The original owner of the Millenium Falcon is 84 today. Happy birthday, you old scoundrel.
Billy Dee Williams was born William December Williams on April 6, 1937 in New York City. Billy Dee has notched up an impressive array of film and television appearances over the past 50+ years. He is easily best known to international film audiences as the roguish Lando Calrissian in the last two episodes of the original Star Wars trilogy: Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi (1983).
Star Wars is definitely the signature note of his career. Though he has more than 100 credits going back to 1959, none is more recognizable than Lando Callrissian. Williams has appeared as that character in no less than eighteen other productions, including television, video games, and motion pictures. His last on-screen appearance as Lando was in Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker, but he’s still working as the character doing voice work. The game Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga is still in development, and the TV series Star Wars: Detours is listed as being still in post-production despite having begun in 2012. That particular series was completed, but never released. Lucasfilm renewed the trademark for the series in 2018, so there’s still a chance we may get to see it – eventually.
Billy Dee Williams grew up in the Harlem section of New York City in a family that nurtured artistic expression in all forms. At his mother’s urging, at the young age of seven, Billy Dee made his acting debut on Broadway in the Firebrand of Florence, starring Lotte Lenya. Billy attended public school including the High School of Music and Art.
He was awarded the prestigious Hallgarten Award Scholarship to attend the National Academy of Fine Arts and Design. In order to earn money to buy paint and canvas Billy, remembering his positive stage experience as a youngster, returned to acting, contrary to the strong protests of his art professors. Billy quickly distinguished himself in the performing arts and despite the often-arduous schedules, managed to keep his love of painting an integral part of his life.
Happy birthday, Mr. Williams, and may the Force be with you!