Watch Out, Billy Dee Williams, Here Comes Lando Calrissian
Glover has everything that Williams brought to the original film, plus much, much more.
By Michelle Criqui, James Madison University
Let’s talk about another Donald for a minute.
When the news officially dropped on Oct. 21 that actor, writer, comedian and musician Donald Glover would step into the cape and boots of iconic Star Wars character Lando Calrissian, a majority of fans of both the movie franchise and the 33-year-old star celebrated this brilliant casting. With the success of the hit new FX show “Atlanta,” which Glover created and in which he stars, along with the recent rumors that his latest rap album will drop in early December under his pseudonym, Childish Gambino, Glover has proven that he has the acting chops and overflowing talent necessary to take on such an internationally famed role.
In case you aren’t well-versed in the world of Star Wars, first of all, please stop whatever you’re doing and take a day to reflect and catch up on all seven films. (Well, okay, maybe you can skip “The Phantom Menace.”) Ever since Disney acquired the saga’s production company Lucasfilm in late 2012, new projects have been rolling off the assembly line, expanding the Star Wars universe with epilogues, prequels and everything in between.
“The Force Awakens” was a step into the future for the series, displaying events taking place several decades after the 1983 film “Return of the Jedi,” and this December’s “Rogue One” will illustrate events between the prequels and original trilogy.
A Han Solo movie is also in the works, which will take viewers back in time to when the hotshot, “scruffy-looking” smuggler was a young man, tracking his journey through its formative years, before he helped the Rebel Alliance bring down the Galactic Empire. And of course, what Han Solo movie would be complete without the presence of Han’s suave, charming and, at times, backstabbing friend, Lando Calrissian?
Lando, who was portrayed by Billy Dee Williams in the original films, is a gambler and fellow smuggler, who originally owned the Millennium Falcon before losing it to Han in a card game. After the loss of his ship, Lando straightens out his ways and works his way up to become the Baron Administrator of Cloud City, the likes of which can be seen in the fifth film, “The Empire Strikes Back.” Lando is best known for his smooth-talking nature, as well as his killer facial hair (check out that mustache!).
Now, with Glover taking on the responsibility of this landmark role in Hollywood history, all eyes are on him to do the character justice. Taking a look at his talent, passion, charisma and wicked facial hair capabilities, Glover is more than ready to make America proud.
Don’t believe me? Here are 4 reasons why Glover will slay as Young Lando.
1. He’s a Star Wars Fanboy
In the days following the role announcement, a yearbook photo of Glover surfaced, featuring him wearing a proudly-displayed Star Wars shirt. Later, in an interview with Ellen, the actor/musician said that the first toy he ever had was a Lando action figure, given to him by his dad, and that his mother is a huge fan of Billy Dee Williams.
By growing up a fan of Star Wars and William’s portrayal of Lando, Glover is set to grab a blaster and put on the signature cape fully immersed in the mindset the character would have during his younger years.
2. He’s a Man of Many Talents
Although he started out as a television writer for NBC’s “30 Rock” at age 21, Glover went on to strengthen his comedic and acting chops with sketch comedy group Derrick Comedy on YouTube, and in the portrayal of emotional former-jock Troy Barnes on NBC’s “Community” (#sixseasonsandamovie).
In 2008, when Glover was 24, he released an independent album under the stage name Childish Gambino, showcasing his talent as an up-and-coming rap artist. In 2011 came his first LP, “Camp.” Then, with the drop of his 2013 album “Because the Internet,” Glover gained even more acclaim, earning a Grammy nomination for Best Rap Album in 2015. That same year, he signed with FX to begin work on the music-centered sitcom “Atlanta,” which premiered in the fall of this year and features original songs that hadn’t been released anywhere else.
Glover has also worked as a DJ, calling himself “mcDJ,” and ultimately proving that one really can be a jack of all trades when it comes to the entertainment business. Now, as a distinguished comedian, actor, writer, producer, DJ and musician, Glover is a multi-talented dynamo who has had a foot in many different arenas of the Hollywood scene and will be more than prepared to bring his A game to the role of Lando.
3. Facial Hair and Representation
After the reveal that Glover would officially be the face of a young Lando, many fans marveled at the comparisons between the rising star and Williams — some even going as far as to Photoshop Glover’s face into a photo of Williams as Lando back in the day. The resemblance, I’d say, is uncanny.
“Don’t mess it up,” Glover’s mother had told him on the phone, after he broke the news.
It was clear when Glover mentioned this quote during his interview with Ellen just how much earning this role meant, not only to him as a Hollywood professional, but to his entire family. Back in the early ’80s, Williams provided African-American representation in an extremely prominent franchise that was otherwise completely whitewashed, allowing children like Glover to have an action figure to play with who looked like them, and a face on the big screen with which they could more closely identify.
4. He’ll Make the Role All His Own
Despite having big boots to fill, I believe fans can rest assured that Glover will honor this important role, while also bringing to it elements of his own distinct personality and acting style, adding layers of depth to the character that haven’t yet been shown. By the time audiences see this new prequel, I’m sure they will walk out of the theatre with a completely refreshed view of Lando Calrissian, having seen a take that will hopefully make him a more three-dimensional character who will not be simply labeled as “the black friend” or just another person of color cast to the side.
Donald Glover will make this character stand out more than he ever has before. He will help bring Lando back to the forefront of film history, and continue to prove that representation in the media truly matters. To future children who receive action figures resembling Glover in Lando’s signature costume, it will matter more than anything. Through his hard work for over a decade, Glover has proven that he is more than qualified to reprise this role as the best young Lando Calrissian the world could receive.