Boasting an extensive acting portfolio and on-stage experience, Jenn Lyon is truly a multi-talent. The actress is also the writer, producer and co-founder of internet sketch group POYKPAC, attracting more than 100 million viewers. Needless to say, the CLAWS star is not going anywhere, with season 2 of TNT’s hit dramedy airing in June. But Jenn has a lot more to talk about than her success. Having struggled with her weight and health in the past, the 33-year old is all about being comfortable and happy in her own skin, and encourages women everywhere to embrace their true self so they can feel the same way.
We’re excited for Season 2 of CLAWS (returning to TNT this June). Tell us about your character Jennifer, can you relate to her and what can we expect to see in Season 2?
I am also so stoked for Season 2! I really love to play Jennifer because, first of all, her name is easy to remember and second of all, because she is a girl I would be so down to hang out with. She is fiercely loyal, loves to laugh, and would win in most any bar fight. In this upcoming season, you will see the aftermath of the affair she had on her marriage and her sobriety and you will see she and the girls come back together and scrap to survive under the thumb of the Russians.
Looking forward, if you could choose any character to play, what would that character be like?
If I could choose any character to play in the world what would they be like?! This is a tough question because it fires up the nonsense side of my imagination and makes me want to say, “A former bear trainer who must now survive in a world who would rather have untrained bears but only she knows the horrible truth about wild bears and must use her beast master ways to wrangle all the different large bears threatening the local news networks.” This would of course, culminate in a musical number starring me and a multitude of real bears.
You have openly talked about battling an eating disorder, something that millions of girls/women struggle with – how did you overcome this struggle and regain your confidence?
Eating Disorders are such a pernicious disease to battle. They rob you of your joy and your brain’s ability to decipher the real truth of a situation. I think the only way I was able to overcome it was to go to rehab. I just couldn’t get any traction of days of not throwing up or starving under my belt without professional help and supervision. The Renfrew Center in NYC saved my life. I thought I would never work again as an actress after gaining 60 lbs. back on my body. I thought that eating food and being in show business could not exist together but I booked a play right when I got out and made a promise to myself that I was going to try for a year to stay healthy while being an actress and if I couldn’t, I would leave. And I’m still here. Claws has been revolutionary for me. I get to play a normal sized woman (which is plus size by Hollywood standards) and be funny and sexy and complicated and I have made it necessary that I eat on camera as well. Women eat food. Women take up space. I am done pretending we don’t or shouldn’t.
What advice do you have for girls that are going through similar struggles?
My advice for girls/women battling an eating disorder is to seek professional help. You are not alone. NEDA is a great resource to find a therapist or doctor or support group that you can talk things out with. There are programs to help you. You don’t have to live this way. The doors that open up to you when you lose weight are very real and feel so good but then you get addicted and it runs your life and will cause your death. I can remember my hair falling out by the handful and passing out on exercise equipment and thinking, “I would rather be thinner and bald. I would rather slowly die than gain weight.” And the worst part is, this thinking seems rational. You feel that you are just doing a normal cost benefit analysis. Speak up. Ask for help. It doesn’t have to be this way.
It’s been great seeing more and more women starting to speak up for themselves and slowly changing the narrative, especially in Hollywood. What can we do to keep fighting for this?
In order to keep the tide rolling for women in Hollywood and in general, we must vote for people that want to change the game. This means in our unions, our legislation, service organizations, whatever. We need to keep fighting. We have to harness this bravery and power. Donate your money or your hours to TimesUp. They are doing brilliant work.
What can we expect to see from you in the future?
In the future, you can see me starting June 10th in Claws and you can also see me in the Ethan Hawke directed movie, “Blaze” about this country music singer named Blaze Foley. It premiered at Sundance and I think it’s really special.
How do you define beauty?
How do I define beauty? This question is difficult for me because I feel like women are asked to do this a million different ways every day. Why is this the important thing to define? Can we please start defining intelligence or compassion? I feel that if I answer that “Beauty is…” I am still adhering to this policy that beauty is the important defining factor. It isn’t. Listen, I love lip gloss and lashes and work out tips but we are so much more than that. Let’s demand that we be seen as more.
Be on the lookout for Jenn in CLAWS’ Season 2, airing June 10th! Until then, check out her hilarious sketches on www.youtube.com/poykpac!
Photos by Sam Lothridge