Diminutive Southern-fried dynamo Leslie Jordan has been stealing scenes for decades on the big and small screens with his memorable character turns such as the cross-dressing Brother Boy in Sordid Lives and his Emmy-winning performance as Karen Walker’s nemesis Beverley Leslie on Will & Grace. He’s currently bewitching television audiences and holding his own against the heavy-hitting female stars on American Horror Story: Coven as Quentin, a member of the ominous witch’s council. The out actor also spends part of the year touring the country with one-man productions, such as his latest Show Pony, which will be performed in Los Angeles later this week. Jordan chatted with Queerty about how his love for young men gets him in trouble, what he has in common with Dolly Parton and the shocking things he’s had to do to survive in the entertainment industry.
It makes perfect sense that you’re playing a member of the witch’s council on American Horror Story: Coven. Is that cast having as much fun as it appears?
Oh my God! I could just sit there and watch Jessica Lange and Frances Conroy go at it. It’s like Emmys are flying through the air. What happens is I get so involved watching the two of them that I forget to say my lines. They’d say, “Leslie, say your lines!” I was just so enthralled.
Will your character continue through the rest of the season?
I hope so. I’m sure Jessica Lange and Kathy Bates get the full scripts, but I only get my day’s scenes. So it’s almost like trying to piece together a puzzle. I have no idea what happened to the character the day before. I have no idea what will happen tomorrow. I count myself honored and lucky to be a part of the show. It’s an open love letter to the city of New Orleans and its lore.
Your one-man shows are love letters to your Southern heritage and they have such evocative titles. Does your latest Show Pony pick up where your last show, Fruit Fly, left off?
No, this one is totally different. I originally called it The Aging Show. It’s about how you can go to Hollywood, win an Emmy and think you’re just set. It’s about the things I’ve had to do that are not befitting of an Emmy winner. [Laughs] The jobs I’ve had to take! The things I’ve had to do!
You’re such a reliable scene-stealer that I’d imagine the offers pour in for you.
Well, my manager gets mad when I say that nothing happened after I won the Emmy. He said, “Leslie, since you won that Emmy you’ve never had to audition once. Every job you’ve had has been an offer.” But it hasn’t been enough to keep the ship afloat. I’ve got bills, honey. Oh God, I’ve got bills.
What are some of the more unusual offers you’ve received?
This is very politically incorrect, but this was their word: I got a call to emcee a midget wrestling match at a gay bar in Salt Lake City. I said, “No one uses that word anymore.” Then I wondered, Are they Mormon midgets? I get strange offers. Even though RuPaul is a good friend of mine, I didn’t want to do RuPaul’s Drag Race. I did do it and it wasn’t a fiasco. I had a wonderful time but I’m not used to that reality series working environment. It’s free game from the moment you step out of the car. I’ve got a big mouth and was talking to Michelle Visage, who is RuPaul’s sidekick and she looked at me in terror and said, “The camera’s rolling!” [Laughs] The cameras were everywhere.