While a fruit fly is typically associated with the family of flies with a fondness for overripe fruit, in the LGBTQ world it can also be slang for a gay man. Given its dual meaning it isn’t surprising that Leslie Jordan, the diminutive man with the distinctive voice, has co-opted the name as the title for his newest one-man show.
Perhaps best known for his Emmy award winning role as Karen Walker’s sexually ambiguous rival Beverley Leslie on the hit television series Will & Grace, Jordan is no stranger to biographical one-man shows. Having performed in a few over the years, including his most recent dish on Hollywood in 2010’s My Trip Down the Pink Carpet, Jordan wasn’t actively looking to do another one, but a journey through his family’s photo albums with collaborator and director David Galligan became the inspiration he needed for this latest project, Fruit Fly.
“I was photographed relentlessly as a child,” recalls Jordan of the mounds of photographs that he and Galligan waded through. “I just looked at all of those pictures and realized there was this amazing story of a gay boy and his mother in them”.
Telling the story of growing up in Chattanooga, Tennessee with Southern-belle mother Peggy Ann and a father who disappeared early in his life, Fruit Fly is Jordan’s love letter to the 78-year old he refers to as his best friend.
“My mother had me when she was very young,” says Jordan from his home in Los Angeles and then, like much of our interview, starts to riff onto something else, this time about having just adopted a Maltese for her that they named Conway Twitty.
“She now has a new best friend who lives with her in the [Chattanooga] condo I bought for her that looks like Laura Ashley threw up in,” he says through his unmistakable laugh.
Professing to be in the best place ever in his life, at age 58 Jordan says that he is now closest to being his authenticate self.
“I’m happier now than I have ever been in my life,” he reflects in one of the more serious moments. “I’ve done so much, but I’m nowhere near to the point of being put out to pasture though.”
Along with Fruit Fly, Jordan also finds himself back on television on the TV Land comedy series The Exes starring Seinfeld’s Wayne Knight and Third Rock from the Sun’s Kirsten Johnston, and is in talks for a web series that will air as five minute webisodes online.
“I don’t even know what a web series is! And they want to do it in five minutes? What can I possibly do in five minutes? We’re making comedy for no one to watch,” he blurts out unedited.
But while Jordan jokes about starring in a series on a specialty cable channel in the United States and another on the internet, he continues to talk fondly and proudly of having been part of the ground-breaking Will & Grace.
“I’m actually shocked and appalled that there are young gay men out there that don’t know about Will & Grace,” laughs Jordan again, although he quickly turns serious. “I’ve done so many sitcoms, but to have gotten an Emmy for a show like Will & Grace was very special. That was the first time that there were gay people in the living rooms in many parts of America. To be part of that was absolutely wonderful”.
Recognizing the success that he has been afforded from being part of Will & Grace and his other acting jobs that includes the role of Mr. Blackly in the Oscar nominated 2011 film The Help, Jordan has made sure to use his good fortunes in helping the LGBT community.
“I got to Hollywood in 1992 and West Hollywood was a ghost town because of the AIDS crisis and we quickly realized that no one was going to help us,” recalls Jordan. “Hell I remember that a few people died of Legionnaires disease around the same time and the huge outcry that resulted from that, but we quickly learned that we had to take care of our own and it became such a valuable lesson and I’ve really tried to give back as a good gay citizen.”
Being that good gay citizen has seen Jordan giving much of his energy to The Trevor Project in recent years although he says he is now shifting much of his focus on getting the gay vote out.
“I actually didn’t register to vote until I was 42,” admits Jordan. “And my big platform now is in trying to get the kids out of the bars for one day to vote. It is just one day, but is just so important.”
Equally as important to Jordan at the moment though is ensuring the success of Fruit Fly which just completed a successful run at London’s Leicester Square Theatre and now comes to Vancouver for two nearly sold out shows.
With Fruit Fly’s tagline reading “do gay men really become their mothers?” Jordan gets the opportunity to pay homage to the most important woman in his life, but as to the answer to that question he isn’t giving anything away: “You’ll have to come and see. That is the million dollar question.”
Leslie Jordan comes to Vancouver on 6 & 7 July 2013 at the Orpheum Annex. A fundraiser for The Fillmore Family Foundation. Visit http://www.fillmorefamily.ca for tickets and information.