Billy Dee Williams: Wikis


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Billy Dee Williams

Williams at Comic-Con 2005
Born William December Williams, Jr.
April 6, 1937 (1937-04-06) (age 72)
New York City, New York,
United States
Occupation Actor, artist, singer, writer
Years active 1959–present

Billy Dee Williams (born April 6, 1937) is an American actor, artist, singer and writer, best known for his role as Lando Calrissian in the Star Wars films, and as pitchman for Colt 45 malt liquor.


Early life

Williams was born William December Williams, Jr. in New York City, the son of Loretta, a West Indian-born elevator operator from Montserrat, and William December Williams, Sr., a Texas-born janitor.[1][2] He has a twin sister, Loretta, and grew up in Harlem, where he was raised by his maternal grandmother while his parents worked at several jobs. Williams graduated from Manhattan's School of Performing Arts, where he was a classmate of Diahann Carroll, who coincidentally played the wife of his character Brady Lloyd on the 1980s prime-time soap Dynasty.



He first appeared on Broadway in 1945 in The Firebrand of Florence.[3] He returned to Broadway as an adult in 1960 in the play version of The Cool Word. He appeared in A Taste of Honey in 1961. A 1976 Broadway production, I Have a Dream, was directed by Robert Greenwald and starred Williams as Martin Luther King, Jr.[4] His most recent Broadway appearance was in August Wilson's Fences, as a replacement for James Earl Jones in the role of Troy Maxson in 1988.[5]


Williams as Lando Calrissian

He made his film debut in 1959 in The Last Angry Man, starring Paul Muni, in which he portrayed a juvenile delinquent. His first big break was in the biographical TV movie, Brian's Song (1971), in which he played Chicago Bears star football player Gale Sayers, who stood by his friend Brian Piccolo (played by James Caan), during his struggle with terminal cancer. Both Williams and Caan were nominated for Emmy Awards for their performances,[6] and Brian's Song is widely regarded to be one of the best made-for-TV films of all time.[7]

In 1972, he played Billie Holliday's husband Louis McKay in Motown Productions' Holiday biopic Lady Sings the Blues. Diana Ross starred in Lady Sings the Blues opposite Williams; Motown paired the two of them again three years later in Mahogany.

His most widely recognized role is that of Lando Calrissian, which he played in Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back and in Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi. He reprised this role when he lent his voice for the character in the 2002 video game Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast, as well as the audio dramatization of Dark Empire , the National Public Radio adaptation of Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, and two productions for the Star Wars Battlefront series: Star Wars Battle Front II and Star Wars Battlefront: Elite Squadron.(However, the appearance in Battlefront II was archive footage and it is unknown whether it was him or another actor in the role of Calrissian in Elite Squadron however he appears through Archive footage for that games full-motion sequences). Williams had originally auditioned for the role of Han Solo during the casting of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope.

Williams appeared in numerous other films, most recently lending his voice to Oedipus (2004). One of his most notable roles was in 1989's Batman as district attorney Harvey Dent.[8]


Williams's television work included a recurring guest-starring role on the short-lived show Gideon's Crossing. He has had a brief cameo in the hit TV show Scrubs Season 5, where he plays the godfather of Julie (Mandy Moore). J.D.'s best friend Turk hugs him, calling him "Lando," even though he wants to be called Billy D. He is also well-known for his appearance in advertisements for Colt 45 (a brand of malt liquor) in the 1980s and early 1990s, for which he received much criticism. Williams responded indifferently to the criticism of his appearances in the liquor commercials. When questioned about his appearances he was quoted as saying, "I drink, you drink. Hell, if marijuana was legal, I'd appear in a commercial for that too."[citation needed]

Williams was paired with actress Marla Gibbs on three different TV shows: The Jeffersons (Gibbs's character, Florence, had a crush on Williams and challenged him on everything because she thought he was an impostor); 227 (her character, Mary, pretending to be royalty, met Williams at a banquet); and The Hughleys (Gibbs and Williams portrayed Darryl's parents). (In one memorable scene on The Jeffersons, Williams, waiting for Florence to hand over his driver's license to him, repeats the line "Do you want my arm to fall off?" Florence, now convinced that he is Williams, yells "that's the line you said to Diana Ross in Lady Sings the Blues! He then replies "I got another one right!")

