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Will & Grace actor Leslie Jordan, 67, who became a social-media star during COVID, was declared dead after crashing his BMW in Hollywood on Oct. 24, possibly after a medical emergency. Known for his soft-spoken Southern drawl and 4-foot 11-inch stature, actor-writer-singer Jordan was impossible to overlook.
Born April 29, 1955, in Chattanooga, Tenn., Jordan got his big break in 1989, playing a falsely imprisoned convict hired as Murphy’s secretary on Murphy Brown. He was so funny that offers poured in, and he indelibly portrayed the pretentious socialite Beverley Leslie on Will & Grace, going toe-to-toe with Megan Mullally’s Karen Walker. He appeared on TV’s Ally McBeal, Caroline in the City and Boston Legal, as well as in the hit film The Help. He played three characters in three years on Ryan Murphy’s American Horror Story series, and alongside John Ritter and Markie Post in the sitcom Heart’s Afire.
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When executives on his retirement-community comedy series The Cool Kids urged him to get on social media, he hesitated. But when the pandemic hit, his quirky takes on life began to resonate, and his follower count grew on Instagram and TikTok. His candid, personal, utterly charming posts earned him over 5.8 million followers. In videos, he cheered up followers, dancing and singing in his living room, cooking in his kitchen, sometimes surrounding himself with pillows in bed.
“For someone 65 years old to all of a sudden be, like, an internet star?” he told The New York Times. “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.”
Jordan turned his gay, Southern Baptist upbringing into a hit stage musical, Hysterical Blindness and Other Southern Tragedies That Have Plagued My Life Thus Far, and played the cross-dressing Tammy Wynette fan Earl “Brother Boy” Ingram in the play and movie versions of Sordid Lives. When Shania Twain interviewed him about his gospel and country album Company’s Comin’, his gospel and country album featuring duets with Dolly Parton, Tanya Tucker and Brandi Carlisle, Jordan told her he believed God made him “this way. I’m not a mistake.”
On Monday, celebrities posted their memories and shared condolences.
Actor Sean Hayes, who played Jack on Will & Grace, tweeted: “My heart is broken. Leslie Jordan was one of the funniest people I ever had the pleasure of working with. 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.”
George Takei wrote: “I am stunned at the death of Leslie Jordan, who delighted us with his many roles on television and film. The cause of death was a car crash after he suffered a medical emergency. Leslie, we are heartbroken at your loss and will miss your mirth and your inimitable spirit.”
Lynda Carter wrote: “Leslie Jordan put a smile on the faces of so many, especially with his pandemic videos. What a feat to keep us all laughing and connected in such difficult times.… It feels so cruel that this could happen to such a beautiful soul.”
Sara Schwartz is the senior editor for AARP Members Only Access.
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