- Share this article on Facebook
- Share this article on Twitter
- Share this article on Email
- Show additional share options
- Share this article on Print
- Share this article on Comment
- Share this article on Whatsapp
- Share this article on Linkedin
- Share this article on Reddit
- Share this article on Pinit
- Share this article on Tumblr
Leslie Jordan, the goofy comic actor perhaps best known for his Emmy-winning turn as Beverley Leslie, the cynical foil to Megan Mullally’s Karen Walker on Will & Grace, has died. He was 67.
Jordan was at the wheel of a BMW when he crashed into the side of a building at Cahuenga Boulevard and Romaine Street in Hollywood on Monday morning. He was declared dead at the scene and could have suffered a medical emergency beforehand.
Jordan recurs as Phil, the gay baker at the café owned by Mayim Bialik’s character, on the Fox sitcom Call Me Kat, which returned for its third season last month. He appeared in all five of the new season’s episodes so far.
His other recent work includes turns on FX’s American Horror Story — playing different characters over three seasons — and the 2018-19 Fox sitcom The Cool Kids.
The 4-foot-11 Jordan, a native of Chattanooga, Tennessee, first showed up as the socialite Beverley during the third season of NBC’s Will & Grace in 2001 and returned for the show’s reboot in 2017, appearing on 17 episodes of the series in all. He won his Emmy in 2006.
Will & Grace star Sean Hayes lamented his death on Twitter, noting that Jordan was “one of the funniest people I ever had the pleasure of working with.”
And co-star Eric McCormack called him the “funniest & flirtiest southern gent I’ve ever known.”
Many others paid tribute to the actor as well.
Jordan also recurred from 1993-95 as Lonnie Garr on the Linda Bloodworth-Thomason/Harry Thomason–created CBS series Hearts Afire, starring John Ritter and Markie Post.
In another notable role, he played Earl “Brother Boy” Ingram on the stage in Del Shores’ Sordid Lives and reprised the character — a cross-dressing homosexual obsessed with Tammy Wynette — for the 2000 indie film written and directed by Shores and for a 2008 series. Both the movie and TV show featured Olivia Newton-John.
He also stood out as the newspaper editor Mr. Blackly in The Help (2011), directed by Tate Taylor.
Jordan’s popularity grew during the pandemic, when his silly Instagram posts ballooned his follower count to 5.8 million. He recently rang in the new year with Andy Cohen and Anderson Cooper on CNN, appeared on Fox’s The Masked Singer and guest-hosted on The Talk.
“For someone 65 years old to all of a sudden be, like, an internet star?” he said in a 2020 interview with The New York Times. “I’ve loved attention, wanted it my whole career, and I’ve never gotten this kind of attention. I mean, even on Will & Grace, winning an Emmy, it wasn’t anything like when you have social media. When you’ve become a success there, it’s unbelievable.”
Leslie Allen Jordan was born on April 29, 1955, in Chattanooga. His father, a lieutenant colonel with the U.S. Army, was killed in a plane crash in Mississippi when Leslie was 11.
He moved to Atlanta, where he went back to school to study journalism and took a theater class, which convinced him to pursue acting. That brought him to Los Angeles, and in 1982, he appeared on an episode of The Fall Guy in 1986 and in the Richard Pryor movie Moving in 1988. He also did lots of commercials.
A year later, he was hilarious as Kyle, a wrongly imprisoned inmate who is released thanks to Murphy Brown and hired as her secretary, on a classic 1989 episode of the Candice Bergen sitcom.
“I think that was probably my kind of break,” he said. “After that aired, my agent called me. He said, ‘I’ve never had this happen. I’ve been in this business for 30 years.’ He goes, ‘Burt Reynolds wants to see you. Can you do a sitcom with his wife, Loni Anderson? Mr. Spielberg’s people want to meet you for this project. Pee-wee Herman wants to put you on his kids’ show.’ I mean, it was all like one day. I had a break, a true break. I’ve just been working ever since.”
Starting in 1993, Jordan starred in the autobiographical off-Broadway show Hysterical Blindness and Other Southern Tragedies That Have Plagued My Life Thus Far. He then wrote and starred in the stage production My Trip Down the Pink Carpet, produced by Lily Tomlin and Jane Wagner; that premiered in 2010.
His résumé also included regular or recurring TV stints on The People Next Door, Top of the Heap, Reasonable Doubts, Bodies of Evidence, Boston Public, Boston Legal, Con Man and Living the Dream.
After battling drug and alcohol abuse, Jordan said he was sober for more than two decades. Last year, he received the Timeless Star award from GALECA: The Society of LGBTQ Entertainment Critics for an “exemplary career that has been marked by character, wisdom and wit.”
Sarah Kate Ellis, president and CEO of GLAAD, said Jordan was a “true class act when it came to sharing his platform and celebrity to help raise awareness and funds for our work to accelerate acceptance for the LGBTQ community.
“As someone who was very proud of their Tennessee roots, he made it a priority to help increase visibility for LGBTQ for people in the South by participating in The Concert for Love & Acceptance and serving as grand marshal at the Nashville AIDS Walk last year.”
Survivors include his sister, Jana. Her twin, Janet, died in April, and their mother, Peggy Ann, died in May.
“The world is definitely a much darker place today without the love and light of Leslie Jordan,” David Shaul, his agent, said in a statement. “Not only was he a mega talent and joy to work with, but he provided an emotional sanctuary to the nation at one of its most difficult times. What he lacked in height he made up for in generosity and greatness as a son, brother, artist, comedian, partner and human being. Knowing that he has left the world at the height of both his professional and personal life is the only solace one can have today.”
Sign up for THR news straight to your inbox every day