Leslie Jor­dan

Gay Times Magazine - - Photography - WORDS si­mon but­ton IM­AGE matt crock­ett

He was the first to con­firm the re­turn of Will & Grace but, with the news se­ries now pre­miered, Leslie Jor­dan has no idea if he’ll be back as Bev­er­ley Leslie, Karen Walker’s an­tag­o­nist ex­traor­di­naire. “I hon­estly don’t know what’s hap­pen­ing,” he in­sists. “They haven’t called me yet, but I’ve heard they want to bring re­cur­ring char­ac­ters back and I’d love to re­turn.”

With sea­son nine su­per-sized from the planned ten episodes to 16, and a tenth sea­son al­ready or­dered be­fore the first new episode has even gone out in the US, Leslie puts on his best South­ern drawl to de­clare: “So they bet­ter trot me out at some point.”

They had in­deed. Dubbed a “frosted Mini Wheat” by Me­gan Mul­lally’s Karen,

Bev­er­ley’s bitch-offs with the busty booze­hound are the stuff of com­edy gold. When fans aren’t quot­ing the leg­endary “I thought I smelled gin and re­gret” line to him, they’re good-na­turedly in­struct­ing “Get back up in your tree!”

The sit­com’s re­turn, he feels, couldn’t be more timely given how LGBT+ rights in the US are un­der at­tack. “We’ve lost so much ground,” he sighs. “We’ve got to gain it back. And it’s such a won­der­ful show that I’d love to get the call.”

OK, so Bev­er­ley died in the sea­son eight fi­nale in 2006, when strong winds blew him off a bal­cony, but Will & Grace cre­ators David Ko­han and Max Mutch­nick have al­ready said they’re pre­tend­ing the events of that fi­nale never hap­pened. Not that the man who broke the news of its res­ur­rec­tion on a ra­dio show last Christ­mas is twid­dling his thumbs.

When we speak, the Los An­ge­les-based thesp is head­ing to Mas­sachusetts to play Tru­man Capote, and he re­cently com­pleted film­ing on Sky’s new com­edy drama Liv­ing the Dream. It’s a six-parter about a Bri­tish cou­ple (Les­ley Sharp and Philip Glenis­ter) who move to the US seek­ing a new life and end up liv­ing in a Florida trailer park with Leslie as an im­pov­er­ished South­ern gen­tle­man named Ai­den.

His sex­u­al­ity isn’t spec­i­fied. “He was not writ­ten gay at all,” says Leslie, adding that Ai­den even de­vel­ops a big crush on Les­ley Sharp’s Jen. “But come on, you put me in there and there’s a hint. I open my mouth and 50 yards of pur­ple chif­fon come out!” As we chat, Leslie is in LA wish­ing he was in Lon­don. “I love the weather there,” he coos, mak­ing ‘love’ sound like ‘lurve’. “In Hol­ly­wood, Cal­i­for­nia it’s 72 fuck­ing de­grees ev­ery sin­gle day.” It was even hot­ter when they filmed Liv­ing the Dream in Sa­van­nah. “We were ab­so­lutely mis­er­able. I grew up in mug­gi­ness but I’ve never been around that kind of muggy. And the bugs! My God! Those gnats would dive into our eyes and our ears.”

He fell in love with co-star Les­ley Sharp just as he did with Me­gan Mul­lally. His ver­bal vol­leys with the lat­ter on Will & Grace were so hi­lar­i­ous it’s a won­der they ever com­pleted a take. There was, he re­veals, a lot of corps­ing dur­ing re­hearsals. “But they wouldn’t al­low that when the cam­eras were rolling. We shot in front of a live au­di­ence and the quandary was get­ting ev­ery­thing done and keep­ing them in­ter­ested. But shoot nights were a blast. We had a DJ to crank the au­di­ence up and we kept giv­ing them su­gar.”

