Billy Dee Williams was born in New York City and is best known for playing Lando Calrissian in the Star Wars movies. He was also the spokesman for Colt 45 beer in the 1980s. Williams has a twin sister, Loretta, and was raised in Harlem by his grandmother. He was an artist before his acting career took off, having studied art at New York’s High School of Music and Art and at the National Academy of Fine Arts and Design. Williams has had gallery showings where his works have sold for tens of thousands of dollars. He graduated from Manhattan’s School of Performing Arts.
Williams made his film debut in 1959 with The Last Angry Man, before appearing in television shows such as Another World (1964), Guiding Light (1952), The Nurses (1965), Coronet Blue (1967), and Premiere (1968). He went on to appear in a number of films, including The Out of Towners (1970), The Final Comedown (1972), Lady Sings the Blues (1972), Mahogany (1975), and Scott Joplin (1977). His first Star Wars movie was Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back, and his second was Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi.
He has a lot of experience playing his Star Wars character, having provided Lando Calrissian’s voice in the animated television series Robot Chicken (2007-2008) and in the video game Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast. In 2008, he shot a joke political ad on funnyordie.com, promoting Lando Calrissian in a run to be leader of the Star Wars galaxy. He played Harvey Dent/Two-Face in Batman, and reportedly had a clause put into the contract that reserved the role for him in any sequels. Warner Bros. had to buy out the clause so they could cast Tommy Lee Jones in the next movie instead.
Williams has been married three times, most recently to Teruko Nakagami, with whom he has a daughter named Hanako. He also has a son, Corey, from his first marriage to Audrey Sellers. His second wife was actress Marlene Clark. In his free time, Williams continues with his art. Some of his work can be seen on his personal art website, and his paintings have been displayed in the National Portrait Gallery, The Schomburg Center, and The Smithsonian Institution.