You seem to have been out most of your career. Did you ever have to come out publicly?
No. I came to L.A. in 1982 and I was a character actor. My agency was all gay men. It was very wink-wink back then. They’d say, “You have an audition today Leslie so keep your feet on the ground.” I remember one time I was up for a hockey coach in The Mighty Ducks. I told my manager I didn’t think I could pull off a hockey coach. He told me the director asked for me. I tried to be real butch but didn’t get the job. I said to my manager, “I’m just a big sissy.” He said, “No, it’s not that. They just couldn’t get past your Southern accent.”
Does your being from the South really limit the roles you’re offered?
I learned a long time ago that if they’re going to buy the whole package — that I’m 4’11 and there’s a little bit of swish —they’re going to be OK with my being Southern. I’m not one of these actors like Robert DeNiro or Meryl Streep who disappear into a role. I’m like Dolly Parton. I’m just me.
Over the past few years, there have been reports that you and Megan Mullally were going to resurrect the characters you and she played on Will & Grace for a Broadway show called Karen: The Musical. Is this really going to happen?
She had an idea for it, but was hesitant to tell me because she knows I have a big mouth. She said, “I have this idea and it’s just you and me.” I said, “Honey, have you got permission?” She was very serious about it and had cleared it. She was about to hire someone to write the book and the music when NBC told her, “We aren’t saying ‘no,’ we’re saying, ‘not now.’”
Why did they stop it?
The reason was they were in negotiations for one more round of syndication rights and they couldn’t have us out there messing around with the brand. They were nice, but she was really upset about it. She had gotten permission from [Will & Grace creators] David Kohan and Max Mutchnick. They told her to go have fun and wished her the best. It’s just indicative of Hollywood. I don’t know how anyone gets anything made with all the hoops you have to jump through.
It’s a tough business.
It is. I bought a brand new convertible recently. I was standing there looking at it with a friend and I said, “Honey, I’ve sucked a lot of cocks to get this car.” [Laughs] That’s metaphorically-speaking, but to have been in the business as long as I have and to finally get something this nice, I thought, I’ve been on my knees. I’ve sucked cock. I’ve done everything. Metaphorically-speaking. People in the business understand. You just have to suck a lot of cock. [Laughs]
See Leslie Jordan in Show Pony at the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center’s Renberg Theatre December 12-15. Proceeds benefit the free and low-cost services provided by the Center. For tickets and more info, go here.