Leslie Jordan, the Emmy-winning actor whose wry Southern drawl and versatility made him a comedy and drama standout on TV series including Will & Grace and American Horror Story, has died aged 67 after a car crash.
Reports by celebrity website TMZ and the Los Angeles Times, citing unnamed police sources, said Jordan died in a crash on Monday in Los Angeles.
“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 joy to work with, but he provided an emotional sanctuary to the nation at one of its most difficult times,” a representative for Jordan said in a statement on Monday.
“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.”
The Tennessee native, who won an outstanding guest actor Emmy in 2005 for Will & Grace, appeared recently on the Mayim Bialik comedy Call Me Kat and co-starred on the sitcom The Cool Kids.
Jordan earned an unexpected new following in 2021 when he spent time during the pandemic lockdown near family in his hometown, posting daily videos of himself on Instagram.
Many of Jordan’s videos included him asking “How y’all doin’?” and some included stories about Hollywood or his childhood growing up with identical twin sisters and their “mama,” as he called her. Other times he did silly things like complete an indoor obstacle course.
By the time of his death, he amassed 5.8 million followers on Instagram and another 2.3 million on TikTok.
“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,” said Jordan.
Celebrities including Michelle Pfeiffer, Jessica Alba and Anderson Cooper, along with brands such as Reebok and Lululemon, would post comments.
Earlier this month he released a gospel album called Company’s Comin featuring Dolly Parton, Chris Stapleton, Brandi Carlile, Eddie Vedder and Tanya Tucker. He wrote a new book titled 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.
“That sort of dealt with all the angst and growing up gay 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.
In a 2014 interview with Philadelphia magazine, Jordan was asked how he related to his role in the 2013 film Southern Baptist Sissies, which explores 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 baptised 14 times,” Jordan said. “Every time the preacher would say, ‘Come forward, sinners!,’ I’d say ‘Oooh, I was out in the woods with that boy, I better go forward.’
“My mother thought I was being dramatic. She’d say, ‘Leslie, you’re already saved,’ and I’d say, ‘Well, I don’t think it took.”
In 2007, Jordan discussed how a role as an Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor in the teen drama Hidden Palms reflected his life and included a valuable lesson.
“If there is anything that kids could walk away with it is that people who use drugs and alcohol are masking something,” Jordan said. “With me, it was my homosexuality. It was just easier to be gay when I was high. 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 get to a party, to be funny, to be me.”
The actor changed course after a drink-driving incident in December of 1997.
“I stayed sober, didn’t take an aspirin. Nothing. And … my career began to blossom.”
Stars of Will & Grace mourned his death.
“My heart is broken,” Sean Hayes tweeted. “Everyone who ever met him, loved him. There will never be anyone like him. A unique talent with an enormous, caring heart. You will be missed, my dear friend.”
“Crushed to learn about the loss of @thelesliejordan, the funniest & flirtiest southern gent I’ve ever known,” tweeted Eric McCormack. “The joy and laughter he brought to every one of his #WillandGrace episodes was palpable.”
Jordan first arrived in Los Angeles in 1982 hoping to make it as an actor. He was told his 4ft 11in stature and accent would hold him back, but proved people wrong.
His big break came playing the role of a hapless ex-con in a 1989 episode of Murphy Brown.
He said: “When that episode aired, my agent called the next day and said, ‘I’ve never seen anything like this. The phone is ringing off the hook’.”