Los Angeles — We live in a world currently where reality bleeds into fiction, but even before, the cracks have been showing. In 1999, “Star Wars: The Phantom Menace” was released, and with it came the alien character of Jar Jar Binks. This character, played by Ahmed Best, a Black man, was heavily criticized for how he spoke as Jar Jar and acted as the comic relief of the film. Best talked about how the backlash of the character led to his depression and made it hard for him to find work as an actor, which he contemplated suicide.
Back in 2020, he returned to the Star Wars franchise by leading a game show, “Star Wars: Jedi Temple Challenge” as host Jedi Master Kelleran Beq, but this was not the last we have seen of him.
The episode “Chapter 20: The Foundling'' from the massively popular Star Wars show, “The Mandalorian,” premiered to positive reviews which featured Best reprising his role now set directly in universe as Beq. It was revealed that Beq was the Jedi who saved the beloved and standout character of the series, Grogu (or as most people call Baby Yoda) from Order 66, the purge of the Jedi. The 49-year-old actor celebrated his formal return through Instagram (@bestahmed), posting a picture of him at the gym wearing a black hat titled ‘’Episode I,” along with a shirt that features the symbol of the Jedi Order. Best wrote in his caption, ‘’Gratitude! Good to be back. There is so much to say and share. It's going to take a couple of days. But, for now, I'll just say thank you to all that have held me up and made me better.’’
In an interview with StarWars.com, Best talked about returning as Beq in a more substantial role for the series. He carefully deliberated about it after he was invited by executive producers of “The Mandalorian,” Jon Favreau, Dave Filoni, and Rick Famuyiwa to appear in the third season of the hit show. Fortunately he agreed and Best stated, ‘’Honestly, I had to think about it. I’ve been in the Star Wars world for such a long time and my story is such a rollercoaster ride of emotions. So coming back to Star Wars wasn’t an easy decision for me. It wasn’t something I could have immediately said yes to. I did have to marinate over it for a bit.’’
Best said he was nervous about the chance to be on set, but he became comfortable in the presence of Favreau and Filoni to reprise his role. Best said, ‘‘As soon as I put the robes on for my first costume test, and I walked on to get approval from Jon and Dave, and they handed me a lightsaber, I was like, ‘ Oh I’m in this.’ ‘’And boom, Kelleran Beq came alive.’’
Best inspires others through letting them know that life is still worth living above it all, and you can overcome the negativity as he did. A unique fact about the Jar Jar character is that the code that Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) wrote for Jar Jar while Best was performing is the code that is being used for all CGI characters in films and television now, which makes Best part of that creation.
Many fans are happy about this, especially Black “Star Wars” fans like myself. Some fans, mainly those who are non-Black, like this Rolling Stone article claimed that this redeemed him in the series, which I don’t particularly like since he had nothing to redeem himself for as an actor who was simply performing his role. In fact, the fandom owes him an apology for the vitriol and hate spewed his way. Jake Lloyd, John Boyega and Kelly Marie Tran, these actors deserve respect and not hate for their race or portrayal of these characters. Even though Star Wars exists in a galaxy far far away, it is created by real people who live on our planet and deserve the same dignity we treat others.
In a 2019 video posted, Best reflected upon his life. He landed the role as Jar Jar Binks when he was 24-years-old living in New York when he was in a show called ‘’Stomp’’ and got lucky as the casting director for Star Wars was in the audience one night and asked him to audition. He won the part and George Lucas directed Best for a screen test at Industrial Lights and Magic. On playing Jar Jar, Best said ‘’I loved the work. And throughout my life, I’ve always wanted to be one of those actors that disappeared into roles. Jar Jar was that times 100, because I could literally disappear into Jar Jar. I was not there and that to me was just the height of the art form.’’
When the film was released Best said, ‘’There was just so much hate and venom and anger directed at me. And I took it personally.’’ Fans claimed to have focused their hate on the character, but it hurt Best as he immersed himself in the character and dealt with racial harassment due to it. In 2018, a tweet of Best went viral on Twitter, he posted a picture of him and his son who credits for his ‘’gift for survival’’ as he visited the Brooklyn Bridge, the place where he almost ended his life 20 years from then. Best inspires others through letting them know that life is still worth living above it all, and you can overcome the negativity as he did. A unique fact about the Jar Jar character is that the code that ILM wrote for Jar Jar while Best was performing is the code that is being used for all CGI characters in films and television now, which makes Best part of that creation.