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Billy Dee Williams Defends Actors Wearing Blackface: ‘If You’re an Actor, You Should Do Anything You Want to Do’


Billy Dee Williams believes actors should be able to perform in blackface.

In a new episode of Bill Maher’s “Club Random” podcast, the “Star Wars” actor recalled watching Laurence Olivier in 1965’s “Othello,” in which Olivier wore blackface to portray the title role.

“When he did ‘Othello,’ I fell out laughing,” Williams said of Olivier. “He stuck his ass out and walked around with his ass, you know, because Black people are supposed to have big asses.”

“I thought it was hysterical. I loved it,” Williams added. “I love that kind of stuff.”

Maher noted that “today, they would never let you do that,” to which Williams replied, “Why?”

“Blackface?” Maher questioned in a tone of surprise.

“Why not? You should do it,” Williams said. “If you’re an actor, you should do anything you want to do.”

Maher then pointed out that Williams, 87, “actually lived in a period where you couldn’t play the parts you should’ve played.”

“The point is that you don’t go through life feeling like, ‘I’m a victim,’” Williams explained. “I refuse to go through life saying to the world, ‘I’m pissed off.’ I’m not gonna be pissed off 24 hours a day.”

Earlier in the conversation, Williams said, “If I’m going to be creative, let me be creative as an individualist. I don’t want to do anything based on this whole idea that you’re a Black person, you’re a white person and things of that nature. I’m an artist. I’m a creative entity in this life.”

Williams has been promoting his memoir “What Have We Here? Portraits of a Life,” which chronicles his childhood growing up in Harlem to his career on Broadway and in Hollywood. The actor is known for his role as Lando Calrissian in the “Star Wars” universe, as well as the films “Brian’s Song” (1971), “Lady Sings the Blues” (1972) and “Mahogany” (1975).

Watch the full conversation between Williams and Maher on “Club Random” below: