Skip to main content
Billy Dee Williams

He's an actor who became an icon playing characters like Lando Calrissian. However, at an event to discuss his new autobiography, "What Have We Here: Portraits of a Life," Billy Dee Williams showed there's much more to him than his famous roles.

He recounted his upbringing in Harlem, where his mother's unfulfilled dreams of stardom and her opera studies inspired his artistic path. "Mommy always wanted to be a movie star...she was very pretty...she studied opera for many years and had a really beautiful voice," Williams reflected, setting a tone of nostalgia and wisdom.

His acting journey began at seven, with a Broadway role he secured through sheer persistence and emotion, marking the start of an eclectic career. Williams noted the impact of his work, such as the TV movie "Brian's Song," which he said changed the views of some bigots in the South after just one viewing.

In discussing "What Have We Here," Williams touched on career highlights and the roles he found most fulfilling, like playing an intellectual in "Slow Dance on the Killing Ground" and a jazz musician in "Giant Steps." Despite the fame from roles in movies like "Lady Sings the Blues" and "Star Wars," Williams voiced his frustration with the racism that limited opportunities for Black actors.

His humor and unique perspective were evident throughout the night, especially when discussing his image as a romantic leading man. "I will never declare myself a stud. But I am a romanticist, and that's my forte," he quipped. Addressing a question about Colt 45 beer, he joked, "It works every time," before sharing his cocktail recipe.

Overall, Williams made it clear he is truly one-of-a-kind - an actor, artist, and free thinker who has forged his own unconventional path. He shared his passion for painting, describing it as a liberating form of expression. As he said, "I'm a ridiculous human being, and it's fun to be a ridiculous human being." He showcased himself as a deeply introspective individual, an artist, and a thinker, continually exploring the universe's wonders.

The discussion is available on the Library's YouTube page. This event was generously supported by the DC Public Library Foundation.



Audiences: All Ages
Topic: Author Talk