – Yes, I think so. You can create your own work now. Anything you do, it’s good to be skilled in. If you are good at what you do, do it! Study your craft. If you can learn how to edit or learn how to work the camera, anything that applies to your craft is good to know. When we where at the school, you had to take make-up, lighting and costumes. Whatever you can know about what’s going on around you will only make you better and will also make you appreciate the people around you who are doing the same thing as well.

Pop Culture Principle – Any upcoming projects that you can tell us about?

Jenn Lyon – Well, I just produced and shot my first short film called The Flower Shop. It’s in the can and we are editing that right now. I have a couple of things brewing. Right now the episodes of Saint George are airing and we are hoping that people tune in to the show and that the series gets picked up. I’d love to keep working with George, Danny, David and everyone on the cast and crew. I really believe in the show and would love to continue doing it.

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