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Billy Dee Williams Reflects on His Fanboys Legacy

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Billy Dee Williams discusses his Fanboys cameo, shares his thoughts on real life fanboys, and explains why no other actor could have made Lando Calrissian a cultural icon.

Q: How did your Fanboys cameo come about?

A: I was handed a script, I read it, and I thought it was a lot of fun — I was in hysterics. These young guys get very excited about Star Wars — they’re like groupies. It was just a cameo role, so there wasn’t a whole lot that needed to be done. I confront these young guys who have created all kinds of havoc.

Q: Is the portrayal of fanboys accurate?

A: I run into that kind of stuff whenever I travel — signing autographs, stuff like that. It’s always amazing to me how involved these people are, how deeply entrenched they are in the whole Star Wars saga. But they’re not all — who was it that said these guys should get a life?

Q: William Shatner.

A: Yeah, Shatner said that. [Laughs]. But the thing is, they do have a life, and they’re a lot of fun. And they’re not all nuts and crazy — well, they’re nuts and crazy in their own way, but it’s just that they get really excited about Star Wars. It’s amazing to me how Star Trek and Star Wars has so permeated peoples’ lives and has lasted as long as it did. I think it will go on forever, like the galaxy.

Q: Why do you think Lando Calrissian is such a popular character?

A: Nobody else could have played him the way I played him. Nobody else would have made him as memorable as I made Lando. I guess it’s because of the way I try to approach characters — I’m always thinking bigger than life and giving it more theatricality. I think it worked. Also, I’m a handsome guy, you know? And charming. All of those things. [Laughs]

Q: The way you played makes him pretty ripe for parody.

A: Absolutely. You can take it in any direction you want to take it and have fun with it.

Q: You did a sketch on Robot Chicken where you go off on fanboys who call Lando a traitor.

A: Whenever I used to pick my daughter up from school when she was little, the kids would run up to me and start yelling at me about betraying Han Solo. And here I am in the middle of the schoolyard trying to justify Lando Calrissian’s life. I would end up explaining the whole thing — Lando’s dilemma at that particular moment, because he ends up becoming the hero. It’s a good character because you don’t quite know where he’s coming from. So Seth [Green] and those guys wrote this sketch that was very funny.

Q: So the tirade is genuine?

A: Of course! Here’s a guy like Steve Wynn, and all of a sudden my friends are coming into my domain, right behind me there’s Darth Vader? People don’t always examine the situation thoroughly. If they have a favorite character, they just know that someone is doing something terrible to that character.

Q: What did you think of the prequels ?

A: I thought they were good. I’m always interested in seeing what George Lucas does, what he’s bringing to the table. Of course the stuff that we did, the first three, relied less on special effects. I think most people seem to agree that they like those better than the ones that came after. I admire people who experiment, and I admire George Lucas for all of the things that he attempts to do. It’s not for me to criticize.

Q: You were the first Harvey Dent in Batman. What did you think of The Dark Knight?

A: I haven’t seen The Dark Knight. I understand it’s very good, but I think the first Batman — the one I was in — was probably the best one. And I wanted to play Two-Face; I thought it would have been a very unique thing to do. I would have done something interesting with the character, there’s no question about it. It’s just too bad I didn’t have the opportunity.

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