Leslie Jordan: interview

Posted: Wed Jan 19 2011

Best known for playing the bitchy Beverley in hit US sitcom 'Will & Grace', veteran actor Leslie Jordon is about to bare his soul in a solo show in London.

How did you get the part of Beverley Leslie in 'Will & Grace'?
'I heard it was originally written for Joan Collins. She was going to steal Rosario the maid from Karen Walker and they were going to have a big bitch fight where they pulled each other's wigs off. Apparently they had word from Ms Collins's manager that she wasn't interested - so I walked into the casting session instead of her and walked off with the part.' What can London audiences expect from your show? 'It's the story of a young boy who wanted a bride doll - and a go-go dancer. [Playwright] Terrence McNally summed it up when he said: “I expected to laugh, but I didn't expect you to be so generous with your spirit.”'

You've been around Hollywood long enough to know how it works. Is the casting couch still going strong?
'It used to be that girls got into trouble, but now it's the opposite because all the casting men are gay. I live with three utterly beautiful, straight boys who are all budding actors. I take great care of them and they are spoilt rotten, but I warn them never to sleep with a casting agent because they will just be passed around.'

Tell me about your celebrity crushes.
'I am a high school cheerleader stuck in a 55-year-old body. In my head I have had the most torrid affairs with actors I have worked with. You should hear what George Clooney and I have got up to! Years ago I worked with Billy Bob Thornton and we shot a scene standing together at the urinals. Billy Bob started unzipping his pants and hitting the urinal with his hand so it made a loud thump. The director said to me: “If Billy Bob really did get it out, the urinal would shatter.” Well, that was like a red rag to a bull with me, and I have been begging him for a glimpse for the last 15 years.'

You grew up in the Bible Belt. How did your childhood influence who you have become?
'My father died when I was 11 and I always felt I was a huge disappointment to him. With my mother it was always a case of don't ask, don't tell. Things have got easier, and recently I even took her on a gay cruise. I looked at the itinerary and freaked out when I saw there was an underwear party and a leather night, but she simply turned to me and said: “Well, I tell you something, I am not going ice fishing,” which was one of the off-shore excursions. Time has taught me that parents do the best they can with the light they are seeing with. That is what we all do.'

A lot has been said about drug use in today's gay community and you have famously fought addictions. Do you think substance abuse is destroying the gay scene?
'In the 1980s we had the huge catastrophe of Aids and you would walk down the street and see someone who was dying. It was horrendous. Sadly, the same thing is happening today with crystal meth. I do a lot of work with recovering addicts and the Trevor Project, which helps suicidal gays. In my day there was no one to tell me anything and I feel I have a responsibility to help a new generation. A lady in Atlanta came up to me and said: “Honey, you are a ministry.” It is about the knowledge I can give others. I think gays will look after their own.'