Un­sure if he’ll be re­turn­ing for the re­boot, Leslie def­i­nitely isn’t in Amer­i­can Hor­ror Story: Cult. But, hav­ing been in both AHS: Coven and Roanoke, he’d sign up for an­other one in a heart­beat. Guided by the ge­nius Ryan Mur­phy, the show of­fers him a chance to flex his se­ri­ous act­ing chops, though com­edy is his bread and but­ter and he’s fine with that. He re­calls grad­u­at­ing from theatre school in Ten­nessee and be­ing told, ‘Mr Jor­dan, you are ca­pa­ble of gen­uine artistry but you are the lazi­est ac­tor and you’re prob­a­bly go­ing to go to Hol­ly­wood and be on sit­coms.’ He laughs loud enough to rat­tle not just the ear­piece on our phone but also ev­ery­thing on my desk. “Guilty! You can kiss my rich ass!”

But when he got on the Coven set in 2013 he thought, ‘Yes, I have been very lazy’ and re­alised he’d have to up his game.

“But I did it and I’m so proud of my work on that show. On the last sea­son I did, there was a séance, and in the room was me, Academy Award win­ner Cuba Good­ing Jr, Academy Award win­ner An­gela Bas­sett, Academy Award win­ner Kathy Bates and Sarah Paul­son, who has won just about ev­ery other award in the world.” The owner of a Prime­time Emmy for Will & Grace, he adds: “I was think­ing, ‘There’s a lot of golden hard­ware in this room and here I am at the same ta­ble.’”

Tru­man Capote in the play Warhol Capote is an­other dream role. It’s about a se­ries of free­wheel­ing con­ver­sa­tions be­tween the cel­e­brated pop artist and the equally cel­e­brated writer. “All Andy Warhol does is grunt while I ram­ble,” Leslie dead­pans. “But it’s a great part and I’m putting all my eggs into this bas­ket. In Hol­ly­wood I’m usu­ally the funny guy who comes in with a zinger and no one con­sid­ers me for any­thing be­yond that, ex­cept Ryan Mur­phy.”

He doesn’t know Ryan well, but ad­mires how metic­u­lous he is. When he was do­ing Coven he men­tioned to some­one on the set that he was think­ing of wear­ing his glasses in a scene. They went, ‘That’s a Ryan ques­tion,’ dis­ap­peared, came back two min­utes later and said, ‘Ryan loves your blue eyes so put the glasses on at the top of the scene but take them off im­me­di­ately.’

Leslie also ad­mires how Ryan has done more than his bit for di­ver­sity on tele­vi­sion. “He uses gay ac­tors whether they’re play­ing gay or not, just as an African-Amer­i­can would want to use good African-Amer­i­can ac­tors or a Latin di­rec­tor would want to use his tribe. Ryan uses Cheyenne Jackson a lot and Cheyenne never usu­ally plays gay on Ryan’s shows be­cause he’s just so butch.”

We’re not sure how butch Sil­ver Foxes will be, or if in­deed the pro­posed sit­com about four men in a gay Golden Girls sce­nario will make it to the screen any time soon, but Leslie is hope­ful. He’s done a read­ing of the pi­lot and says it’s now in search of a chan­nel. “It’s got a lot of heart. It’s not just, ‘Let’s have a bunch of old queens up there.’”

Not that Leslie thinks that, 19 years since Will & Grace first hit the air­waves, au­di­ences would have a prob­lem with it. “Straight men used to come up to me and say, ‘Hey, I’ve seen you on TV.’ I’d tell them, ‘I’m on Will & Grace,’ and they would im­me­di­ately go, ‘Oh yeah, my girl­friend watches that.’ They never said they watched it them­selves. Then eight years later hard­hat work­ers on the street would holler, ‘Hey, I love you on that show!’ I think it turned the tide, I re­ally do. When we look back on the his­tory of gay peo­ple on tele­vi­sion we’ll see that’s when the tide turned.”

Here’s hop­ing Leslie Jor­dan gets to be part of the next chap­ter.

Liv­ing the Dream starts on Sky 1 in Oc­to­ber, @the­lesliejor­dan

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