‘Call Me Kat’ lets Leslie Jordan live on in a touching, happily-ever-after goodbye

A man with white hair smiles while resting his cheek on his palm
Leslie Jordan, photographed in Los Angeles in 2021, was honored Thursday by his “Call Me Kat” colleagues.
(Damian Dovarganes / Associated Press)

“Love. Light. Leslie.”

That was the final wish from the cast of “Call Me Kat” as they wrapped up the Thursday episode that honored the late actor Leslie Jordan and his character, Phil. Jordan’s pal Dolly Parton also appeared with special wishes for her “Where the Soul Never Dies” duet partner.

Jordan died early on Oct. 24 when the car he was driving crashed into the side of a building in Hollywood. He was 67. Though no cause of death has been determined yet, some suspect he experienced a medical emergency before the crash.

Thursday’s “Call Me Philliam” episode started with Phil and boyfriend Jalen (John Griffin) off on vacation in Tahiti, only to have his mama, played by Vicki Lawrence, show up to do his baking work at the coffee shop while he was gone. And yes, mama revealed that his character’s given name was Philliam.

“It was supposed to be William,” mama drawled, “but his daddy was pretty drunk when he filled out the birth certificate.”

Actor Leslie Jordan, known for TV roles in ‘Will & Grace’ and ‘American Horror Story,’ died after a car crash in Los Angeles on Monday. He was 67.

Oct. 24, 2022


Jordan’s character, though unseen, infused nearly every moment of the episode. And mama proceeded to drive everyone at the coffee shop bonkers (the squirrel roasting in the oven seemed to be the clincher). Kat (Mayim Bialik) and her mom, Sheila (Swoozie Kurtz), attempted to fire her — only to come across mama in the kitchen, lamenting that she just got a call from her son.

“I just got off the phone with Phil. He and Jalen are staying in Tahiti,” she said. “They’re gonna open a bakery and get boy-married.”

Over a box of Kleenex, the women (including Kyla Pratt’s Randi) lamented Phil’s decision and remembered moments with him and lines that he said. Mama said, tearfully, “Why can’t they just go to Miami like regular gays?”

The late Leslie Jordan spoke with the Los Angeles Times on several occasions about his career and personal life. Here’s a sampling of his best quotes.

Oct. 24, 2022

Meanwhile, Max and Carter (Cheyenne Jackson and Julian Gant, respectively) wound up delivering a calf — don’t ask, just accept — and named the baby cow “Little Phil,” because he was “small, fuzzy and kind of fresh,” just like their diminutive friend.

The show cut to “two weeks later,” and it turns out the gang flew to Tahiti for Phil’s wedding. They admired a wedding slideshow, unseen on a laptop and commented on how happy the newlyweds look in the pictures.

“This place won’t be the same without him,” Sheila said.

“Kentucky won’t be the same without him,” mama said.

Emmy winner Leslie Jordan, who documented his milestone home purchase in August, never moved into the West Hollywood condo he bought before he died.

Dec. 13, 2022


“Nothing will be the same without him,” Kat said — and the scene went quiet as Lawrence exited and Jordan’s empty director’s chair was brought out into the spotlight. Gant placed a sequined jacket on the back of the chair, and the five main players gathered around.

“What we’ve done here is we’ve given Phil a happy ending,” said Bialik, who wrote the farewell episode. “What we’re really doing is mourning the loss of our dear friend Leslie Jordan. He is irreplaceable. We will miss him very much.”

“Love. Light,” Bialik added, before everyone joined in saying together, “Leslie.” That expression was often how Jordan signed off on his social media posts, many of which went viral and made the “Will & Grace” star a late-in-life sensation during the pandemic.

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And here’s where Parton joined the mix.

After speaking a few lines from “Where the Soul Never Dies,” which was featured on Jordan’s 2021 country-gospel album, she said, “I know usually, at a memorial, people talk about somebody. Well, I’m going to talk to you, ‘cause there is that place on the other side. I’m certainly going to see you there, little brother.

“You left a lot of people here with a lot of precious, precious memories. Everybody loved you, but I doubt that many of ‘em loved you more than I did,” Parton continued.

“Anyhow, I just wanted you to know that we all love you, we all miss you and I bet you’re having a big laugh over all of us being sad and sorrowful and I know that would be the last thing you would want us to be. So, anyway, you made us happy while you were here, and we’re happy that you’re at peace, and I just want you to know that I will always love you.” (She sang that last little bit, by the way.)

“Goodbye, my sweet Leslie,” Parton said. “See you over there.”

Then their duet played over a montage of scenes that showed Jordan in character, dancing around in various scenes, riding a bike through a room while wearing a pink helmet embellished with a unicorn horn, dressing as Baby Yoda and getting a kiss from a drag queen, among other things.

Finally, the camera closed in on a shot of Jordan, sitting on a mechanical bull, waving goodbye and smiling.

Goodbye, Leslie.