Billy Dee Williams has been world famous for decades thanks to his role in the Star Wars movies, but as the now 86-year-old recently recalled, being famous for playing Lando Calrissian hasn’t always been smooth strolling. Apparently for years, Williams would regularly be approached regarding his initial betrayal of Han Solo in 1980’s The Empire Strikes Back, so much he got tired of defending Lando.
In a new interview with Billy Dee Williams ahead of him joining the celebrity memoir train with What Have We Here?, hitting bookshelves next month, Williams shared that following the hit release of Star Wars: Episode V, he would pick his daughter up from school to kids going up to him telling him he “betrayed Han Solo!” As he continued:
I got that for a lot of years. So finally, I said, ‘Look, think about the whole situation. You're up against a pretty formidable character in Darth Vader. And then there's, of course, Boba Fett. And these people were invading my space and I had to bargain with them. But the bargain at least prevented the complete demise of Han Solo and his friends. But I had to hold on to my whole situation.
Of course, it’s kind of hilarious that Williams was defending the actions of the fictional character he plays, but since many viewers of the Star Wars movie were kids, apparently the lines were blurred. As he also told Entertainment Weekly's Dagobah Dispatch:
So I found myself explaining all this stuff to a point where I finally said to people, ‘Look, I'm tired of explaining all of this.’ I said, ‘Did anybody die? Nobody died!’ I think that was a clear indication that Lando was trying to figure something out and he was trying to figure out primarily how to hold onto his situation without the complete demise of his friend.
While yes, Lando Calrissian did initially betray Han Solo in The Empire Strikes Back, leading him to the iconic scene of the smuggler being frozen in carbonite, he eventually does help rescue Leia, Chewbacca, and C-3PO later on. Plus, his initial betrayal led to perhaps one of the most iconic Star Wars scenes of all time. Without Lando, we literally wouldn’t have the “I love you”/“I know.” moment. So, come on, why the hate? Y’all should take it up with George Lucas.
The discourse among Star Wars fans that once Billy Dee Williams starred in this hilarious Robot Chicken parody on the subject. Check it:
Despite all of that The Empire Strikes Back explaining, Billy Dee Williams returned for 1983’s Return of the Jedi before reprising the role for the first time in over 30 years (in live action) in 2019’s The Rise of Skywalker - a role he never thought he’d reprise. Additionally, Lando was played by Donald Glover in Solo, and the younger actor is also expected to play him again in one of the upcoming Star Wars projects on the way. When it was announced back in 2020, the Lando project was going to be a TV show he had tons of questions about. The latest is it’s going to be a movie instead, with Glover’s brother and Atlanta collaborator on board as well.
You can check out Billy Dee Williams' memoir What Have We Here? when the new book arrives on February 13.