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Iconic Leslie Jordan moments, from ‘Will & Grace’ to Instagram fame

Leslie Jordan performs with Cassadee Pope at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville last year. (Jason Kempin/Getty Images)

Actor and comedian Leslie Jordan, 67, known for his television appearances in “American Horror Story,” “Will & Grace” and “Call Me Kat,” died on Monday in Los Angeles, according to his agent. Jordan’s unique humor and Southern accent touched the hearts of audiences across multiple generations. After a glittering acting career on the small screen, he found a new stage on an even smaller one: Instagram.

Here are some of the moments his fans and former colleagues are remembering fondly:

His iconic ‘well, well, well’ drawl

Before his internet stardom, Jordan was best known for his recurring role on “Will & Grace,” which ran on NBC from 1998 to 2006 and brought the first gay lead actors on a hit U.S. sitcom into millions of living rooms.

His performance as sassy socialite Beverley Leslie, and frenemy to Megan Mullally’s iconic, boozy Karen Walker, won him an Emmy for outstanding guest actor in a comedy series in 2006. He often strolled onto the screen at opportune moments with the catchphrase: “Well, well, well.”

His comedic chemistry with Mullally

His on-screen rivalry and chemistry with Mullally created some of the show’s most memorable moments — which one fan described as “a comedy masterclass.”

In one scene widely shared on Tuesday, he greets her character with the line: “Karen Walker, I thought I smelled gin and regret.”

His co-stars from “Will & Grace” honored the actor by sharing photos of him in costume from the show. “My heart is breaking. … Leslie Jordan was, hands down, one of the greats,” Mullally wrote. “How brilliant it was that millions of people were able to discover the real Leslie and his love of life and unparalleled storytelling abilities on instagram.”

Fans of the sitcom also praised Jordan for being open about his sexuality. “Leslie Jordan was one of the first gay people I ever saw on TV,” one person tweeted. “He has made me smile so many times.”

His internet rebirth

As the coronavirus pandemic swept the globe — Jordan, then 64 — returned from Hollywood to hunker down in Chattanooga, Tenn., where his 94-year-old mother lived. Armed with little more than plenty of spare time, his phone’s front-facing camera, and the occasional baton — the self-described computer-illiterate actor found internet stardom.

Jordan’s videos, in which he carefully deployed his acid-tongued, high-camp sense of humor, introduced him to a new generation of fans. His Instagram account grew from 20,000 followers in 2020 to 5.8 million by the time of his death.

Jordan was perplexed at first by his sudden rise to viral fame, he told The Washington Post in an interview published in April 2020. “Who are these people? I had no idea. It’s all of a sudden becoming popular, and how is this happening?”

With the help of internet-savvy friends, Jordan embraced his new audience with an array of energetic posts — including a recurring series of self-produced home-fitness videos deploying a back scratcher as a piece of exercise equipment.

Leslie Jordan is our feisty quarantine uncle

Instagram role model for young LGBT people

More frequently than not, Jordan was sidetracked during his pandemic videos by humorous memories, often about life in Tennessee as a young gay man.

In one much-loved clip, he recalled the reaction of his father upon returning home with Army colleagues to find Jordan performing twirls with a baton in the front yard. “He loved me. He just didn’t know what to make of me,” he recalled of his father.

In another video he identified himself as a “high school cheerleader stuck in a 65-year-old male body.” He said, “I think I fell out of the womb and landed in my mother’s high heels.”

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