Leslie Jordan is one of the most consistently recognizable faces in popular entertainment. His journey towards stardom has provided one of the quirkier, impressive, and varied career trajectories of the past few decades.
His arrival in Hollywood back in 1982 (with $1500 sewn into his clothing by his steel magnolia Mother) was the starting point. After a brief career as a jockey, Jordan has enjoyed the full show-business spectrum; the lean days, the bumps in the road, the acclaim, reaching the pinnacle of television performing with award recognition, the ensuing victory laps, followed by an alarming and unexpected down slope, the dangers of being type cast or stereotyped, the challenges to remain “current” and “relevant” in a rapidly changing world of technological advancement, and the ever present threat of being put “out to pasture” by a youth obsessed culture and industry.
Through it all, Leslie Jordan has remained constant, relevant and – above all – funny! His ability to take it all in stride has kept him moving onward, upward and forward!
Leslie Jordan is the prestigious Emmy Award winner in 2006 for “Will & Grace”. He has enjoyed rapturous reviews for his original stage plays (“My Trip down the Pink Carpet”, “Stories I can’t tell Mama”, “Fruit Fly”), and supporting presence in one of Hollywood’s most prestigious, message-minded films of the last decade (“The Help”, 2012).
In 2017, Leslie Jordan again sparred with his lovable nemesis “Karen Walker” as a guest actor in the triumphant return of NBC’s “Will & Grace”, and is currently starring alongside comedy heavyweights Martin Mull, Vicki Lawrence, and David Alan Grier in the new comedy series “The Cool Kids.”
It was a pleasure to sit down with Leslie Jordan for this exclusive Hotspots interview just weeks before his appearance at The Sunshine Cathedral as part of the Outlandish Performance Series.
Were you always a ham/performer even as a child or when did the bug bite you?
I was always funny but it was to keep the bully’s at bay. I was 27 and I was exercising race horses since I was 19, and I thought I don’t have a future here, so I went back to school. I was going to study journalism, but everyone said to take the intro to theater arts elective, so I did. The first day we did Improv and it hit me like a drug that this is what I want to do. I got a degree in theater and I had $1,500 and took a bus and went to Hollywood.
What was your first professional/paid gig as a performer?
My aunt Marie who did the windows of Millers Brothers (Dept store). In the summer time I would dress up as Mickey Mouse.
My first real acting gig was a commercial for Aunt Jemima syrup. I did a lot of commercials, I was like Flo from the insurance commercials.
You have traveled the world. Is there a favorite city or concert hall you performed in and why?
I always loved San Francisco, I played a couple of venues there. I also love London. Lily Tomlin produced a Trip down the Pink Carpet for me and we did 12 weeks there. English audiences are very quiet and wonderfully polite. You have to earn their laughter.
How did you get cast on Will & Grace and is it as fun to film as it looks?
It is as fun. You have four actors who have theater backgrounds who know how to perform, and we shoot in front of an audience. So you get the best of all worlds. Each of them are generally funny and having such a wonderful time. I auditioned for the role and believe it or not, it had been written for Joan Collins.
Do you remember how it felt when you won the EMMY for Will & Grace?
It was so out of left field, and I didn’t think I was going to win, but it felt so good. I thought jobs would come to me after winning, but I didn’t work for a year so I got back out on the road.
I am a HUGE American Horror Stories Fan. How was it to film Seasons 3 and 6?
Season 3 fell in my lap and I didn’t know the show. I was in New Orleans for a month filming. It’s a hard show to film as its 14 hour days. However, I learned so much from Francis Conroy. When I came back for season 6, a lot of my scenes were with Lady GaGa, but unfortunately they got cut. There were so many strong actors in that season it forces you to come up to another level.
Tell me about your new show “The Cool Kids,” and how is it to work with Vicky Lawrence, David Alan Grier and Martin Mull?
My manger said to me there is something going over at Fox, and the part is a 73 year old straight Jewish man from Brooklyn….I walked in to the audition, and said I was going to put a different spin on this. I was surprised that I got the show….everyone auditioned, none of the actors were given the parts. This is the closest I have ever been allowed to play me.
Do you and Vicky naturally have that chemistry?
She says we met in an airport one time a long time ago, but I don’t remember. The four of us have chemistry together. David and Martin have known each other for years, they have a bro-mance going. They are talking about sports and Vicky and I are talking about the sales at Neiman’s.
Describe Leslie in three words?
Curious, kind and generous.
How great is your show “EXPOSED,” and why should our readers come see it?
Exposed is almost 10 years’ worth of me standing in front of people telling stories. I have it honed down to a great show that I promise anyone who buys a ticket will be happy they did. Martin Mull saw it and he said “watching you in exposed is like a master class in comedy.” I love doing it and I hope everyone will come.
Tickets for Leslie Jordan’s Exposed On January 19 at the Sunshine Cathedral at 8pm start at $35 at OutlandishFL.com. Premium seating and VIP tickets (including an artist meet-and-greet) are also available.
Other performers in the 2019 Outlandish season include: Fran Drescher (Jan. 26), Pam Ann (Feb. 9), cirque troupe AirOTic (Feb. 14-16, 23-24), Miss Richfield 1981 (March 9), Coco Peru (March 23), and Lee Squared: An Evening with Liberace and Miss Peggy Lee (April 6).