Billy Dee Williams, who returns to the Star Wars universe as Lando Calrissian in this month’s The Rise of Skywalker, sat down with Esquire for a wide-ranging interview.
In the interview, Williams came out as gender fluid: “What haven’t diminished at age 82 are his style, his confidence, and his effortless charm. In a simple tan button-up, with his hair slicked back, Williams continues his analysis of cool: ‘And you see I say ‘himself’ and ‘herself,’ because I also see myself as feminine as well as masculine. I’m a very soft person. I’m not afraid to show that side of myself.'”
Williams also spoke about breaking barriers: “Although he will forever be known as Lando, Williams is proudest of his Emmy-nominated performance as Gale Sayers in the 1971 TV movie Brian’s Song. ‘It was a love story, really. Between two guys. Without sex. It ended up being a kind of breakthrough in terms of racial division,’ he tells me. The same could be said about his portrayal of Lando in 1980’s The Empire Strikes Back, which marked the inclusion of a complex black character in a genre that was—and remains—notoriously white. In fact, over the summer, when he was at Disney’s D23 Expo in support of the upcoming Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (for which he is reprising his iconic role), he hung out with the Rock and Jamie Foxx, both of whom said their careers are indebted to Lando. ‘The Rock calls me the OG,’ Williams says. ‘What I presented on that screen people didn’t expect to see. And I deliberately presented something that nobody had experienced before: a romantic brown-skinned boy.'”