‘Will and Grace’ actor, comedian Leslie Jordan dead at 67
Known for his roles as Beverly Jordan in “Will and Grace,” Leslie Jordan was a Hollywood icon known for his infectious Southern personality.
Patrick Colson-Price and Ariana Triggs, USA TODAY
“Call Me Kat” has bid farewell to Leslie Jordan’s colorful cafe staple Phil.
Jordan, who played the baker with a crazy mama on the Fox comedy starring Mayim Bialik as Kat (Thursdays, 9:30 EST/PST), died at 67 on Oct. 24 when his car crashed into a wall in Hollywood. Months later, the Los Angeles County Medical Examiner’s office lists Jordan’s cause of death as “pending additional investigation.” Some suspect a health ailment might’ve caused the crash.
“If you needed something super way-out-there, super crass, super wacky, super testing the waters of decency, Phil was this perfect fun character to do that,” Bialik saysof Jordan, a fixture since the show’s January 2021 debut. “He had had such a fun life, and he could be raunchy, he could be tender, he could do all the things. Leslie really had a wonderful range as a comedian.”
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Jordan’s final “Call Me Kat” episode aired Dec. 1. Thursday, Vicki Lawrence (“The Carol Burnett Show” and “Mama’s Family”) – and Jordan’s co-star in Fox’s one-season comedy “The Cool Kids” – appears as Phil’s much-talked-about mama to bake for the café in Phil’s absence.
Thursday, Lawrence’s “Mama” reveals that Phil and Jalen (John Griffin) have decided to make their Tahitian vacation a permanent move: They’re getting married and buying a bakery in the South Pacific Ocean oasis.
“I want y’all to know how happy this place made him,” Mama tells a heartbroken Kat, Randi (Kyla Pratt) and Kat’s mom Sheila (Swoosie Kurtz). “You accepted him with no judgment.”
On Mama’s farm, where Carter (Julian Gant) and Max (Cheyenne Jackson) are filling in, the two deliver a calf that Max decides should be named in Phil’s honor: “He’s small, fuzzy and getting kinda fresh. He’s Little Phil.”
The gang travels to Tahiti for the (off-camera) wedding, which they reminisce about back at the cafe. Apparently, Phil and Jalen’s first dance included the famous lift from “Dirty Dancing.”
“Damn, I’m really going to miss him,” Max says. “Like, every time I sit in a chair and his hair isn’t accidentally there.”
“Nothing’s going to be the same without him,” Kat says before Lawrence is led off stage, leaving actors Bialik, Kurtz, Pratt, Jackson and Gant to pay tribute. Griffin brings in a director’s chair with Jordan’s name on it, on which Pratt places Phil’s sequined blazer.
“What we’ve done here is we’ve given Phil a happy ending,” Bialik says to the audience. “What we’re really doing is mourning the loss of our dear friend Leslie Jordan. He is irreplaceable. We will miss him very much. Love, light, (joined by her co-stars) Leslie.”
Then Jordan’s dear friend Dolly Parton appears in a recorded tribute, singing “Where the Soul Never Dies,” the pair’s duet from Jordan’s 2021 gospel album “Company’s Comin’.” She speaks directly to Jordan, her “little brother.”
“You left a lot of people here with a lot of precious, precious memories,” Parton, 76, says. “Everybody loved you, but I doubt that many of ’em loved you more than I did. Anyhow, I just want you to know that we all love you, we all miss you, and I bet you’re having a big laugh over all of us being sad and sorrowful. And I know that would be the last thing you would want us to be.
“You made us happy while you were here, and we’re happy that you’re at peace,” she continues. “And I just want you to know that (here she sings) I will always love you. Goodbye, my sweet Leslie. See you over there” in the afterlife.
The episode ends with a montage of Jordan having fun on the set with his castmates, dancing and dressed in costumes as “Where the Soul Never Dies” plays.
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“Leslie’s favorite job, apparently, was this one,” Bialik says in an interview. “We really hope that people will take an interest in the way that we chose to honor him, which yes, it’s unusual. I know that it’s unusual by sitcom standards and Hollywood standards, but we loved this man. We loved him very deeply.”
Jordan, whose charming Southern accent came courtesy of his hometown of Chattanooga, Tennessee, had a decadeslong career on stage and screen, appearing in films including “The Help,” “The United States vs. Billie Holiday” and “Fear Inc.” His TV roles showed his comedic range, and he won an on outstanding guest actor Emmy in 2005 for NBC’s “Will & Grace.” He also took scene-stealing parts in “Reba,” “Sabrina the Teenage Witch,” “Monk,” “George Lopez,” “Ugly Betty” and “The Secret Life of the American Teenager.” Standing at 4-foot-11, Jordan was known in Hollywood for his larger-than-life personality and unwavering positivity and became a social media sensation in recent years.
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Bialik misses him greeting her with a Southern-tinged “Hi honey,” and the “adorable, adorable, hilarious comedian” with whom she “laughed so much.”
“It doesn’t yet feel as funny as when he’s here because it’s not,” she adds. “He had amazing stories to tell. He always had the inside scoop on some actor that someone would mention from the 1950s. He knew every everything about everyone, and he was really a constant fountain of jokes and funniness. He really was.”
Contributing: Amy Haneline, Hannah Yasharoff and Anika Reed
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