20 legendary Black science fiction actors who rocked the genre

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Billy Dee Williams

It’s true that Billy Dee Williams isn’t as much of a prolific science fiction actor as some of the other people included on this list. He’s appeared in plenty of other film genres and also worked as a singer and a successful visual artist with solo shows all over the United States. Seriously, don’t discount his artwork, which hangs in places like the National Portrait Gallery, the Smithsonian, and the Schomburg Museum.

Still, though, if we’re going to talk about sci-fi actors and the roles they’ve played, then we absolutely must talk about Lando Calrissian.

Williams first appeared as Lando in 1980’s The Empire Strikes Back, the second film in the original Star Wars trilogy. In both this and the third film, Return of the Jedi, Lando Calrissian is clearly an easy-talking charmer. But don’t dismiss him, for all that, he can swagger and is best buds with Han Solo. Lando is a real political mover and shaker.

You certainly don’t get to be the Baron Administrator of Cloud City without some acumen, right? That doesn’t mean Lando hasn’t had his fun as a playboy, gambler, con artist, engineer, and seemingly every other fun job in the galaxy. He was also the original owner of the Millennium Falcon, which he lost to Han Solo in a bet (you can’t always win, alas).

Things start off rough for this character when he betrays Han to Darth Vader, but Lando redeems himself by the next film. He does so well that he even becomes a general in the Rebel Alliance. Williams’ legendary charisma in the role goes a long, long way to helping us forgive a rogue perhaps more lovable and at least as honorable as Han Solo himself. Doubtless, we’re all looking forward to seeing Williams reprise his role in the upcoming Star Wars: Episode IX.