Billy Dee Williams Had Some Simple Advice For Donald Glover's Star Wars Debut

Stop me if you've heard this one: Two Lando Calrissians walk into a bar. That's the vibe that Donald Glover projects when discussing how he prepared for the memorable role of Lando Calrissian in "Solo: A Star Wars Story." Glover went straight to the source for the best advice possible on playing the character, the man that knows him best: Billy Dee Williams.

The silky-voiced Williams defined the role of Lando Calrissian in the 1980s — a character so recognizable, he only needs to be referred to by first name: Lando. The charming character was a snazzy dresser and smooth talker, though a scoundrel at heart. But beyond the character, there is a weight carried by any actor who plays him. Playing the first major Black character in "Star Wars" and one of a handful in the entire franchise can be heavy.

Despite the complexity of the Lando character, Williams took a page out of Lando's playbook, kept it cool, and offered some surprisingly simple advice for Glover.

'You're kind of the only Black guy in the universe'

Lando Calrissian has a significant character arc in the original trilogy. When we first meet him in 1980's "The Empire Strikes Back," he is the leader of Cloud City on planet Bespin, a floating Switzerland of sorts that remains neutral in the battle between the Empire and the Rebel Alliance. That all changes when the Empire arrives looking for the rebels, and Lando turns on his old friend Han Solo to save his city. However, Lando sheds his inner scoundrel by double-crossing the Empire and saving the rebels from certain doom.

By the third film of the trilogy, "Return of the Jedi," Lando rises to the rank of General in the Rebel Alliance, completing his arc to bona fide hero. His mysterious backstory, rebellious nature, and cool demeanor quickly made Lando a fan favorite. But the character was important for another reason — he was one of the few signs of diversity in the entire galaxy.

In an interview with EW, Glover explained how he approached the subject of diversity with Williams. Glover said:

"'Star Wars' was such a big deal and then they make the second one and you're kind of the first and the almost only Black guy in the universe at that point. I was like, How did you go into that? What were your thoughts? It's always a big thing when you break a mold. What was the thought process of that? He gave some good advice about this, about being yourself as much as possible, making the character a real person, rather than the whole identity for a whole group of people."

Glover would reprise his role as Lando when hosting "Saturday Night Live," taking a jab at the "Star Wars" franchise by hosting a galactic summit for all Black humans, asking an audience of three, "Where the hell are all the Black characters in space?"

But as far as playing the part of Lando Calrissian for "Solo: A Star Wars Story," Williams' advice for Glover was quite simple.

Glover met with Williams in person prior to filming

"Solo: A Star Wars Story" is as much an origin story for Lando as it is for Han Solo. We meet Lando early in the film and learn that he's always been a smooth operator. He's a scheming card shark always up for an adventure if he can profit from it. He's also the proud owner of a modified Corellian freighter ship, the Millennium Falcon: by far the most famous ship in "Star Wars." We already knew this, but it was still fun to watch a young Lando gush over his prized possession.

Glover plays a young Lando with an uncanny affinity, clearly having scrutinized Williams' earlier performances. Meeting the actual man never hurts. Glover referred to the face-to-face meeting between him and Williams prior to the movie "relaxed." Unlike the smooth-talking Lando, Williams had only a few words of advice for the actor. Glover recalled the conversation:

"He was great. I mean, I had a lot of questions. And then he just told me, 'Just be charming.' And so, I was like, 'Okay!' I just kind of did that. He said, 'Just be interested in things.' Lando has, I wouldn't say eccentric, but eclectic tastes. So I tried to work that into the role as much as possible."

Glover went on to credit Williams' straightforward advice for allowing him to not overthink the role. And what did the elder Lando think of Glover's performance? According to Variety, Glover said Williams texted him after the debut of "Solo: A Star Wars Story." Still keeping it simple, Williams simply texted, "Good job."