In March of 2019, the conclusion of the Star Wars saga, The Rise of Skywalker, was teased at a convention in Chicago. Among the revelations was that series star Billy Dee Williams would be reprising his role as the suave Lando Calirissian, Administrator of Cloud City and friend of Han Solo. He appeared in 1980’s Empire Strikes Back and 1983’s Return of the Jedi. Given the almost 40-year gap since Lando’s last sighting (not counting Solo: A Star Wars Story), fans and colleagues alike were anxious for his return.
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“It was something that we discussed when we did The Force Awakens, and among the things that we couldn’t fit into that movie, with all the other things we were doing, was Lando,” director J.J. Abrams tells BET.com. “To get to work with Billy is like nothing else. His presence on set. He’s royalty. No one else has that look and that smile. He’s the most suave, cool dude. He’s the most fascinating conversation partner, because you hear these stories, the people he’s worked with, his history in the business…in addition to that smile on camera. That look, that feeling you get with Lando. I can’t say enough about working with Billy Dee, not just as a fan, but as a director working with an actor. He works as hard as anyone. He doesn’t come in acting like ‘I’m all that.’ He really wants to do great work and he’s an artist. And I feel privileged to have worked with him.”
The young stars of The Rise of Skywalker weren’t even born when the 82-year-old was battling The Empire, so this is an unprecedented treat for them.
“I cried when I first saw him on set. Legend. He’s so cool!” says Naomie Ackie, who plays newcomer Jannah. “And when we saw him with his full regalia on, it was proper goosebumps. That was huge.”
John Boyega, who returns as Finn, adds: “It was dope. It was good to see that he’s doing well and still got it. It’s been so many years since he’s been back, but you know he stepped back into Lando like it was nothing. The charm don’t die. It really, really doesn’t. It’s what made me feel like, this is LEGIT. This is really, really cool. First working with Harrison and now Billy.”
Williams says it’s “a real compliment” to be an inspiration to the younger generation of sci-fi fans and actors and he had a ball being back in the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon, “It was a lot of fun.” But he had the most praise for director Abrams.
“He’s very imaginative. Not only do I have this interaction with him but I also like to sit back and watch him because his mind never stops. Always coming up with new things to do. So it’s always interesting to work with somebody who has that kind of enthusiasm.”
When it comes to new (or is it old?) members of the Star Wars universe like Baby Yoda, featured in the Disney + series The Mandalorian, Williams is still playing catch up. (“These are all new characters to me and I haven’t really been keeping up.”) However, when asked about how they’d handle babysitting the new darling of social media, the rest of the cast had some ideas.
“He doesn’t like being cuddled, does he?” Boyega asks rhetorically about how to deal with a crying Baby Yoda. “I’d just leave him on the floor and kick him around for a bit. The dude has force powers so I think you need to be a little more harsh on that kid. A lightsaber duel to tire him out.”
Naomie suggests using a good 'ole Jedi mind trick on the child to calm him down.
“You’re happy now,” she says with the wave of her hand. “You’re well…”
“You will stop crying,” Kelly Mary Tran, who plays Rose, adds with a flourish and chuckle. “You love me.”
As for music calming the savage beast, I ask them which band they should play for Baby Yoda, (who loves music, according to the internet); Full Force or The Force MDs.
“Full Force. I think that kid needs to calm down, that baby. He’s tapping buttons, going on planets and lifting things for no reason. I think he needs to chill.”
Lastly, if you’re schooling Baby Yoda on the ways of The Force, which force do you focus on: Gravity or Friction?
“Gravity!” Naomie and Kelly say in unison before realizing that it doesn’t apply to a being who can float at will. “Friction!”
Catch all of the stars of The Rise of Skywalker when it hits theaters December 20.