“The Golden Girls on crack.” No need for me to review The Cool Kids, Leslie Jordan summed it up succinctly. And from there, I know it’s gonna be a fun Cocktail Convo.
The show follows an all-star cast of Leslie, along with David Alan Grier, Martin Mull, and their anti-ingenue Vicki Lawrence, who we Convo’d with last fall.
For such a veteran cast, you’d think they’d have all crossed paths professionally over the
decades years. But turns out that’s not the case. Leslie and Martin did a movie together and their paths barely crossed. “I did a movie with Martin Mull called Ski Patrol thirty years ago but our scenes weren’t together. We were in the same movie but I met him very briefly.”
But turns out, it didn’t matter. “It clicked on the set. We had not worked together.”
And Leslie told me that they’re a chatty group. “We walked onto the set and we started talking, and we haven’t shut up.” You may think that would be a problem for the director, but it’s a little off-putting for Les as well. “I’m the kind of actor that likes to take a break. Before they say ‘action,’ and they just talk talk and talk right up to action. And I keep sayin’ ‘you gotta shut up! You gotta shut up and let me prepare.'”
Turns out.. they don’t care. “They go ‘oh please, please!'”
Free To Be Me
For Leslie, the great thing about the role of Sid, is that it allows him to be himself: a gay man. And he couldn’t put his finger on it at first. “When we were shooting the pilot, I thought to myself ‘this is so easy, what’s so easy?’ And it’s easy because I think I was just being allowed to be me. The favorite thing about Sid is he’s got a childlike view of things which is, I would have to say that Sid is the closest I’ve played to Leslie Jordan.”
You may know him from his hilarious role as Beverly Leslie on Will & Grace and think that’s a gay character, what’s the difference? According to Leslie, there’s a big difference. “You know, even on Will & Grace I’m, you know, kind of haughty or puff puff. This Sid is really like me.”
And playing a “real” gay man, not a caricature, is liberating. “That’s not as easy as you think. Especially someone who grew up in a very repressed sort of Southern Baptist upbringing. There was a lot of internal homophobia. To just be at my age, 63, comfortable with who I am, what I am, and able to play that.”
But he’s not the only one relating to his character. Leslie told me that the entire cast is playing a version of themselves, even if they don’t always see it.
“David (Alan Grier) says ‘Hank’s not me, I created him.’ I thought ohhh uh-uh. That Hank’s you, he just doesn’t see it! He puts on some makeup and he’s the only one that opted for makeup cuz he went to Yale, you see. He opted for makeup. Even Vicki (Lawrence) will say ‘this is pretty close to me. Martin just sits there. I mean that’s just Martin Mull.”
Writing’s On the Wall
Of course, the witty banter of the show doesn’t come from the cast being given a round of shots and told to be funny. “TV is a writer’s medium. Film is a director’s medium. Stage is an actor’s medium.” And Leslie is thrilled with the balance the show has struck
“We have the best writers in the business. With twelve of ’em. Twelve! So they outnumber us. So we get to adlib but only in rehearsal, and only once we’ve put it past them.” Like your blood alcohol content, TV is a game of numbers!
And he’s been on shows without a strong Writer’s Room. “I’ve watched shows before where I think this is what happens when the actors are allowed to run amok.”
“It needs the writers. If we were allowed, we are four of the biggest hams I’ve ever seen in my life. And it’s like verbal ping pong. I hit it to him and BOOM here it comes. Who gets the biggest laughs, we’re just big hams.”
Awesome actors plus righteous writers? There’s just one element missing. “And we get to shoot in front of a live audience, which is wonderful. There we can be at our hammiest!”
Looking To The Future
FOX hasn’t announced any renewals for next season, so the future of the show is still in doubt. Leslie told me it was “thrilling” when they got an order for their “back nine” (an additional nine episodes to create a 22 episode season). But he’s got higher goals.
“What’s even better is an order for a second season. I have full confidence. I really do. It’s a show that I think has legs for old people with no moral compass, getting into all kinds of trouble.”
The Critic’s Cocktail Recommendation
Malibu & Metamucil. It’s the perfect combo to get your alcohol and your fiber!