Interview: Leslie Jordan—Melodramatic and Highly Pragmatic
Contributor Jim Gladstone chats with Emmy winner Leslie Jordan.
“What amazes me,” says Leslie Jordan, who will spin bawdy biographical yarns in Fruit Fly at Feinstein’s at the Nikko in San Francisco this Friday night. “Is that there are gay kids now who don’t remember Will & Grace.”
“I met a boy on a plane last summer, 16 years old, gay as a goose. He said ‘I think my mom watched that’. I thought ‘Whaaaaaat?!!’ But it’s true, I won my Emmy for that in 2006, so he was only 9 years old then.”
Jordan, 58, who will spin bawdy biographical yarns in Fruit Fly at Feinstein’s at the Nikko this Friday night, admits that he once hoped his sitcom fame from playing Will & Grace’s Beverley Leslie would assure him a steady stream of lucrative television and movie roles.
“After I won that award,” he recalls on the phone from his home in Los Angeles, “I thought, well I’m gonna just sit back and reap the rewards.”
But juicy Hollywood roles have come few and far between for the 4-foot-11 Tennessee-accented character actor (One recent exception being a three-episode jaunt in American Horror Story). And Jordan, who cut his teeth in live theater, has clear priorities when it comes to stage work.
“I’m very comfortable getting on stage, riffing on my own stories. And I’m very lazy when it comes to doing things that aren’t my own. I was offered a role in a new show about cross-dressers in the Catskills by Harvey Fierstein, with Joe Mantello directing [Casa Valentina opens at the Manhattan Theater Club in April]. Wonderful, right?”
“No! I’m done with New York theater. Those eight performances a week are a nightmare. And they pay $1000 a week for eight weeks of rehearsal. I can make four grand a night out on the road telling my own stories.”
In addition to feathering his nest, Jordan’s dishy one-man storytelling shows have won critical acclaim. The New York Times wrote that Jordan’s coming of age tales in My Trip Down the Pink Carpet combine “a writer’s eye for detail with an actor’s facility for mimicry and a stand-up comedian’s knack for injecting spontaneity into oft-told stories.”
And SF Weekly called Like a Dog on Linoleum “hysterical, poignant and endlessly entertaining.”
“The stories I tell in Fruit Fly are about my relationship with my mother. And my biggest goal right now is for my mother to be able to go to her grave knowing that her children are really well taken care of. The best way for me to do that is to go out on the road and tell my own stories.”
“I’ve been acting for 30 years. I’m way past starving for the art. Write me a check!”
Leslie Jordan’s January 31 performance at Feinstein’s at the Nikko is sold out.