Emmy-winning versatile actor Leslie Jordan dies at 67

By LYNN ELBER and MARK KENNEDY
AP Entertainment Writers

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Leslie Jordan, the actor whose drawling voice and Southern versatility made him a star of comedy and drama on TV shows like “Will & Grace” and “American Horror Story.” , is dead. The Emmy winner, whose videos turned him into a social media star during the pandemic, was 67.

“The world is definitely a much darker place today without the love and light of Leslie Jordan. Not only was he a mega talent and a joy to work with, but he provided emotional sanctuary for the nation at the time. one of his most difficult times,” a Jordanian representative said in a statement on Monday.

The Chattanooga, Tennessee native, who won an Outstanding Guest Actor Emmy in 2005 for his role as Beverly Leslie in “Will & Grace,” had a recurring role on Mayim Bialik’s comedy “Call Me Kat” and starred in the sitcom “The Cool Kids.”

Jordan’s other eclectic credits include “Hearts Afire”, “Boston Legal”, “Fantasy Island”, and “The United States vs. Billie Holiday”. He played various roles in the series “American Horror Story”.

Production on Fox’s “Call Me Kat” was suspended following Jordan’s death. He had completed work on nine episodes.

He died Monday in a single car crash in the Hollywood area, according to reports from celebrity website TMZ and the Los Angeles Times, citing unidentified law enforcement sources.

The “Will & Grace” stars mourned his loss.

“My heart is broken,” tweeted Sean Hayes. “Everyone who met him loved him. There will never be anyone like him. A unique talent with a huge, caring heart. You will be missed my dear friend.

“Crushed to learn of the loss of @thelesliejordan, the funniest and flirtiest southern gentleman I have ever known,” tweeted Eric McCormack. “The joy and laughter he brought to each of his #WillandGrace episodes was palpable.”

The chief executive of GLAAD, the LGBTQ media advocacy group, hailed Jordan as a talented entertainer who “has charmed audiences for decades with heartfelt on-screen personas and passionate off-screen LGBTQ advocacy.”

Jordan intended to help increase LGBTQ visibility in his native South and was grand marshal of the Nashville AIDS Walk last year, said Sarah Kate Ellis, president and CEO of GLAAD, in a press release.

Jordan gained an unexpected new audience in 2021 when the longtime Los Angeles area resident spent time during the pandemic lockdown near his family in his hometown. He broke the similarity by posting daily videos of himself on Instagram.

Many of Jordan’s videos included him asking “How are you?” and some included stories about Hollywood or his childhood growing up with identical twin sisters and their “mom,” as he called her. Other times he did stupid things like complete an indoor obstacle course.

“Someone called from California and said, ‘Oh, honey, you’ve gone viral. And I said, ‘No, no, I don’t have COVID. I’m just in Tennessee,” Jordan said. Celebrities such as Michelle Pfeiffer, Jessica Alba and Anderson Cooper, as well as brands such as Reebok and Lululemon, would post comments.

Soon he became obsessed with how many views and subscribers he had, as not much else was going on. At the time of his death, he had amassed 5.8 million followers on Instagram and another 2.3 million on TikTok.

“For a while there, it was like an obsession. And I thought, ‘This is ridiculous. Stop, stop, stop. ′ You know, it almost became, ‘If this doesn’t happen on Instagram, that didn’t happen.’ And I thought, ‘You’re 65, first of all. You’re not a teenager.

The spotlights have opened up new opportunities. Earlier this month he released a gospel album titled “Company’s Comin'” featuring Dolly Parton, Chris Stapleton, Brandi Carlile, Eddie Vedder and Tanya Tucker. He has written a new book, “How Y’all Doing?: Misadventures and Mischief from a Life Well Lived”.

It was Jordan’s second book, following his 2008 memoir, “My Trip Down the Pink Carpet,” a personal take on Hollywood, fame, addiction, gay culture, and learning about life. ‘self love.

“It kind of dealt with all the gay angst and growth in the Baptist Church and la, la, la, la, la. And this one, I just wanted to tell stories,” he told The Associated Press in 2021. Among the anecdotes: working with Lady Gaga on “American Horror Story”; how meeting Carrie Fisher led Debbie Reynolds to name her mother and the Shetland pony he had as a child named Midnight.

He turned many of his life memories and observations into stage productions, including off-Broadway passages from his musicalized memoir “Hysterical Blindness” and a 2010 version of his “My Trip Down the Pink Carpet,” a show that alternated between stand-up comedy and fiery one-man show.

Those mourning celebrities included Jackée Harry, Marlee Matlin and Kristen Johnston, who called Jordan “magical.” Lynda Carter wrote that he “brought a smile to so many people’s faces, especially with his pandemic videos. What an achievement to keep us all laughing and staying connected during these trying times.”

In a 2014 interview with Philadelphia magazine, Jordan was asked how he related to his role in the 2013 film “Southern Baptist Sissies,” which explored growing up gay while being raised in a conservative Baptist church.

“I really wanted to be a really good Christian, like some of the boys in the movie. I was baptized 14 times,” Jordan said. “Every time the preacher said, ‘Move on, sinners!’ I was like, ‘Oooh, I was in the woods with that boy, I better move on.’ My mother thought I was overreacting. She was like, “Leslie, you’re already saved,” and I was like, “Well, I don’t think it took.”

In 2007, Jordan explained how a role as sponsor of Alcoholics Anonymous on the CW teen drama “Hidden Palms” reflected his life and included a valuable lesson.

“If there’s anything kids could come away with, it’s that people who use drugs and alcohol are masking something,” Jordan told the AP. “With me, it was my homosexuality. It was just easier to be gay when I was stoned. So I stayed high for 33 years. … I don’t know when it went from recreational to medicinal, but that’s the line you cross where I needed a drink to go to a party, to be funny, to be me.

The actor changed course after a drunk driving incident in December 1997.

“I stayed sober, I didn’t take aspirin. Nothing. And I worked on my (expletive) and my career started to blossom.

Jordan first arrived in Los Angeles in 1982 on a Trailways bus “with a dream and $1,200 pinned in my undershorts”, hoping to make it as an actor. He was told his 4ft 11in stature and accent would hold him back, but proved the naysayers wrong.

His big break came playing the role of a hapless ex-con in a 1989 episode of “Murphy Brown.”

“When this episode aired, my agent called the next day and said, ‘I’ve never seen anything like it. The phone keeps ringing.'”

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Kennedy reported from New York. Alicia Rancilio in New York also contributed to this report.