Before film and TV actor Leslie Jordan tragically died in a car accident on Monday, Oct. 24, 2022, he worked on multiple projects simultaneously. The Will & Grace alum had several hosting obligations, including gigs on The Masked Singer and LEGO Masters.
According to Leslie’s IMDb, the 67-year-old actor had several films in post and pre-production before he died, including Strangers in a Strange Land starring Mark Pellegrino and Kimberley Crossman. In addition to the in-demand actor’s side jobs, Leslie starred in Fox’s Call Me Kat until the day he died. On the sitcom starring Mayim Bialik and Kyla Pratt, Leslie played Phil, the head baker at Kat’s bakery.
When news broke of Leslie’s death, Fox and Warner Bros. released a statement and called the Chattanooga, Tenn., native a “true Southern gentleman” who was also “the kindest person you could ever imagine who simply lit up a room and brought pure joy and huge smiles to millions of people around the world.”
Here's what we know about Leslie Jordan’s last episode and how the show is addressing the tragic loss.
Leslie Jordan’s last ‘Call Me Kat’ episode aired on Dec. 1, 2022.
Call Me Kat aired Leslie Jordan’s last episode, “Call Me Fancy Puffenstuff," on Dec. 1, 2022. The Thanksgiving special ended with Phil telling Jalen (John Griffin) he loved him, and the two of them made their relationship official.
Fans first met Phil’s “potential love interest” in Episode 5, “Call Me Uncle Dad." The episode aired days after Leslie’s death. After the Thanksgiving episode, the sitcom aired its fall finale, a Christmas special that didn’t mention Phil’s absence. However, Mayim later confirmed on her Instagram that a 2023 episode would be a tribute to Leslie.
How will 'Call Me Kat' handle Leslie Jordan's death?
The episode Mayim was referring to is Call Me Kat’s winter premiere. Ahead of the Jan. 5, 2023 episode, “Call Me Philliam,” the star said she and the rest of the cast found a way to close Phil and Leslie’s chapters with “a way for him to live forever.”
“The cast felt very strongly and completely unanimously that the thought of doing a funeral episode while we are actively grieving our friend — it felt like a hurdle we weren’t sure we all wanted to jump together,” Mayim explained to Entertainment Weekly. “I think Leslie Jordan was known so much for being Leslie, and while we also love him and know him as Phil, he’s such a beloved personality, truly larger than life."
“To try to encapsulate that felt challenging in ways that I don’t know would’ve been healthy for us as a cast or a production,” she continued. “So, we found a way for him to live forever. His character will live forever, and he can have whatever adventures we all imagine.”
Mayim also said Leslie’s tribute episode includes a celebrity who Leslie said he “admired and considered a mentor of his.” Additionally, the episode introduces fans to Phil’s mother, played by his The Cool Kids co-star Vicki Lawrence. But fans shouldn’t be worried about Vicki’s character being “the new Phil.” Mayim told TV Insider that Call Me Kat has no plans to replace her with her late co-star.
“We don’t want to try and replicate Phil because you can’t,” Mayim said of Vicki’s appearance. “Just like Leslie Jordan, there is no replicating that character or person. But we wanted someone who had enough of the feel-good aspects of Leslie’s character and enough of that sharpness and fun Leslie brought to his character.”
Before Vicki’s guest spot, Maria Ferrari, an executive producer for the Fox series, told Deadline, "Leslie’s death absolutely affected the storylines." However, she said she was hopeful that adding Vicki would bring back some of Leslie’s comedic spark.
"She’s amazing and so funny,” Maria said of Vicki. “We mentioned it, and God bless her; she didn’t hesitate; she said yes right away. We know the spirit of Phil will certainly be with her. It’s going to be fun to have that character doing some of the same in-jokes we did when Phil was there.”
'Call Me Kat’s' cast and Fox mourned Leslie Jordan following the news of his death.
When news broke of Leslie's fatal car crash, his co-stars and Call Me Kat's network honored him on the show and online. Fox's tribute to Leslie featured snippets of the actor on LEGO Masters, The Cool Kids, Fantasy Island, and The Masked Singer. It also played a voiceover of Leslie saying, “I’m a big believer in celebrating every moment." At the end, a message read: "Forever a part of the Fox family."
Call Me Kat’s production team also released a statement and shared how Leslie left a significant professional and personal mark.
“We are shocked and devastated by today’s tragic passing of Leslie Jordan,” the statement read. “Leslie carried an infectious exuberance, indelible sense of humor, and gifted us with countless memories that will last forever. We extend our most profound sympathies to Leslie’s family, friends, and fans."
Leslie’s Call Me Kat co-stars Mayim and Kyla also took to Instagram to express their thoughts about their fallen co-star. The Blossom alum began the photo carousel with a message stating it was “inconceivable to imagine a world without our Leslie,” and mentioned in the caption that “they broke the mold when they made Leslie Jordan. He was a dear mentor and a beloved friend. I will miss him so much — it’s unimaginable that he’s gone. Rest well, sweet buddy.”
Kyla later posted several photos of her and Leslie on the Call Me Kat set. Underneath the slideshow, the Proud Family actress shared how grateful she was to “experience the joy” her co-star brought to the show each week.
“You lifted us up with your energy, your voice, your stories, your hilarious one-liners, naughty jokes, kindness, and love,” Kyla wrote. “It’s hard not to be sad, but I know you wouldn’t allow it. I will miss you, but I know you will always be with us. Love you, my Leslie. Thank you for being you💔.”
You can watch new episodes of Call Me Kat Thursdays at 9:30 p.m. EST on Fox.