In 1992, he portrayed Berry Gordy in The Jacksons: An American Dream.

Williams made a special guest appearance on the hit sketch comedy show, In Living Color, in 1990. He portrayed Pastor Dan in an episode of That '70s Show.. In this episode entitled "Baby Don't You Do It" (2004), his character is obsessed with Star Wars, and uses this to help counsel Eric Forman (himself a major "Star Wars" fan) and Donna Pinciotti about their premarital relationship.

Williams made a cameo appearance as himself on the TV series Lost in the episode "Exposé". He also appears regularly on short clips on the Jimmy Kimmel Live as a semi-parody of himself. One of his more recent appearances was in the fourth season of Mind of Mencia.

He played Toussaint Dubois for General Hospital: Night Shift in 2007 and 2008. Williams reprised his role as Toussaint on General Hospital itself beginning in June 2009.


In 1961, Williams recorded a jazz LP produced by Prestige Records entitled Let's Misbehave, on which he sang several swing standards. The album is currently out of print.

Video games

Williams voiced Lando Calrissian in the video game Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast and Star Wars Battlefront as well as the spin-off Star Wars Battlefront: Elite Squadron(However the battlefront appearances were archive footage and his voice-appearance in Elite Squadron is left uncredited or unknown. He has recently played a live-action character, GDI Director Redmond Boyle, in the game Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars, making him the second former Star Wars actor to appear in a Command and Conquer game, with the first being James Earl Jones as GDI General James Solomon in Command & Conquer: Tiberian Sun.


In 2008, Williams reprised his role as Lando Calrissian to appear in a video on in a mock political ad defending himself for leader of the Star Wars galaxy against vicious attack ads from Emperor Palpatine. The video is titled "Vote for Lando Calrissian! w/ BILLY DEE WILLIAMS"[9]


Even before he began acting, Williams attended the National Academy of Fine Arts and Design in New York. In the late 1980s, he resumed painting. Some of his work can be seen at his online gallery BDW World Art. He has had solo exhibitions in various galleries around the U.S., and his work hangs in the National Portrait Gallery, The Smithsonian Institution, and The Schomburg Museum. The covers of the Thelonious Monk Competition programs since 1990 are by him.

Personal life

Williams has been married three times, first to Audrey Sellers, with whom he had a son Corey (b. 1960). They were divorced some years later, after which he apparently became quite depressed. ".... there was a period when I was very despondent, broke, depressed, my first marriage was on the rocks."[10] Williams was briefly married to actress Marlene Clark in the late 1960s, and divorced in 1971. He married Teruko Nakagami on December 27, 1972. She brought a daughter, Miyako (b. 1962), from her previous marriage to musician Wayne Shorter. They have a daughter Hanako (b. 1973). They filed for divorce in 1993,[11] but were reported to have reconciled in 1997.[12][13]



Short subjects
  • Very Heavy Love (2001)
  • Oedipus (2004) (voice)

Television work

Recorded musical work

Video game work

  • Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast (As Lando Calrissian)[citation needed]
  • Star Wars Battlefront II (Archive Footage) (As Lando Calrissian)
  • Star Wars Battlefront: Elite Squadron (Possibly Archive Footage) (As Lando Calrissian)
  • Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars (As GDI Director Redmond Boyle) For his performance as Boyle, Williams himself ranked Game Informer's eighth biggest dork of 2007.[citation needed]


  • PSI/Net (1999), ISBN 978-0-312-86766-9
  • JUST/In Time (2001), ISBN 978-0-8125-7240-7
  • Twilight: A Novel (2002), ISBN 978-0-312-87909-9

Further reading

  • Nishikawa, Kinohi. "Billy Dee Williams." The Greenwood Encyclopedia of African American Literature. Ed. Hans Ostrom and J. David Macey, Jr. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2005. 1742-43.


External links

Preceded by
Actors to portray Harvey Dent/Two-Face
Succeeded by
Tommy Lee Jones

Simple English

Billy Dee Williams
File:Billy Dee
Born William December Williams, Jr.
April 6, 1937 (1937-04-06) (age 73)
New York City, New York, United States
Years active 1959 - present

Billy Dee Williams (born April 6, 1937) is an African American actor, artist, and writer. He's famous for playing Lando Calrissian on Star Wars.

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