Space can be a cold place. But as Lando Calrissian in the original Star Wars trilogy, Billy Dee Williams made space cool. Outside of his signature role, Williams also played Harvey Dent in Tim Burton’s Batman film and was the longtime pitchman for Colt 45. But with George Lucas’s recent sale of the Star Wars brand to Disney and the announcement that more films will be coming soon, that galaxy far, far away is back on the cultural front burner—just in time for Williams’s appearance at this year’s Emerald City Comicon.
What did you think when you heard Disney bought Star Wars?
Well, George is making more money. [Laughs.] But he’s also contributing a lot of that money to education. Listen, it’s what happens in the movie industry. As far as my participation is concerned, I guess if somebody said to me that they wanted me to be a part of it, I would say yes.
Well, I read that Lando was in screenwriter Michael Arndt’s treatment for Episode VII.
Lando was a really integral part to those first stories. And I made a tremendous impact as the character. Everybody loves the character, so I don’t see why he would not still be a part of the saga.
How do you feel about being seemingly the only minority human character in the original trilogy?
I never approached it as a minority. He was a guy who was really devoid of all of that. Lando, to me, was part of the future, a person of the future—far beyond the question of being a minority.
Why do you think The Empire Strikes Back has stood the test of time?
First of all you had Irvin Kershner, who was probably one of the most creative people in film, directing it. And then you had [Lawrence] Kasdan, who wrote the script. It was a combination of things, a combination of people. And then you had me. [Laughs.] Production-wise I think it was the best, at least of that three.
What’s it like making the con rounds? Do the obsessive fans get on your nerves after a while?
It’s all a great pleasure for me. It allows me to get out to meet a lot of people who have been giving me a lot of support over the years. Plus, it’s fun to watch everybody with their little costumes. It becomes a really festive occasion.
In recent years you’ve vocally reprised the role of Lando for Seth Green’s Robot Chicken and the upcoming Star Wars: Detours. How is it working with a generation that grew up as Star Wars fans?
First of all, I really thoroughly enjoy young people. In fact, I’d rather spend most of my time with them. I love doing all of that stuff—the whole parody on Lando.
What aspects of the character do you find lend themselves best to parody?
You can pick almost any situation: When I go up against Darth Vader, the situations where I have to explain to everybody why I didn’t really betray Han Solo, and the fact that he was a very charming, roguish character. There are an awful lot of aspects about the character that you can play around with.
Let’s end on a serious question: On the Cloud City of Bespin, did they serve blue milk, like
they did on Tatooine, or Colt 45?
Colt 45, of course.
Emerald City Comicon
Mar 1–3, Washington State Convention Center, single-day pass $25–$35; three-day pass $65