When beloved actor and comedian Leslie Jordan died in October after a tragic medical emergency and car crash, it led to a two-week pause in production on his Fox sitcom “Call Me Kat,” starring Mayim Bialik as the owner of a cat café. Five episodes have since aired, and the show will finally say goodbye to his character, Phil, in the January 5 episode “Call Me Philliam.”
Speaking to Entertainment Weekly ahead of the episode, Bialik, who also serves as an executive producer, revealed that the episode would not kill Jordan’s character off.
“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,” Bialik told EW. “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. So, we found a way for him to live forever. His character will live forever, and he can have whatever adventures we all imagine.”
In “Call Me Kat,” a running joke during Jordan’s time on the show saw the character discuss his mother, Lurine. In the tribute episode, she will be played by Vicki Lawrence, who co-starred with Jordan in the 2018 sitcom “The Cool Kids.”
“She’s an extended part of our family is what it feels like, and it really felt like such an act of love to [pay tribute to Leslie] together,” Bialik told EW. “She’s an icon in her own right, and it’s really gracious of her to play Phil’s mama, who we’ve heard so much about, and really flesh that character out.”
Bialik also spoke about the cast’s reaction to Jordan’s death and the outpouring of support they received following his death, saying that she took comfort in the fact that the Emmy winner “knew he was beloved.”
“In many ways it was very heartwarming for us to see the tremendous impact that he had. And it was obviously also really bittersweet because of our grief and how much we missed him,” Bialik said. “What I think that many of us felt was that Leslie was a person who really, truly did understand how loved he was when he was alive, and we definitely took comfort in that. I don’t think I understood the impact of how many people he touched, in particular during COVID, and during those early days of quarantine, when he was a welcome comfort to people.”