How Leslie Jordan's Beverley Was Almost Joan Collins

PlayBlog   How Leslie Jordan's Beverley Was Almost Joan Collins
 
The role of Beverley Leslie on TV's "Will and Grace" was created as a woman and played by Joan Collins — till she told the Powers That Be that she had no intention of having her wig yanked off. Then, the writers of the series, with Collins canned, rethought the role into a short, effete Southern gay man who chattered like castanets. Leslie Jordan won the part merely by showing up for the audition, tightly wound after a hysterical phone call from his mother. He also won the 2006 Emmy for Best Guest Actor in a Comedy Series that went with it. Collins is still eating her heart out.


This little factoid Jordan let slip during My Trip Down the Pink Carpet, a stand-up biography with inspirational underpinnings about accepting yourself. It takes him 90 minutes to span his 55 years (he's 56 on April 29). Among the famous elbows he has rubbed up against are those of Boy George, George Clooney, Cloris Leachman, Faye Dunaway and a host of others. The show opened April 19 at the Midtown Theatre (136 West 46th Street) where there was a swatch of pink carpeting and a 35-foot-long pink limousine, poised to haul about his novice star-producer, Lily Tomlin.

Tomlin and Jordan crossed professional paths once before, but not so you'd notice. They co-starred with Mary Kay Place in a 2008 HBO series called "Twelve Miles of Bad Road," about a wealthy Texas ranch family. It was written by Linda Bloodworth-Thomason, the "Designing Women" creator. "We thought we'd be living on it for the next ten years," says the 4-foot-11-inch comic, "but, after we shot six of what we thought were the most brilliant episodes, there was a regime change at HBO, and the new guy hated our series. Then the strike hit, giving them an opportunity to reassess, but instead they decided to shelve a $25-million project. It never saw the light of day."

But their friendship survived — and thrived. "Every day he would regale me with some new story he was writing for his book," Tomlin remembers. "Then, when he put it on its feet on stage, I went to see it a couple of times. I was just engaged by him anyway. I just loved him. I thought he was so appealing and so dear and hilarious. I loved that his play really moved people of all types and stripes."

She wouldn’t call herself a hands-on producer, mind you, "but I helped, just bringing him visibility."

As for her own visibility back on Broadway, "I dunno. I'd love to. Tell Jane [her writer-director-life partner, Jane Wagner, who co-produces Jordan's Off-Broadway show]. I said, 'C’mon, Jane, I wanna do a new show!'"

Among those rewarding Jordan with an opening-night ovation were Tony winners Cynthia Nixon and Donna McKechnie, Dick Button, Matthew Modine, Tina Louise and daughter, Zach Booth, Kevin Spirtas, Jamie de Roy, Jay Manuel and Vanessa Ray.

— Harry Haun

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