One of the most surprising effects of having a steady gig, she admits, is what it has done to her “fevered ambition, this kind of crazy need to fill my time with work. I know we’re at least going to have three seasons. It calmed me to know that; I can relax.” Her seemingly bottomless reserves of energy have now shifted to her new family. Last year Lynch, who is openly gay, was backstage at a National Center for Lesbian Rights fund raiser in San Francisco when one of the award recipients—pretty, dark-haired Lara Embry, who has a PhD in clinical psychology—asked Lynch if she would pose for a photograph with her. Sparks flew. The following week, Lynch was winging her way to Sarasota, Florida, where Embry lived.
Just before takeoff, Lynch recalls, she phoned Embry and said, “We need to acknowledge how courageous both of us are that I’m coming into town and you really don’t know me. And I’m hopping on a plane to visit someone I really don’t know. So for a moment, let’s give ourselves a little pat on the back.” After six months of romantic bicoastal commuting, Embry proposed, and on May 31, on the grounds of the Blue Heron Restaurant in Sunderland, Massachusetts, with Jeannie Elias—an old friend of Lynch’s who is an ordained Universal Life minister—presiding, the two women exchanged matching diamond wedding rings in a small ceremony.
Now Lynch is renovating her log cabin–ish house in one of Los Angeles’s canyons to make room for Embry and her eight-year-old daughter, Haden. What’s it like to become a parental figure for the first time in midlife? “I haven’t really done it [on a day-to-day basis] yet,” she says, but she has spent time in Sarasota ramping up for stepmotherhood. “I took her to school. I picked her up. I went to lunch with her. So I kind of had a test run. We’re pretty darn good together.”
When we meet, Lynch’s wife and daughter aren’t due to move in for six weeks. Until then, the actress has time to confront what she feels is a holdover from single life: her obsession with tidiness. “I’m a little OCD,” says Lynch, who admits she stares longingly at the dozen or so boxes of Embry’s belongings that have been shipped to L.A. and fantasizes about paring down. “I don’t want to touch the boxes, because they’re my wife’s. I don’t want to start going through them and saying, ‘Well, we can get rid of this, and that!’ But it’s hard.” Even as she’s speaking, it’s clear that she’s looking forward to closing the single-gal chapter of her life. “My focus now is this entity that is called my family. That comes first,” says the actress, adding that her track record when it came to relationships was somewhat spotty. “I think Lara really, truly came into my life when she was supposed to. I shouldn’t say this, but I’d never dated anyone that I wanted to marry. I didn’t think it was going to be out there for me. But the minute we were married, I felt the difference: I felt like I am no longer alone.”
For decades before that, however, Lynch’s focus was on a different kind of connection. Growing up in Dolton, Illinois, a suburb on the South Side of Chicago, she found that being onstage made her pulse race. Her official theatrical debut? She was a candle in her third-grade school play. When asked to rate her performance, Lynch jokingly barks, “I was probably awesome.” But she’s also prepared to solemnly recite her still-remembered lines as proof. (“A is for air so filled with smells of spice/ smell of cake, pudding and pie/ everything that’s nice . . . ”) From then on, her public school stage career continued to soar, until she entered Thornridge High and abruptly bailed on her role as the king in a one-act version of The Princess and the Pea. “It was just . . . fear,” says Lynch. “It was as if I was walking up to my destiny, and I got scared and turned around and joined the tennis team.”