The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Leslie Jordan, actor and internet sensation, dies at 67

Leslie Jordan, seen here in a portrait from 2021, died Monday at age 67. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

Actor Leslie Jordan died Monday in Los Angeles, according to his agent. Jordan was reportedly in a car accident, though his cause of death was not confirmed. He was 67 years old.

While known in recent years for appearing in the television series “American Horror Story,” “Will & Grace” and “Call Me Kat,” Jordan became a viral internet sensation early in the pandemic because of videos he posted to Instagram. He filmed himself doing all sorts of humorous activities, from baton twirling as exercise to singing Lizzo while impersonating Sia with a fringed pillow atop his head. At the time of his death, Jordan had 5.8 million followers and nearly a thousand posts on the platform.

Jordan’s agent, David Shaul of the BRS/Gage talent agency, said in a statement that “the world is definitely a much darker place today without the love and light of Leslie Jordan.”

“Not only was he a mega talent and joy to work with, but he provided an emotional sanctuary to the nation at one of its most difficult times,” Shaul wrote, referring to the Instagram videos Jordan filmed during lockdown. “What he lacked in height he made up for in generosity and greatness as a son, brother, artist, comedian, partner and human being. Knowing that he has left the world at the height of both his professional and personal life is the only solace one can have today.”

In an April 2020 interview with The Washington Post, Jordan said he joined Instagram at the urging of casting executive Tess Sanchez Greenfield, who said it would be “perfect for you.” His follower count grew swiftly as his videos were widely reposted — at first by castmates such as Megan Mullally, he said, and then by absolute strangers. At one point, according to Jordan, he “posted something a tiny bit off-color once and something called ‘the best of Grindr,’ some sort of hookup site, posted it.”

Jordan didn’t fully understand his rise to internet fame at the time — “Who are these people? I had no idea,” he recalled of his initial response to the surge in followers — but embraced it all the same.

“But anyway, it’s all good,” he told The Post. “It’s all good to be 65 and have a million followers on the internet. Not the path I planned, but you go with the flow.”

In addition to his comedic talents, Jordan earned praise for being open about his sexuality. He spoke about what it was like to be a gay man who grew up in the church on Shania Twain’s radio show last year: “I firmly believe that God made me this way,” he said. “I’m not a mistake.”

After learning of Jordan’s death, playwright Jeremy O. Harris tweeted that Jordan was “truly one of the spirits that made aging as a queer man feel more exciting than existing in the present.”

Eric McCormack, who played the titular Will on “Will & Grace,” wrote that he was “crushed to learn about the loss of... the funniest & flirtiest southern gent I’ve ever known” who brought “joy and laughter” to the series. “Gone about thirty years too soon,” he added. “You were loved, sweet man.”

Actor Sean Hayes, who also starred on the long-running show, shared a photo of himself with Jordan and wrote on Twitter that “Leslie Jordan was one of the funniest people I ever had the pleasure of working with. Everyone who ever met him, loved him. There will never be anyone like him.”

Jackée Harry, who tweeted that she was “completely heartbroken,” shared a clip of Jordan appearing alongside her in the sitcom “The Cool Kids.” She continued, “This man was never afraid to act a fool! The smiles he brought to our faces doing so can never be counted. They’re endless.”

Actress Marlee Matlin remembered working with Jordan on her first television series, “Reasonable Doubts,” adding that he was “at the top of his game and had so much to look forward to.”

Mayor Tim Kelly of Chattanooga, Tenn., Jordan’s hometown, shared a photo of himself with Jordan and described the actor on Twitter as “a Chattanooga legend and national treasure who brought joy and hope to millions, leaving behind a lasting legacy of love and acceptance.”

Actresses Lynda Carter and Hannah Waddingham were among those to note how Jordan’s videos had cheered them up during the pandemic: “What a feat to keep us all laughing and connected in such difficult times,” Carter said. “It feels so cruel that this could happen to such a beautiful soul.”

Waddingham expressed gratitude for Jordan’s “selfless warmth and humour through world lockdown,” adding that she felt “so blessed I got to tell you in person what you’d meant to me.”

More tributes below: