Los Angeles-Actor Billy Dee Williams is the epitome of cool. He is the walking definition of what cool should look like. Williams have made a plethora of cultural and pop films that have crossed genres and dipped over the race barrier. He has starred opposite leading ladies such as Diana Ross (Mahogany, Lady Sings the Blues) and Diahann Carroll (Dynasty), turning him into a cross-generational heartthrob.
His recurring role in the Star Wars saga put him front and center of the pop film universe. Doing those hip Colt 45 malt liquor ads, which he started in the 1980s, generated a whole new legion of fans for the suave and always dapper-looking Williams. His underrated stage work propped and prepared Williams for his successful film and television career.
When it comes to his work on the small screen, the tear-jerker and Emmy-winning “Brian’s Song” may just be Williams’ best work as a thespian. The thing about Williams is that he is the complete package. When it comes to good looks, Williams is the black Cary Grant. If you want seduction an actor, Williams has enough charm to put a snake to bed.
But at the end of the day, Williams is an expert at the craft of acting. Otherwise, he would just be another good-looking person in Hollywood waiting on tables or somewhere lined up in the unemployment line.
Williams’ stylish acting was no more on display than in the action movie “Nighthawks,” which he co-stars with a then rising Sylvester Stallone in 1981.The people at Pop-Con LA though so much of Williams and his impact on the pop culture phenomenon that they invited the actor to a Q & A session after the screening of the film at the Los Angeles Convention Center.
Donning an ocean blue beach shirt, white slacks and matching loafers, Williams shared with the audience of what it was like working with Ms. Ross, elaborated on his work in theatre and how it prepared him for his film career, and spoke out on the quality of acting in all new era of superhero movies that seems to coming almost every month.
One of the more interesting moments of the question and answer session came when the host of the period asked Williams if he had any Richard Pryor stories he could share with the audience. Pryor, perhaps the most influential comedian of his time, co-starred with Williams in the baseball drama-comedy “The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings.” Williams answered with an emphatic “no.”
When the interviewer persisted with the question about Pryor, Williams shot back with a glare instead of a reply. That was the end of that question. Of course, just like everything else he does, Williams handled that situation and the rest of the interview with dignity and class. During the interview period News4usonline.com was able to ask Williams several questions about his distinguished acting career.
News4usonline.com: Mr. Williams, can you talk about working with Diana Ross and what did working working with her on “Mahogany” and “Lady Sings the Blues” do for your career?
Billy Dee Williams: “It made me into a matinee idol. It was a great experience. It was a great experience-both experiences-working with Diana and working with Berry (Gordy). It was one of those formidable moments in my life.”
News4usonline.com: Mr. Williams, what has been your most challenging role?
Billy Dee Williams: “Most of the stuff I’ve done on stage. I’ve did a lot of stage work. Martin Luther King Jr. I did. “Fences” I did when I took over for James Earl Jones…There are so many different plays. I worked with one of the great trade directors in one of the first plays I ever did when I was about twenty years old…Robert Rosen, who was one of the great American filmmakers. You don’t hear people talk about him very much, but he did great movies like “All the Kings Men,” “The Hustler,” “Body and Soul.” He directed me in a play on Broadway called “The Cool World.” Yeah, the work I did on stage was really challenging. Well, a lot of people don’t know that when I did “Brian’s Song,” I was nominated for an Emmy for that one. Within that year, within a few months, I did the character in “Lady Sings the Blues.” So it was that time period where you can the difference in those two characters. I’ve always wanted to show people that, as an actor, I could do all these interesting people. I tend to want to always do everything bigger than life. That’s how I approach characters. They sort of transcend all the usual stuff that pigeon-hole people.”
News4usonline.com: Being considered a sex symbol, did you feel that may have taken away or overlooked your acting abilities?
Billy Dee Williams: “Well, it’s always that concern, I think. But on the other hand, I set out to build, I decided in my head that I was going to be a brand because I thought I thought I’d have more of an advantage. Being a character actor has its advantage, but there’s no reason why you can’t be or build to be a kind of brand making money.”