The Queerty Interview

Leslie Jordan Reveals His Love Of Young Men And What He Has In Common With Dolly Parton

American Horror Story Coven 3x04 - Fearful Pranks Ensue - Frances Conroy y Leslie Jordan
Leslie Jordan with Coven costars Robin Bartlett and Frances Conroy

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.


OK, you’ve got a big mouth, but is there anything you won’t talk about in your stage shows?

No, there’s really not. I got into recovery 16 years ago after I had several unfortunate incarcerations for various reason I’d really rather not discuss. [Laughs] But you find out in the recovery program that you’re only as sick as your secrets and I’ve always been an open book. I’m perfectly happy with who I am and what I am, which is something I discovered when I quit drinking and drugging at 42 years of age. My first spiritual advisor said, “Honey, what you are is a fag-hating fag.” I said, “No, I do not dislike gay men. What’re you talking about? I just don’t like really effeminate gay men.” She said, “Hello!” [Laughs] Hello! Back to your question, nothing is off limits. My manager is on me constantly about it. He says, “Leslie, you’re in public. Don’t talk like that.”

But your candor is one of your most appealing qualities.

Sometimes I wonder if I can take it to the next level. I look at these people that I started out with like Kathy Griffin. That bitch is making $7 million a year on her standup alone. That’s my goal. I do well and I’m not complaining. But I’m in no way financially set. I don’t know why I haven’t made money at this, unless I blew it all. [Laughs] I don’t know where it went. I must have spent in on those boys.

Since you brought it up, your Facebook page shows a lot of photos of you with some very handsome young men. Are these friends or romantic interests?

No, I’m a shepard now, not a wolf. I love meeting beautiful young boys and having my picture taken. But anytime I mistake their interest for something romantic, I get in trouble.

Uh, oh. What kind of trouble?

Well, I think back when I was 22 and I wouldn’t have wanted a 60-year-old man licking his chops over me. I had one a year or so ago say “It’s a little creepy” when I went in the wrong direction. I was horrified. Horrified! That word! Who wants to be a creepy old queen? [Laughs] He was right, though. I want to live an exemplary life. I don’t want to be an old queen licking my chops over these young boys. But I’m so attracted to them. And my problem is the straight boys. Where do I think I’m going to get with that? I’ve learned that they’re not looking to me for sex, but for advice on the industry.

Are you dating someone now?

I’m actually single and have been for years and have never been happier. My friend said to go to I said, “Oh, God! I’m not going to!” He asked, “Don’t you get lonely?” I don’t. It’s the weirdest thing. I did when I was young. There was this yearning. I’d go from bar to bar looking for the party. I was always wondering, Where are the happening people? Where are the beautiful people? Now, honey, when it’s 6 o’clock I’m home and the curtain goes down. I’m in bed by 10.


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.