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Why Billy Dee Williams Defends Lando Calrissian’s Most Controversial Star Wars Decision

While some criticize Lando Calrissian for betraying Han Solo in “The Empire Strikes Back,” it’s done little to affect his popularity among Star Wars fans. He’s among the franchise’s most instantly recognizable personalities thanks to his witty demeanor and array of quotable lines. Perhaps more significant, however, is how Billy Dee Williams challenged pre-conceived notions of how characters in science fiction blockbusters are depicted.  

Williams never tried emphasizing himself as a Black man in his roles, choosing to push the complex dilemmas his characters are going through instead. Regardless, his dedication helped reshape how people of color are seen in major franchises such as Star Wars and Batman, impacting many. In an interview with Esquire, Williams recalled interacting with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Jamie Foxx while attending the 2019 D23 Expo. “The Rock calls me the OG,” he shared. “What I presented on that screen people didn’t expect to see. And I deliberately presented something that nobody had experienced before: a romantic brown-skinned boy.” 

Similarly, J.J. Abrams, who had Williams reprise his role in 2019’s “Star Wars: Episode IX — The Rise of Skywalker,” commended the actor’s place in film history. “Lando was always written as a complex, contradictory, nuanced character,” he shared with Esquire. “And Billy Dee played him to suave perfection. It wasn’t just that people of color were seeing themselves represented; they were seeing themselves represented in a rich, wonderful, intriguing way.” In a way, if Lando’s actions were clean and tidy to the end, viewers wouldn’t have the same attachment to him. 

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