Leslie Jordan is one of these delightful creatures you immediately fall in love with as soon as you hear him speak. His latest project is FOX’s “The Cool Kids,” where the veteran comedian joins Vicki Lawrence, Martin Mull and David Alan Grier, in a fun ensemble series about life in a retirement community.
While Jordan has had decades of supporting or guest acting gigs, “The Cool Kids” is his first starring role.
“At 63 years of age, it feels amazing. I’ve always been the funny guy that came in with a zinger. That was my job from the day I got here in 1982, with $1,200 that my mother pinned into my underpants on a Greyhound bus,” he quipped during a panel at the Television Critics Press Tour.
“I got off at the corner of Vine Street and De Longpre and I realized that was my job.…Thirty years I did that. ‘’Will & Grace’ (which he guest starred in) won an Emmy for it. And I thought, ‘you know what? It’s time.’ Just the way it’s unfolded has been amazing.”
Jordan describes his new show as “‘Golden Girls’ on crack.”
“I think the beautiful part about this series is, even though it’s about old people, you have an aging gay man, you have an aging African American, you have an aging straight white hippie, and you have a woman of a certain age. But it’s not really about that, it’s about friendship, bonding together and doing these outrageous things. And most importantly, it’s silly.”
With lively dialogue and fun repartee on set, Jordan couldn’t be happier about getting this role, which he feels, is the closest character he has ever played to himself.
“You think, “well, how hard is that?’ Hard. With all the internal homophobia, being raised in the Baptist church, baptized 14 times. Never did take!”
Co-creator/executive producer/writer, Charlie Day, who also stars and produces FXX’s “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” was impressed with Jordan in his audition.
Casting director, Tess Sanchez, had recommended Jordan for the role, which was originally written as a 73-year-old straight man from Brooklyn.
“And suddenly I couldn’t see the part another way, and it changed everything,” acknowledged Day. After he cast everyone, they did their first table read.
“We just went through endless rewrites to write towards their personalities. So when Jordan says it’s the closest to who he is as a character, that’s because we thought, ‘who you are is fantastic, and the world needs to see it.’ So we’ll make that a character, and you can be you.”
Things weren’t always that easy for Jordan. In fact, back in the day, he was hesitant to come out.
“First of all, I had a huge mustache, and I didn’t want anybody to know I was gay.
And I had an acting teacher who said, ‘come here, honey. Whatever it is that you are hiding, that is going to be your selling point.’
During the FOX press reception, Los Angeles Blade talked exclusively with Jordan about his highs and lows. Recently, the actor had a moment to reflect on his life, where he recognized what this starring role has meant to him.
“I was thinkin’ the other day: when I got here from Tennessee, my big dream wasn’t so much to have a career in entertainment, i wanted to live in West Hollywood. There were queers hanging from the trees. And I thought, ‘wow, what a full circle this has come, almost 30 years later, still in West Hollywood.”
Another career highlight for Jordan started as a book he was writing for Simon & Schuster but turned into a one-man show, “My Trip Down the Pink Carpet,” which I performed at the West End in London.
“This was a spiritual journey for me; Lily Tomlin and Jane Wagner produced it for me. I thought you couldn’t top that. But then I got this role!”
One area Jordan is passionate about is getting gay kids to vote.
“When I got sober from drugs and alcohol in 1997, i had never voted.i was 42 years old. It’s a source of shame for me. Prior to that, didn’t know Republican from Democrat. So my thing is now, kids, we have to vote.”
He added: “ My generation got in the streets and that’s fine. That brings attention to your cause, but it doesn’t solve anything. We have to vote. It has to happen from within. This is an issue I really want to be a part of.”
“The Cool Kids” premieres next month and Jordan is hoping you will watch.
“We need that laugh. We need it so bad.”