The new Lando asked Billy Dee Williams about being 'the only black guy in the universe'

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If you had to choose one word to describe the multifaceted Lando Calrissian, card shark and grifter turned baron of the gas-mining operation at Cloud City, that’s probably the best you can do.

He’s a man who makes things happen.

It’s also not a bad way to describe Donald Glover, the actor, comedian, writer, director, singer, rapper, and DJ who portrays the smooth galactic operator in Solo: A Star Wars Story.

Lando has always been a bit of a con man, but Glover only steals scenes. He didn’t even say anything in the new trailer, and already fans are swooning for Childish Landino.

Glover also got some key insights from original actor Billy Dee Williams, particularly about what it was like to be an icon of representation back when he was the one and only major character of color.

Just a few days after he performed at the Grammys and took home a best traditional R&B trophy for “Redbone,” Glover let EW pick his brain about the Star Wars character who’s so cool, he needs a galaxy full of capes to stay comfortable.

Credit: Jonathan Olley/Lucasfilm Ltd.

I’m interested in what you were able to discover from Billy Dee Williams when you met with him. What was it like with two Landos getting together?
Donald Glover: It was really, really relaxed. He was great. I mean, I had a lot of questions. And then he just told me, just be charming. [Laughs] 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.

What was it you were curious about, since you said you came in with a lot of questions?
I just wanted to know, 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.

In the film, you’re paired with Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s character, L3-37, how would you describe their relationship?
I think they are both kind of self-made, and they get each other that way. It’s lovingly contentious. I don’t know if me and Phoebe were like this because I just love her. Being in a movie with her is kind of a blessing I didn’t even know I wanted. But she also is so smart she calls me out on it. It’s just cool to have somebody like that around, you know? Really funny and really honest.

We see the Millennium Falcon under Lando’s ownership and it is a very different looking ship. What do you think the Falcon reveals about who Lando is?
He’s a very particular person with particular tastes and he likes the comforts of life. I would live in it right now, to be honest! [Laughs] In between takes, they’d be like, “Okay, we are going to set up for the next shot , so you can go sit in your chair or whatever,” and I’d be like, “Actually I’ll just stay in Lando’s room.” It was that nice! I would just lay in his bed and read a book or write something because it is very comfortable. I think he likes to be comfortable. He’s not a cowboy kind of guy.

How would you define Lando’s personality as a younger guy? How do he and Han differ?
He likes to know his way in and out of any situation that he’s in. Lando likes rules because he’s somebody who is in a position to benefit from rules.

By getting around them?
He’s smart enough to figure out a way to like get out of things, like loopholes, And I think Han is more of a rule breaker and he can kind of get away with it.

Credit: Lucasfilm Ltd.

Tell me about the costumes, the guy is a snappy dresser. What do the clothes say about the man?
Lando’s always the best dressed person on that set. And I don’t say that lightly. There’s a lot of cool costumes and a lot of cool clothing. Lando’s clothing, that’s what I like. I was secretly super happy. His clothing is another slice of life. He takes pride in the clothing. It makes things easier. When people see you and you’re debonair, they tend to want to give you stuff easier.

They trust you a little more, it adds to the charisma.
Yeah, people are like, oh, this guy’s got it together. He’s obviously not starving, you know. He has enough leisure time to choose a nice outfit.

One of the images we have is you playing cards and a little two-headed alien sitting beside you. Can you tell me anything about this scene?
Yeah, we are playing a game of sabacc. And that character, I mean, I had a good time with that character. We improv’d a lot together actually. She doesn’t speak English so it’s a little hard, but I had a fun time with those [puppeteers], they are really good. Probably some really good outtakes on set.

When you do improv with a creature, is it just a one-sided telephone conversation, like Bob Newhart used to do?
Oh no, no. It’s actually not. It’s way different. First of all there’s two people working that thing, so you have two minds going back and forth and they are super expressive, the puppeteers are super expressive. So you will have a conversation, and you’re reading them. It’s not like a baby where they are in their own world. They know exactly what you are seeing and their reaction actually means something.

You got guidance from Billy Dee, but how would you say you made Lando your own? What did you contribute to this galactic operator?
I always like seeing younger characters when they are in younger times because it tells a lot about how they got to where they are. Like, when I was a teenager I felt like I knew a lot, but I didn’t. By the time we meet him in Empire Strikes Back, he owns the city already. [Laughs] So, I wanted to show the person he was before that was even possible. Like, I don’t even know if he thought that was possible at the time.

So he’s a little less together?
I think he’s probably a little more over the top because he’s not old enough to be like, you don’t have to push so hard by the time you own the city. By then he’s like, I don’t need to prove anything to anybody, you know?

Coming up today:

  • Q&A with Emilia Clarke about Qi’ra
  • Details of Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s droid L3-37
  • Unusual Suspects: The criminals of Solo: A Star Wars Story
Solo: A Star Wars Story
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