American actor Billy Dee Williams is 83 years old today. Best known for playing handsome rogue Lando Calrissian in the Star Wars series, he was born April 6, 1937 in New York City.
Lando Calrissian, baron-administrator of the Cloud City mining facility on Bespin, was Williams’ most famous acting role, but not his only geek genre role. He was Harvey Dent in the 1989 Batman. and voiced Two-Face (whom Dent morphed into) in The Batman LEGO Movie and again in Batman Is Just Not That Into You. Williams also played Cmdr Skyler in Alien Intruder. He had a guest role on the short-lived SF series Code Name: Eternity. He co-starred in the movie Epoch: Evolution. He co-starred with Snoop Dogg in Hood of Horror, and he also voiced the Pilot Slug in Best Fiends: Visit Minutia. He had previously returned to his role of Lando Calrissian in Star Wars Rebels, various LEGO Star Wars games, and then again to live action as he returned once more to the famous role in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.
The affect of Williams’ character on the Star Wars saga was profound. He was the ultimate smooth criminal, a foil for Harrison Ford’s Han Solo, and when he first appeared in Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, he made an indelible mark not only on Star Wars, but the cinematic legacy of George Lucas as well.
Williams, already popular by the time he was cast in The Empire Strikes Back, cemented his status as a living legend with the Calrissian role. Overnight, his name was on everyone’s lips.
It seems only appropriate that he reprised Sidney Poitier’s’ role as Homer Smith in Christmas Lilies of the Field. As Poitier had a generation before, and Shemar Moore (SWAT, Criminal Minds, Birds of Prey), Billy Dee Williams’ appeal crosses social, ethnic, and generational boundaries.
With 147 acting credits in his filmography, Billy Dee Williams excelled at playing action-adventure roles and romantic leads: Sgt. Matthew Fox in Nighthawks, Billy Diamond in Double Dare, Douglas Hawk in Shooting Stars, Louis McKay in Lady Sings the Blues, and Bingo Long in The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings.
Williams also starred in the bio-pic Scott Joplin in the title role as one of America’s greatest musical geniuses, He made his start in soap operas as Dr. Jim Frazier in Guiding Light in 1952 and returned to the world of soap operas as ADA Ted Marsh in Another World, Brady Lloyd in Dynasty, and Touissant DuBois in General Hospital.
He has been married three times and divorced twice. He has a son, actor/producer Corey Dee Williams, and a daughter, Hanako Williams. He has been acting for more than half a century and is still going strong. His charisma and natural magnetism helped create a character – and an epic adventure – larger than the sum of its parts.
Happy 83rd Birthday, Billy Dee Williams!
Susan Macdonald is the author of the children’s book “R is for Renaissance Faire”, as well as 26 short stories, mostly fantasy in “Alternative Truths”, “Swords and Sorceress #30”, Swords &Sorceries Vols. 1, 2, & 5, “Cat Tails” “Under Western Stars”, and “Knee-High Drummond and the Durango Kid”. Her articles have appeared on SCIFI.radio’s web site, in The Inquisitr, and in The Millington Star. She enjoys Renaissance Faires (see book above), science fiction conventions, Highland Games, and Native American pow-wows.