Legendary ‘Star Wars’ Actor Defends Use of Blackface

in Entertainment, Star Wars

Lando Calrissian wearing Han Solo's clothes talking with Chewbacca in the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon. Still image from 'Star Wars The Empire Strikes Back'

Credit: Lucasfilm

A Star Wars legend shared their surprising opinion on a highly controversial subject.

Lando Calrissian in Return of the Jedi
Credit: Lucasfilm

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The Star Wars brand has turned countless actors and actresses into household names, both due to some excellent performances as well as incredibly memorable and well-written characters. From Harrison Ford’s Han Solo to Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren, the Star Wars universe is one of the most richly detailed ever put to screen. One of these legends is Billy Dee Williams, who has famously portrayed Lando Calrissian for decades.

Billy Dee Williams is a certified Star Wars legend, first appearing as the iconic Lando Calrissian in The Empire Strikes Back (1980). Since audience’s first encounter with the smooth-talking, wise-cracking smuggler, Lando has appeared in several other Star Wars shows and films, including Return of the Jedi (1983) and The Rise of Skywalker (2019). Audiences were treated to a younger version of Lando in Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018), who was portrayed by Donald Glover, also known as Childish Gambino.

To say the character of Lando, as well as Billy Dee Williams himself, is iconic would be an understatement, which is why the actor’s recent comments are even more surprising and shocking.

Billy Dee Williams as Lando
Credit: Lucasfilm

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During Sunday’s episode of Club Random with Bill Maher, Billy Dee Williams made a very controversial statement regarding the use of blackface in Hollywood.

“When he did Othello, I fell out laughing,” Williams said, talking about Laurence Olivier’s performance in Othello (1965). The film itself is highly regarded as a Shakespeare classic but features Olivier in blackface as he portrays the film’s titular character. “He stuck his ass out and walked around because Black people are supposed to have big asses.”

Maher countered Williams by saying, “Today, they would never let you do that.”

billy dee williams lando
Credit: Lucasfilm/Disney

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Williams asked Maher, “Why?” to which Maher responded, “Blackface?”

“Why not? You should do it,” stated Williams. “If you’re an actor, you should do anything you want to do.”

“The point is,” Williams explained, “you don’t go through life feeling like, ‘I’m a victim.’ I refuse to go through life saying to the world, ‘I’m pissed off.’ I’m not gonna be pissed off 24 hours a day.”

The topic of blackface has always been incredibly controversial, with many films and series being wiped from streaming platforms as a result. Several episodes of the hit comedy series It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia are unavailable to stream online anymore due to the use of blackface by various characters. Perhaps one of the most infamous examples of blackface used in film can be found in Tropic Thunder (2008), which sees Hollywood icon Robert Downey Jr. portray a black man throughout the entire movie. Surprisingly, there has been very little pushback regarding this specific role, with Downy Jr. being able to grow and maintain one of the biggest careers Hollywood has ever seen.

The topic of blackface has been debated for decades and will certainly be talked about for years to come. These comments come at an interesting time for The Walt Disney Company, which has vehemently tried to clean up its catalog of films and shows. Fans will now see content warnings play before classic Disney films like Peter Pan (1953) due to negative portrayals of Native Americans. This has extended inside the Disney theme parks as well, with a large group of fans pushing for Disney to retheme the iconic dark ride based on the classic animated film.

What are your thoughts on this story? Who is your favorite character from Star Wars?

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