A few weeks ago, Star Wars Rebels brought back Billy Dee Williams to voice Lando Calrissian for an all new adventure with the fan favorite character. Following his reprisal, I got the chance to talk with Billy Dee Williams about his return, along with his thoughts on a few other things regarding the future of Star Wars. Come inside to check out the full interview!
Off hand, I have to remark on just how nice Billy Dee really is. Chatting with him felt more like talking with an old friend than anything else. He was so easy going and made the entire conversation a lot of fun. You’ve already seen his comments on making a return to Star Wars Rebels for further Lando adventures, but today, I’m happy to present the rest of our chat, which started off all about Rebels (my comments and questions are in BOLD):
I appreciate you taking the time to talk with me about your return to Lando in Star Wars Rebels.
BDW: Oh yeah, that’s fine. I had a good time doing that, I always have a good time...I’ve been working with them for a think about over a year. We’ve been putting it together and I really enjoyed myself, and I love what they’ve done with the character.
And I didn’t want them to use anyone else’s voice. That character to me is...My voice is synonymous with that character, and I can’t imagine anyone else’s voice doing that character.
I would HAVE to agree. It’s always great to hear original actors come back for these roles in new stories. So what was it like coming back to Lando after all these years?
BDW: Well, I, I’m with that character every year. I go out on the road and do these conventions, so that character is perpetually with me. I’m never without that character at some point or another. Lando is very much a part of my life.
So I’m guessing it wasn’t that hard to get back into character for the show?
BDW: No, no, no, no...I love parodying myself, and to me it’s pretty much parody. There’s a lot of humor in it.
It was certainly a great episode and lots of people seem to have enjoyed your return.
BDW: Oh really? Good because I haven’t really heard anything, and I was curious to know how people were responding.
Oh man, I’ve seen nothing but positive things.
BDW: Well that’s fantastic.
When I was watching the show, it was really impressive to hear that it sounded like you hadn’t missed a beat. The Lando we see in Rebels feels like the one from the films.
BDW: Well, you know, the writers, producers, and directors put that whole thing together in a really fun and interesting way.
You know, Star Wars has been around for several years now, and I think, in my opinion, this gives Lando a certain kind of credence that he really deserves. For years there’s been these books about Lando and his adventures. So this is great that we can actually SEE Lando in some of his adventures.
Was it weird to go back to a younger Lando?
BDW: Oh no, no. I’m a child for the rest of my life.
That’s a good way to live! So, you mentioned you’ve been working with [Lucasfilm] for a while. When did they contact you about coming back for Star Wars Rebels?
BDW: Uh, we started shooting Rebels...about a year ago or maybe even longer than a year. But I did Robot Chicken and a couple of other things as Lando too.
They keep calling me up to do Lando, and I love doing Lando so I don’t mind.
Well that’s great, because we all love having you come back! When you were recording for Rebels, were you present with the other actors?
BDW: No, I had my own recording session.
While fans were obviously excited to hear Billy Dee Williams return as Lando in Star Wars Rebels, you know I couldn’t leave our conversation at that. So we switched gears and started talking about the new Star Wars movies that were coming up (as of course, everyone is curious about those!).
You’ve obviously worked with Lucasfilm for a number of years and had interactions with them, but have you noticed anything different now that Disney is in control?
BDW: No. I mean, I have no idea what they’ve done with it, but I imagine that they’re staying true to form. With J.J. Abrams and Disney participating in it, I would imagine it has to be pretty formidable.
Did you see The Force Awakens trailer that released?
BDW: No, I haven’t seen anything, no.
But you are interested in seeing the movie when it comes out?
BDW: Oh, of course!
Awesome...So I have to ask, were you ever approached to appear in the new movie? I remember when the first cast list was revealed with that photo, people weren’t happy that you were absent from it.
BDW: Yeah, people were pretty upset about it. But I uh...I may very well...I have a feeling I’m going to show up. [Note: from the context Billy Dee Williams is talking about the sequel Trilogy in general and not just The Force Awakens] There’s nothing I can really discuss about it at this stage.
People think of me as the original cast, but I didn’t come in until the second movie. I did Empire and then I did Return of the Jedi, but I came in after everyone else was introduced...So I think they’re probably proceeding in that way.
I can’t imagine them not bringing Lando back. But we’ll see, I don’t know.
But if they gave you the call, you’d be willing to come back, right?
BDW: Oh sure.
Well I think it speaks to how many fans of Lando there are, that so many people DO think of you as a part of the original cast. You obviously made quite an impact with the character.
BDW: Most movies I’ve done, I’ve managed to make all the characters I’ve done indelible. I’ve managed to make them bigger than life and I’m able to give them a presence that people don’t forget.
Which means I’m a pretty damn good actor! [Laughs]
I can’t disagree with you on any point.
BDW: Any time you get people quoting lines, then you know you’ve made an impact.
Sadly, I wasn’t able to get much more information out of him about the Star Wars sequels, but from the sounds of things, he’s hopeful to return. If he’s being told that he can’t discuss things much...then odds are someone has already had a conversation with him about it. Guess we’ll have to wait and find out.
After this, I decided to approach a few different topics with Williams:
I know you haven’t seen it, but when the new Star Wars trailer came out and we saw John Boyega...are you familiar with him?
BDW: No, I don’t who that is.
Anyway, Boyega’s appearance in the trailer stirred a bunch of controversy amongst some...well, stupid people, that he was a person of color. Did you ever have to deal with any racial issues in your Star Wars experience?
BDW: Oh no, everyone fell in love with Lando! [Laughs] Well, first of all, I never approach any of my characters based on race or ethnicity. I just approached it with my own particular, unique way of doing it.
I’m kind of bored with all these questions about racial differences and all that stuff. I try not to approach my career, my paintings, or anything I do with [race] in mind.
Speaking of paintings, are you still working on art?
BDW: Oh yeah, when I’m not painting I’m drawing. I’m always working on something.
That’s great to hear. I know the Star Wars fan community is always big into art, do you ever look at Lando fan-art or do people send it to you?
BDW: Oh yeah, I’ve got tons of stuff that I’ve collected over the years! I’ve got great stuff. That stuff is great, it’s always wonderful.
First of all, I appreciate the ability of a lot of these people, and I appreciate the fact that they appreciate me. I’m lucky enough to get the opportunity to see a lot of it as I travel around.
That about wraps up our conversation and I’m very glad to have had it. We learned a few things, and more importantly heard from the man himself, that he’s always willing to come back as Lando. Fans are always important to Star Wars and it was great to hear him talk so affectionately about the fan community and how much he appreciates them. So keep up the good work Star Wars fans and know that it's welcome!