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Leslie Jordan, Emmy-winning actor who stood out with versatile roles, dies at 67
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Leslie Jordan, the 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. 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 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 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 native of Chattanooga, Tennessee, who won an on outstanding guest actor Emmy in 2005 for his role as Beverly Leslie in "Will & Grace," had a recurring role on the Mayim Bialik comedy "Call me Kat" and co-starred on 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 on the "American Horror Story" franchise series.
Jordan died Monday in a single car crash in Hollywood, according to reports by celebrity website TMZ and the Los Angeles Times, citing unnamed law enforcement sources.
Jordan earned an unexpected new following in 2021 when he spent time during the pandemic lockdown near family in his hometown. He broke the sameness by posting daily videos of himself on Instagram.
Many of Jordan's videos included him asking "How ya'll 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 bits 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," said Jordan. Celebrities including Michelle Pfeiffer, Jessica Alba and Anderson Cooper, along with brands such as Reebok and Lululemon, would post comments.
Soon he became fixated with the number of views and followers he had, because there wasn't much else going on. By the time of his death, he amassed 5.8 million followers on Instagram and another 2.3 million on TikTok.
"For a while there, it was like obsessive. And I thought, 'This is ridiculous. Stop, stop, stop.' You know, it almost became, 'If it doesn't happen on Instagram, it didn't happen.' And I thought, 'You're 65, first of all. You're not some teenage girl.'"
The spotlight led to new opportunities. 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, "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 Red 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 a 2021 interview. Among the anecdotes: working with Lady Gaga on "American Horror Story"; how meeting Carrie Fisher led to Debbie Reynolds calling his mother and the Shetland pony he got as a child named Midnight.
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 baptized 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."
Jordan said he considered himself a storyteller by nature.
"It's very Southern. If I was to be taught a lesson or something when I was a kid, I was told a story," he told AP.
Mark Kennedy and Alicia Rancilio in New York contributed to this report.