Leslie Jordan: Will and Grace star dies aged 67
The US actor and comedian Leslie Jordan has died aged 67, his agent has confirmed.
The star, known for his roles in Will and Grace and American Horror Story, was killed in a fatal car crash in Los Angeles on Monday morning, US media reported.
Police told the LA Times that Jordan’s car crashed into the side of a building and he was declared dead at the scene.
His publicist said the world had become a “darker place” with his loss.
“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,” David Shaul said. “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.”
Officers added that it was unclear whether Jordan was killed in the collision, or whether he had suffered from a medical emergency beforehand.
Born in Chattanooga, Tennessee in 1955, he came out as gay to his mother aged 12 in the deeply conservative US state. “I told my mother I thought something was up. I didn’t even know the word ‘gay,'” he told People magazine last year.
“She didn’t pull her Bible out, which I thought she would. She said, ‘I’m just really afraid that if you choose this path, you’ll be ridiculed,'” he recalled, adding that she told him to “‘just live your life quietly.’ I didn’t follow her advice on that one.”
After graduating from the University of Tennessee in 1982 he moved to Los Angeles and worked his way through a variety of roles, before getting his breakout part on the drama Murphy Brown. He was noted for his diminutive height – standing at just 4ft 11 in (1.50 metres) – and often played flamboyant characters.
His fame grew while starring in the US sitcom Will and Grace as Beverley Leslie – a role for which he won a Primetime Emmy in 2006.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, Jordan also found fame among younger audiences as a social media star, posting daily updates while quarantining in his apartment in his home town of Chattanooga.
Posting twice a day, Jordan racked up over 5.8 million followers on Instagram reflecting on his life, offering commentary on pop music and crafting dance routines.
“A friend of mine called from California and said, ‘You have gone viral.’ And I said, ‘No, honey, I’m fine. I don’t have Covid,'” he joked in one video.
He often spoke openly about his battles with substance abuse – taking his first drink aged just 14 – and once humorously recalled ending up in a jail cell next to Robert Downey Jnr while the Iron Man star was battling addiction. “I’m partially responsible for his success,” Jordan later joked.
He became sober in the 1990s, and later spoke to CNN host Anderson Cooper of his battle against addiction.
“People say ‘Well how do you get sober, what’s the best way,'” Jordan said. “Yeah, well 120 days in the jailhouse in Los Angeles. That will sober you up.”
A host of Hollywood stars were quick to pay tribute to Jordan, with his Will and Grace co-star Sean Hayes hailing him as “one of the funniest people I ever had the pleasure of working with”.
“Everyone who ever met him, loved him,” Hayes added. “There will never be anyone like him. A unique talent with an enormous, caring heart. You will be missed, my dear friend.”
“Leslie, we are heartbroken at your loss and will miss your mirth and your inimitable spirit,” said Star Trek actor George Takei on Twitter.
And RuPaul’s Drag Race – the show on which Jordan starred as a guest judge – wrote on Twitter: “Rest in peace, Leslie Jordan. Thank you for the countless laughs and for sharing your spirit with us all.”