Who Is Billy Dee Williams? 5 Things to Know About Dancing With the Stars Season 18 Celeb
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Dancing With The Stars

Who Is Billy Dee Williams? 5 Things to Know About Dancing With the Stars Season 18 Celeb

The Force will be strong with Billy Dee Williams on Dancing With the Stars Season 18 — and he’ll probably need it! The 76-year-old actor is competing alongside five athletes, two pop stars, and a bunch of other people who are much younger than him. But so what? He has style, spirit, and the divine Emma Slater. Here are five other things to know about the captain of Team Slando.

1. He’s Lando Calrissian. Duh! Seriously, though, Billy has done a lot in his life, but he’ll forever be known from Star Wars. His character, Lando, was introduced in the second film, The Empire Strikes Back, and continued into Return of the Jedi, as well as the Star Wars “expanded universe” products, where Lando has an even more prominent role. Empire came out in 1980, but kids and adults still debate Lando’s actions today. In an interview with Wired, Billy said he's had kids come up to him and say "You betrayed Han Solo!" and he’s had to defend his character. There’s still a lot of Lando love out there, and fans would be thrilled to see Billy and Emma dance to some Star Wars music. “A lot of people want @EmmaSlaterDance and I to dance to the Cantina Song,” Billy tweeted. “What do you think? #DWTS #TeamSlando!” Do it!

Who Is Billy Dee Williams? 5 Things to Know About Dancing With the Stars Season 18 Celeb
Credit: Craig Sjodin/ABC    

2. He’s an Emmy nominee for Brian’s Song. Before he became famous for Star Wars, Billy was famous for Brian’s Song, the 1971 TV movie co-starring James Caan. Billy played Chicago Bears football player Gale Sayers, who stood by his friend Brian Piccolo (James) as he battled terminal cancer. Both men were nominated for best actor Emmy Awards for the moving and memorable story.

3. He got into acting to support his artwork. Billy is a painter, and you can see some of his work at BDW World Art. In 1975, he talked to Roger Ebert about how he got his start as an actor, and it was basically to support his work as an artist. He was born in Harlem and his mother was an aspiring performer. When he was 7 years old he was in a musical on Broadway, then didn’t act for the next 10 years while he focused on art. “I was in the National Academy of Fine Arts and Design, on a scholarship,” he told Roger Ebert. “I was still am an artist. They were looking for an actor for Take a Giant Step, and a producer liked my look and asked if I could act. I said, ‘Yep!’ Then I got into acting more or less just to make money for paints and canvases. I was in Taste of Honey on Broadway, and A Cool World, directed by Robert Rossen. My first film was The Last Angry Man. I moved to Los Angeles and did a lot of television, especially in the last years of live TV drama.” His list of TV and film credits goes on and on, and he’s still actively working today, from a voice in The Lego Movie to a rumored role in the new Star Wars films.

4. He has some Latin dance experience. Billy talked to Yahoo! about why he signed up for DWTS and his previous experience with dancing. "It's scary, but it's not even about competing with anybody, it's more about competing with myself," he said. "I just want to see if I'm really, at this particular juncture of my life, capable. As a kid growing up in New York, I used to do a lot of dancing. And I've done maybe a little bit of dancing on stage. But I really want to see if I can pull this one off." Billy has some Broadway experience, and he told On the Red Carpet he knows a little bit about Latin dancing since he did a lot of it when he was growing up in NYC. That should help him with their first dance, the Cha-Cha-Cha, and Emma told OTRC he really does have good rhythm.

5. Don't worry about the cane. Billy is a self-described "bon vivant" and he plays his part well in his style — from his sunglasses and scarves to the cane he carries around. On the Red Carpet asked about the cane, since this is a very physical show and he's the oldest contestant this season. Did he hurt himself? He said no; it's basically a fashion statement. He carries it 'cause he's a cool cat and he can get away with it!

Are you backing Team Slando this season? Do you think he could be this season’s Bill Engvall “underdog”? DWTS Season 18 premieres Monday, March 17 at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.

Sources: RogerEbert.com, BDW World Art, Yahoo!, Wired, Twitter, On the Red Carpet, IMDb