Billy Dee Williams and Octavia Butler on Star Wars

I spotted Billy Dee Williams explaining the mindset of Lando Calrissian over at Wired:

And it immediately made me think of Octavia Butler’s take:

I’m glad he was there, but watching Billy Dee Williams play that role was like watching Jesus Christ Superstar and realizing we’d finally made it into Biblical films: we could play Judas.

  • Ayana Harris

    In another interview, Butler refers to Lt. Uhura as a telephone operator on Star Trek.

    • Chrisbracey

      Remembering that Star Trek was on at a time when women in general, much less a black woman, would not have been in any role that as an officer. Not only that, but she and Kirk shared the first on screen interracial kiss. (James T. Kirk didn’t discriminate, black, white, green, orange).

      As for the Lando character, I guess at this point in time it’s lost on many that he wasn’t portrayed as a thief or criminal, but as someone concerned for people he’d been entrusted with in Cloud City. Remember we are talking about going up against an empire which had no trouble destroying planets, much less a single city.  I find some of the more modern “ethnic” characters to be more offensive in fact.

  • Layla

    Interesting take Joseph, I hadn’t thought about it that way.  

    Now that I’m older I can appreciate the complexities that Lando faces, but as a kid when I first saw the film, his betrayal really stood out to me rather than the care and responsibility he showed to Cloud City and even to his friends too.  I also remember being pretty uncomfortable that the only black character was the “Judas” character, and wishing they could have black characters that were presented more “100% good,” like Luke, Leia, Han, etc.

  • Joseph

    Being a Star Wars fan this annoys me because in the CONTEXT of the film, Lando had Cloud City to think about hence playing “Judas” was the only card dealt to him. I like the fact he betrayed them initially because too many times I’ve seen movies where the black guy is willing to sacrifice himself to his white friends. In Empire, Lando was portrayed as a smart, character with a complex situation to manage.   If he would have died, then Octavia Butler and others would have said he was another “self sacrificing, loyal black man.” I guess you can’t win either way with people.

    • Pez

      I agree. Lando was doing what was at that time in the best interest for Cloud City. Had he not allied with Vader then I think Cloud City would have been destroyed. Lando did the best thing at the time. Engaging Vader, and by extension the Empire in battle would have only resulted in his death and the deaths of many people in Cloud City. Not to mention that in Return of the Jedi he actually helps the good guys out.