At his NYCC 2019 spotlight panel on Friday, Billy Dee Williams discussed being a native New Yorker, his love of painting, and, obviously, Star Wars, agreeing at one point with an audience member who asked if he was “the original Star Wars daddy.”
Everyone got a big kick out of that. Or rather, they did once the idea of what was meant by “the original Star Wars daddy” was agreed upon by the crowd — “it’s a sexy older man!” someone exclaimed. After the Important Work (caps intentional) was done, Billy Dee gave a slow nod, a smile, and said, “Oh yeah, of course.”
This was (perhaps unsurprisingly) the general tone of Williams’ panel: the crowd teed up chances for him to be cool, charming, calm, Calrissian-esque in other words, and the 82-year-old Billy Dee coyly knocked all of those chances out of the park. Within that context, the panel somehow also managed to touch on many of Williams’ other films (Nighthawks, Batman, etc.), as well as his life in New York, where he was born and lived until the early ’70s and his rising stardom pushed him to relocate to California.
To be totally honest, it was kind of a pleasant surprise. I thought going into it, there’d be a line of folks dominating the proceedings with specific questions about the Millennium Falcon. There was mercifully very little of that, which freed up conversation space for Williams to talk about living in a studio apartment in the New York City of the 1960s, which was a fifth floor studio walk-up across the street from where the wrestler Gorgeous George lived and also cost only $150 a month.
Other fun New York stuff we learned about Billy Dee is that the Russian Tea Room is his favorite restaurant there (he’d gone for dinner the previous night, and had the chicken Kiev); the playground on the northside of Central Park was his neighborhood playground as a child growing up; and he stopped riding the subway forever in 1966 after he paused to let an old woman take a seat ahead of him and she responded by straight up pushing him.
He also discussed his painting (which he’s been doing since he was young), specifically a piece titled A Woman Waiting For Her Lover in a ’58 Buick. A fan asked if there was a story behind it.
Check out the painting below…
“That was a major moment in my life, and I decided to paint about it,” he said, really creating far more questions than answers.
In terms of the sci-fi/fantasy stuff, he did share that the only prop he kept from Star Wars was an Ewok head, and that (perhaps obviously), he would have loved to get the chance to play Two-Face in the third Tim Burton Batman movie that never materialized.
“I think I could have brought something really interesting to the character if I’d done it,” Williams said.
And what about the new Lando that recently appeared in Solo?
“Donald Glover is a brilliant young man,” Williams said, “but when I think of Lando, I don’t think of anyone else. Donald Glover is very brilliant, but there’s only one Lando.”