Lando Calrissian of Star Wars
American actor Billy Dee Williams, frequently referred to as “the black Clark Gable,” first gained notice as real-life football player Gale Sayers on the ABC made-for-TV film “Brian's Song” (1971), from which he took home an Emmy nomination. He gained further recognition and fame with romantic roles opposite Diana Ross in Sidney J. Furie's “Lady Sings the Blues” (1972) and “Mahogany” (1975), but it was his portrayal of the devilish Lando Calrissian in “Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back” (1980) and “Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi” (1983) that brought Williams worldwide fame. He was handed two Saturn nominations for his work in “Star Wars.”
After the success, Williams was seen as district attorney Harvey Dent in the movie “Batman” (1989), Brady Lloyd in the hit series “Dynasty” (1984-1985) and Motown founder Berry Gordy in the miniseries “The Jacksons: An American Dream” (1992). Williams' movie career enjoyed a boost in 2000 with his praised portrayal of a loving, yet intolerant, father in Jordan Walker-Pearlman's “The Visit,” for which he nabbed nominations at the Independent Spirit, the Image and the Black Reel Awards. His more recent and upcoming credits include “The Last Place on Earth” (2002), “Constellation” (2005), “Hood of Horror” (2006), “Barry Munday” (2008), “Fanboys” (2008), “iMurders” (2009) and “This Bitter Earth” (2009). Williams is also known by TV viewers as Touissant DuBois in the spin-off series “General Hospital: Night Shift” (2007).
Williams has been inducted into the Hollywood Walk of Fame thanks to his motion picture work.
Apart from acting, Williams is known as a painter and has held several exhibitions of his work since 1991. Also a writer, the ex-husband of actress Marlene Clark collaborated with award-winning author Rob MacGregor to write “PSI/Net” (1999), a novel based on a real government program of psychic undercover work. He also wrote “JUST/In Time” (2001) and “Twilight: A Novel” (2002).
Brown-eyed Williams has been married several times. He has a daughter, Hanako Williams, with Teruko Nakagami, whom he married in 1972. He is also the father of Corey Williams and Camera Williams. Currently, Williams resides in Los Angeles, California.
Childhood and Family:
Son of William December Williams, Sr., a Texas-born janitor, and Loretta, a West Indian-born elevator operator, William December Williams, Jr., professionally known as Billy Dee Williams, was born on April 6, 1937, in New York, New York. Along with his twin sister, Loretta, he was raised in Harlem by his maternal grandmother while his busy parents worked at various jobs. Billy attended the LaGuardia High School of Performing Arts in New York, the same school as Diahann Carroll who would later play his wife on the soap “Dynasty.” After graduation, he furthered his art studies at the National Academy of Fine Arts and Design. Billy also attended New York's Harlem Actors Workshop.
In the late 1960s, Billy was briefly married to actress Marlene Clark. He then married Audrey Sellers and after they divorced, he married Teruko Nakagami on December 27, 1972. With Teruko, Billy has a daughter named Hanako Williams (born in 1974). The couple has since filed for divorce.
In addition to Hanako, Billy has a son, Corey Williams, and a stepdaughter, Miyaka Williams. He has one more daughter named Camera Williams.
Billy Dee Williams had his first taste of performing in front of the public at age 8 when he landed a part in a 1945 Broadway production of “The Firebrand of Florence,” opposite Lotte Lenya. After that short triumph, young Williams did not take on any more acting jobs until college when he restarted his performing career to help finance his art studies. Trained under Sidney Poitier, Paul Mann and Herbert Berghof, 22-year-old Williams made his feature acting debut opposite Paul Muni and David Wayne in Daniel Mann's “The Last Angry Man” (1959), playing the supporting role of Josh Quincy. He got his first adult stage role in “The Cool World” in 1960 and went on to appear in several other productions, including “A Taste of Honey” (1960/1961), alongside Angela Lansbury, “Tiger, Tiger Burning Bright” (1963), and the musical “Hallelujah Baby” (1967/1968).
During the 1960s, Williams also found work on several television projects. Making his debut in a guest role in the series “The Defenders” (1964), he was cast as an Assistant D.A. in the NBC daytime series “Another World” (1960s), had a featured role in the CBS daytime drama “The Guiding Light” (1966) and appeared with Lloyd Bridges in “Lost Flight” (1969). He added several more guest spots to his resume, including roles in “The Nurses,” “Coronet Blue,” “The New People” and “The F.B.I.”
