Glee’s Football Coach: The Woman Behind the Beiste
We were instantly supposed to hate Coach Beiste (Dot-Marie Jones), but we just couldn’t. The leathery veneer of her harsh words couldn’t cover up the ache we know she must feel inside. Dot-Marie Jones plays Glee’s new self-proclaimed panther to a T, but who is this woman behind the legend that is Shannon Beiste? Brett Berk from Vanity Fair interviewed the newest member of McKinley High staff, and we’re so totally in love with this woman that we had to share some of the juiciest tidbits we came across. For starters, Dot had some inspiration for Coach Beiste from her earlier career turn working in maximum security juvie for four and a half years. Pretty hardcore! How did you make that transition? To acting.
A friend of mine in 1991 was an alternate on American Gladiators, and called me and told me about a new show they were working on called Knights and Warriors, and I drove down for the auditions. I was living in Fresno and they were here in LA. That first day was all physical agility, from rollerblading to tackling someone, stuff like that. I think there were three or four hundred people auditioning. And they said they’d call that night by 8:00 if they needed me for a cold read—and that threw me. I thought: Do we have to read in a freezer or something? And they didn’t call, and I thought, Oh well, I have a full time job with the county back in Fresno. Then at 8:30, they called, and they had me come back for a cold read. I said, “What should I wear?” and they said, “Wear your best warrior outfit.” I thought, Good thing I brought that from Fresno, because I just keep it in the trunk, right?
Anyway, at that time I was working out a lot, doing some competitive power lifting, and I had some baggy workout pants and a zebra sweatshirt, so I threw something together. Two weeks later the phone rings and the woman says, “How’d you like to be a warrior?”
That’s a great story. A detail I particularly like: “I was doing some competitive power lifting at the time…” Explain.
Out of high school, I turned down basketball scholarships to focus on track and field—I was a shot-putter. The strength coach started us on lifting. I went from 5’6” to 6’1” in eighth grade so I was big, and my coach said, “Why don’t we do some dead-lifting?” You know what that is, where you just pick up the barbell from the ground and your hands are at your side and you pick it up? I had one meet—when I was 19 years old—that would have been a world record but it wasn’t a sanctioned meet. I lifted 518 pounds.
Five hundred and eighteen pounds? What the f****?! I mean, really. So…how did you end up on Glee? Was Ryan Murphy [Glee’s creator] like, “We need a lady tougher than Jane Lynch?”
I don’t know if you ever saw Ryan’s pilot that he shot, Pretty/Handsome? Well, on that, I played a female-to-male transsexual. And then I’d done three episodes of Ryan’s Nip/Tuck and I worked with Brad Falchuk [also a creator of Nip/Tuck and Glee.] Anyway, I ran into Brad at Whole Foods over on Coldwater last year, and I asked what he was working on and he said he was still working with Ryan, on Glee, and I joked that he should write me something—like that’s going to happen to me. And two months later, my agent called and said that he’d gotten a strange call from Robert Ulrich [the casting director for Glee] saying that Ryan Murphy was writing me something for the show. And I just started crying.
Want to know more about the fabulous Coach Beiste? After this, we sure do. Read Brett’s full interview here.