Dolly Parton Says “I Will Always Love” Leslie Jordan in Surprise ‘Call Me Kat’ Tribute

"Everybody loved you, but I doubt many of them loved you more than I did."

Like the rest of us, Dolly Parton will always love Leslie Jordan.

On the Jan. 5 episode of Call Me Kat, the queen of country music made a surprise cameo to pay tribute to Jordan, who she lovingly refers to as her "little brother."

Parton opened her video appearance by singing lines from “Where the Soul Never Dies,” her collaboration with Jordan from his 2021 country gospel album, Company's Comin'. After her musical introduction, Parton began her emotional eulogy by saying:

“I know usually at a memorial people talk about somebody, well, I’m going to talk to you, because there is that place on the other side and 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 them loved you more than I did."

“I just want 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. You made us happy while you were here and we’re happy that you’re at peace," she continued. "I just want you to know that I will always love you. Goodbye, my sweet Leslie. See you over there.”

Earlier this week in an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Call Me Kat star Mayim Bialik teased Parton's appearance on the episode:

"It's someone that Leslie has already both a professional and personal relationship with. It's someone who he admired and considered a mentor of his, and it's someone who has the personality that Leslie always said he would like to be remembered as having."

As Logo previously reported, Jordan died in a car accident this past October at the age of 67. In the interview with EW, Bialik reveals how Jordan's shocking passing affected the Call Me Kat cast and the production of the show, which was in the middle of filming its holiday episode.

"When it came to the episode that is essentially his tribute, 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," said Bialik. "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," she continued. "And because we break the fourth wall anyway, we were able to use that convention to say simply, we gave this character a happy ending, but there's a lot more going on here."

In the end, the Call Me Kat creative team were able to write out Jordan's character Phil by having him marry his boyfriend Jalen (John Griffin), and the two of them relocating to Tahiti. The episode, titled “Call Me Philliam,” ended with the cast breaking the fourth wall and gathering around Jordan's chair. 

“What we’ve done here is given Phil a happy ending. What we’re really doing is mourning the loss of our dear friend, Leslie Jordan,” Bialik said, as her co-stars, including Cheyenne Jackson and Swoosie Kurtz, held back tears. “He is irreplaceable. We will miss him very much. Love, light, Leslie.”

Parton's emotional tribute closed out the episode, watch it below:

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