Jar Jar Binks actor Ahmed Best has made a triumphant return to the Star Wars universe years after being pilloried by the press and fans for his controversial Phantom Menace character.
The actor has returned to the series, appearing in the most recent episode of Disney+'s The Mandalorian as the Jedi warrior Kelleran Beq, where he has been given a privileged position in the franchise's canon.
Beq is revealed as the man who saved Grogu (baby Yoda) from the Jedi-destroying Order 66 — and the attack on the Jedi Temple — the devastating event in the series that was first seen in 2005's Revenge of the Sith.
It's a touching moment of redemption for the actor who spoke in the past about the levels of abuse he faced playing Jar Jar in the prequel trilogy.
Ahmed Best's time as Jar Jar Binks
The character was very negatively received by fans to such an extent that Jar Jar was largely written out of the next two films with only seconds of screen time in Revenge of the Sith.
Though the character is better received these days, Best has previously spoken openly about struggling with the backlash against Jar Jar.
In a 2017 interview, Best told Wired: "I had death threats through the internet. I had people come to me and say, 'You destroyed my childhood.' That's difficult for a 25-year-old to hear."
In 2018, Best shared on social media: “I don’t talk a lot about my experience as #jarjarbinks because a lot of it is very painful. I faced a media backlash that still affects my career today.
"This was the place I almost ended my life. It’s still hard to talk about."
George Lucas also defended the character. In a chat with Robin Williams, he said: “It’s funny, I mean the fans hated it, but the fans hated Jar Jar before the movie even came out, before they even knew what he was.
"They don’t like comic sidekicks. They just can’t take it, you know, in the first film nobody liked C-3PO, they couldn’t stand him. It was like the most repulsive character ever created on film. Then when we did Empire [Strikes Back], nobody liked Yoda, ‘you can’t understand what he’s saying, he talks backwards’, then in the third one, they hated the Ewoks. They just couldn’t stand them, they were too cute, too fuzzy."
Lucas also called Jar Jar his "favourite character" though it's not clear whether he was joking or not.
The return of Ahmed Best
Despite the negative attention aimed at Best, he continued to work on Star Wars related material.
He carried on voicing Jar Jar for the animated Clone Wars series and also played the character in a Robot Chicken parody of Star Wars for which he won an Annie Award for Best Voice Acting.
Best's voice can also be heard in many Star Wars video games dating from 1999. His last appearance as Binks was in 2015 video game Disney Infinity 3.0. In 2019, he returned to the world of Star Wars when he appeared on stage at Star Wars Celebration where he was greeted by rapturous applause from the fans who were now on his side.
Significantly, The Mandalorian is not the first time Best has played Beq. He first played the character in online game show Star Wars: Jedi Temple Challenge, which launched in 2020 during the Covid pandemic.
Best hosts the show in character as Beq and guides competitors through a series of obstacle courses and quizzes.
At the time of the series' launch, Best described the character as: “Kelleran is the ultimate temple master. He can appear to be kind of funny, kind of goofy. He gets ribbed a lot by AD-3, the droid.
"But at the end of the day, what Kelleran Beq is trying to do is make you the best Jedi that you can be.”
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