Star Wars great Billy Dee Williams made headlines earlier this week for his comments on the use of gender pronouns, and those headlines almost uniformly said something to the effect of: “Billy Dee Williams comes out as gender fluid.”
If you read Williams’s original comments, though, the headlines felt like a leap — a way to neatly label the 82-year-old actor in progressive terminology at a time when traditional definitions of gender and sexuality continue to evolve.
“I never tried to be anything except myself. I think of myself as a relatively colourful character who doesn’t take himself or herself too seriously,” he told Esquire magazine. “I say ‘himself’ and ‘herself,’ because I also see myself as feminine as well as masculine. I’m a very soft person. I’m not afraid to show that side of myself.”
Read more: Lando’s fabulous full name revealed
In an interview with Yahoo Entertainment Tuesday, Williams clarified his comments when asked about the sexuality of Lando Calrissian, Wiliiams’s fan-favourite intergalactic playboy smuggler whom the actor reprises for the first time in 36 years with the upcoming Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.
“When I made that comment, it was just a simple comment, I was just saying men should get in touch with their female self,” he told us (watch above). “I was not talking about swinging, or whether I was gay or straight or anything like that. But it's interesting how people take all of that stuff out of [context], and make it what they want to make it.”
(In a separate interview with The Undefeated, Williams asked, “What the hell is ‘gender fluid?’” The term generally refers to people who do not identify with a fixed gender.)
In his explanation, Williams referred to the teachings of psychoanalyst Carl Jung, an early supporter of Sigmund Freud whose anima/animus theories explored the inner feminine side of men and the inner masculine side of women.
Williams’s comments may have in some small part been misconstrued because of the character he’s famous for playing. Star Wars fans have long been intrigued by Lando’s sexuality, especially in the wake of the 2018 prequel Solo: A Star Wars Story, in which Donald Glover leaned into the ambiguity surrounding Lando’s romantic tastes, which both Glover and the film's screenwriter described him as pansexual.
Read more: Solo nearly featured Lando’s brother
Though he often refers to him as a “charmer,” Williams doesn’t have much of an opinion on that matter.
“I never thought about it, to tell you the truth,” the actor said. “I mean I’m sure he was quite capable of a lot of things. But I never really thought about it.”
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker opens 19 December. Watch the trailer: