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Billy Dee Williams (born William December Williams Jr. on April 6, 1937 in New York City) is an American actor who for a period in the 1970s rivaled Sidney Poitier as the most popular African-American actor in American film. Williams graduated from Manhattan’s School of Performing Arts.
His first big break was in the acclaimed television movie, Brian’s Song in which he played Gale Sayers. His next hit came in 1972 when he played Billie Holliday’s husband Louis McKay in Motown Productions’ Holliday 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.
Arguably, his most famous role is Lando Calrissian, which he played in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. Williams had originally auditioned for the role of Han Solo during the casting of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. He later 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.
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. Williams originally took the role believing that it would land him in a sequel playing the supervillain Two-Face, but the studio did not use him when the time came for the third installment, Batman Forever. Instead, the part of Harvey Dent/Two-Face went to Tommy Lee Jones.
William’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. He is also well-known for his appearance in advertisements for Colt 45, a low-cost brand of malt liquor, 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 it.”
He also plays a live action character, GDI Director Redmond Boyle, in the video game Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars, making him the second former Star Wars actor to appear in a Command and Conquer game.
Billy Dee Williams also portrayed Pastor Dan in an episode of “That 70’s 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 and Donna about their premarital relationship.
Williams made a cameo appearance as himself on the TV series Lost in the episode “ExposÃ©”.
* The Last Angry Man (1959)
* Black Brigade (1970)
* The Out-of-Towners (1970)
* Brian’s Song (1971)
* The Final Comedown (1972)
* Lady Sings the Blues (1972)
* Hit! (1973)
* The Take (1974)
* Mahogany (1975)
* The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings (1976)
* Scott Joplin (1977) as Scott Joplin
* Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980) as Lando Calrissian
* Nighthawks (1981)
* Chiefs (1983) (TV miniseries)
* Marvin and Tige (1983)
* Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (1983) as Lando Calrissian
* Fear City (1984)
* Number One with a Bullet (1987)
* Deadly Illusion (1987)
* Batman (1989) as Harvey Dent
* Secret Agent OO Soul (1990)
* Driving Me Crazy (1991)
* Giant Steps (1992)
* Martin (TV series) (1992)
* Alien Intruder (1993)
* Steel Sharks (1996)
* The Prince (1996)
* Moving Target (1996)
* Mask of Death (1996)
* The Contract (1998)
* Woo (1998) (cameo)
* The Visit (2000)
* The Ladies Man (2000)
* 18 Wheels of Justice (2000) (TV series)
* Very Heavy Love (2001)
* Good Neighbor (2001)
* The Last Place on Earth (2002)
* Undercover Brother (2002)
* Oedipus (2004) (short subject) (voice)
* That 70’s Show (2004) (TV Series) (one time appearance) as Pastor Dan
* Scrubs (2004) (cameo)
* Hood of Horror (2006)
* Constellation (2007)
* Lost as Himself