1970 saw Williams make his TV-film debut in ABC's “Carter's Army,” a drama starring Stephen Boyd, and briefly return to the big screen in the Jack Lemmon vehicle “The Out of Towners,” penned by Neil Simon. The next year, he was cast as football player Gale Sayers in the ABC TV film “Brian's Song” (1971), which received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Movie Made for TV. Williams was nominated for a 1972 Emmy in the category of Outstanding Single Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role for his performance. Among his costars in the biopic were James Caan, Jack Warden, Shelley Fabares and David Huddleston.
Following the Emmy-nominated performance, Williams was seen in many films like the Oscar Williams-directed “The Final Comedown” (1972), “Hit” (1973), “The Take” (1974), “The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings” (1976), “Scott Joplin” (1977) and “Christmas Lilies of the Field” (1979, TV). However, he did not get his breakout role until he was cast as Diana Ross' husband, Louis McKay, in the acclaimed biopic “Lady Sings the Blues” (1972), directed by Sidney J. Furie. The two were rejoined in 1975 for “Mahogany,” in which Williams portrayed Ms. Ross' love interest, Brian. Meanwhile, on stage, Williams portrayed Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in “I Have a Dream” (1976).
A costarring role opposite Peter Fonda and Maud Adams in the based-on-novel television movie “The Hostage Tower” was Williams' opening work in the 1980s. He was then seen as Lando Calrissian in George Lucas' science-fiction hit, “Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back” (1980). Williams was introduced to international audiences with the role and earned a Saturn nomination for Best Supporting Actor. He reprised the coveted role in “Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi” (1983), from which he picked up his next Saturn nomination. In between the films, he costarred with Sylvester Stallone in the police film “Nighthawks” (1981).
After “Star Wars,” Williams focused his attention on television. In addition to making a number of TV films, he was cast in the important role of Tyler Watts in the CBS miniseries “Chiefs” (1983), helmed by Jerry London, and portrayed the recurring role of Diahann Carroll's lover, Brady Lloyd, in the 1980s popular series “Dynasty” (1984-1985). He was also seen as a regular in the short-lived CBS series “Double Dare” (1985). Williams made an auspicious return to the silver screen in 1989 when he was cast as district attorney Harvey Dent in Tim Burton's “Batman,” a role inherited by Tommy Lee Jones in the 1995 sequel “Batman Forever.”
Williams next delivered a memorable performance as Motown founder
Berry Gordy in the ABC miniseries “The Jacksons: An American
Dream.” His TV movie credits included “Marked for Murder”
(1993), “Message from Nam” (1993), “Falling for
You” (1995), “The Fourth King” (1997) and “Hard
Time” (1998). A multi-talented artist, Williams resumed his
interest as a painter and had his first solo art exhibition in 1991.
Williams' film career gained a revival in 2000 when Jordan Walker-Pearlman hired him for the independent drama “The Visit,” adapted from a play by Kosmond Russell. His performance was critically applauded and he was handed an Independent Spirit nomination, an Image nomination and a Black Reel nomination.
Next, Williams could be seen in the Reginald Hudlin-helmed comedy “The Ladies Man” (2000), “Very Heavy Love” (2001), “Good Neighbor” (2001), “The Last Place on Earth” (2002), “Undercover Brother” (2002), “Today Will Be Yesterday Tomorrow” (2003), “Constellation” (2005), which reunited him with director Jordan Walker-Pearlman, and “Snoop Dogg's Hood of Horror” (2006). He maintained his small screen presence by having recurring roles in such series as “18 Wheels of Justice” (2000-2001), “Gideon's Crossing” (2001) and “Street Time” (2003). In 2007, Williams played the regular role of Touissant DuBois in “General Hospital: Night Shift,” a spin-off of “General Hospital,” and made guest appearances in “Lost” and “Robot Chicken,” in which he provided the voice of Lando Calrissian. He had previously lent his voice to the character Lando Calrissian for the video game “Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast” (2002).
The actor recently completed filming “iMurders” (2009), a drama/horror film directed by Robbie Bryan. He will also costar with Patrick Wilson, Colin Hanks, Chloë Sevigny and Malcolm McDowell in the comedy “Barry Munday” (2008), portray Judge Reinhold in Kyle Newman's adventure, “Fanboys” (2008) and support Sahara Garey and Nichelle Nichols in “This Bitter Earth” (2009).
TV Land: Blockbuster Movie of the Week, “Brian's Song,” 2006