Out Actor Leslie Jordan Opens Up About Going Viral in A Time of Pandemic

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Wednesday April 22, 2020

Leslie Jordan has been around for years, playing Brother Boy onstage and on screen in Del Shores' "Sordid Lives," dropping by "Will & Grace" on a recurring basis, and even joining the ranks of Ryan Murphy's troupe of players for a couple seasons of "American Horror Story."

But now he's gone viral - in a time of pandemic, no less - and the mainstream media is paying attention, right along with a million newfound fans.

Not that Jordan set out to do so. In fact, as E! News reports, the concept of "going viral" was so foreign to the 64-year-old actors that when a friend phoned to inform him of his status as a "viral" sensation, Jordan hastened to assured him with: "No, honey, I'm fine. I'm here at mamma's... I don't have that virus."

Jordan was supposed to start filming a new Fox series, "Call Me Kat," in June, noted The New Yorker in a recent profile piece, but that project - like many others - is in limbo during the COVID-19 crisis. Jordan also had a one-man show, "Exposed" (one of several the veteran playwright has authored and performed over the years), that he was meant to be touring around the country. That, too, got the COVID kibosh.

So Jordan, like many celebrities, has taken to social media. In his case, the platform is Instagram, and the nuggets he doles out are informal, relaxed, and curiously intimate. Jordan has shared his breakfast porn-viewing with followers, told anecdotes about working with various Hollywood celebrities, and mocked other, more serious, online fare like yoga instructional videos and workout tips segments.

Viewers have loved him for it.

"Can we start a movement now to get Leslie Jordan a special Emmy or some type of recognition for how he's helping us get through this quarantine?" wondered a recent article at CNN.

The Washington Post called Jordan "our feisty quarantine uncle."

It's all more grist for Jordan's comedic mill. Said the star to the Washington Post: "My sister was cute, she said, 'Oh my gosh, you're an overnight success.' "

Replied Jordan - who is "hunkered down" near his family in Tennessee - " 'Oh... this is the longest night.' I've been at it since 1982."

Jordan attributed his skyrocketing popularity to the way that so many people, quarantining from the virus and forced for health and safety reasons to socially distance themselves from others, are looking for something to brighten their days.

"The shutdown, of course, we all had to hunker down and stay at home, and my number started — I would just notice, oh my gosh, I've got like 20,000 more," Jordan told the Washington Post. "Who are these people? I had no idea. It's all of a sudden becoming popular, and how is this happening?"

Of course, that's only half the story, and arguably the lesser half; those viewers wouldn't have Jordan's videos to watch if he didn't record them and post them online. Where else can a bored, house-bound person hear about the time that Jordan "shared" a prison bed - at a distance, but still - with Robert Downey, Jr.?

One of Jordan's latest ideas has been to create a fan club for fellow "American Horror Story" veteran Dylan McDermott - a fan club "for middle-aged gay men," as Jordan has it.

Jordan announced the new fan club in an April 19 Instagram post, in which he paid tribute to the 58-year-old star of Ryan Murphy's new limited series, "Hollywood." In the 8-episode series, McDermott plays the owner of a gas station that doubles as a hub for handsome male sex workers in 1940s post-WWII Tinseltown.

"I, Leslie Jordan, plan to be listed as the founder and the guiding light," Jordan said, adding: "I'm actually the one member right now but interest has been expressed and we're working on a poster."

McDermott seemed game; he posted a reply to Jordan's post, saying, "I am not worthy."

However, McDermott followed that bashful disclaimer with: "Can't wait for the Poster!!!"

As the weeks of COVID-19 isolation drag by, Jordan - who posts a couple of his videos each day - has amassed quite the trove of bite-sized comedy gems. Find them all at Instagram.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.