82-Year-Old Billy Dee Williams Didn't Even Know What Gender Fluid Meant: 'That's Not What I Was Talking About'
And now, he knows.
December 01, 2019 at 8:37 pm
Update (December 6, 2019): Billy Dee Williams isn't well acquainted with the concept of gender fluidity despite what previous reports have indicated.
Over the weekend, reports surfaced that the 82-year-old actor identified as gender fluid, which would mean he doesn't ascribe to a singular gender identity. But Williams is saying there's a misunderstanding; he's just in touch with his soft side.
“I say ‘himself’ and ‘herself,’ because I also see myself as feminine as well as masculine," Williams recently told Esquire. "I think of myself as a relatively colorful character who doesn’t take himself or herself too seriously.”
When the media caught wind of the interview, the statement was interpreted as the actor coming out as gender fluid. But according to Williams, no such coming out was taking place.
In fact, he hasn't even heard of gender fluidity.
“That was a good article, except that thing about gender — what’s it called, gender-fluid?” he told The New York Times following the November 26 publication of his Esquire interview. “I had never heard that expression before. But I don’t really know what it means. What does it mean?”
“Well, that’s not what I was talking about," Williams said in reference to reports he was gender fluid. "I was talking about, I think that men should get in touch with their female self.”
Upon explanation to Times reporter Dave Itzkoff, Williams said he wasn't talking about any gender or sexual "games" in his Esquire profile.
“I wasn’t talking about running around and having a good time, playing male or female sexual games.”
While Williams didn't, in fact, give us the coming out of the decade, there's still a message here:
“Men should not be afraid or ashamed of expressing the soft side of themselves,” Williams added.
With over half a century of performance experience under his belt, including his iconic role as Lando Calrissian in the Star Wars franchise, the Hollywood veteran sat down for an in-depth profile with Esquire to discuss his journey as a star thespian of both stage and silver screen.
“I never tried to be anything except myself," Williams told Esquire reporters, according to the article published November 26.
“And you see I say ‘himself’ and ‘herself,’ because I also see myself as feminine as well as masculine,” he later added, while discussing what Esquire qualified as Williams' "analysis of cool."
“I’m a very soft person. I’m not afraid to show that side of myself,” Williams continued.
According to the article, Williams' definition of coolness was shaped by his upbringing in Harlem, where men he looked up to had "a little more smoothness about them."
The debonair actor has been the source of many women’s fantasies throughout his over 40-year career, having played memorable roles such as Louis McKay and Brian Walker, opposite Diana Ross in Lady Sings the Blues and Mahogany, respectively, and Lando in the Star Wars films The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.
My dear Carrie…thinking of you…..You sure were A Force to be Reckoned With♥️ pic.twitter.com/SDadIfuIUR
— Billy Dee Williams (@realbdw) October 21, 2019
However, Williams shared that the role he is especially proud of is his Emmy-nominated portrayal Gale Sayers in the 1971 television film, Brian’s Song.
“It was a love story, really. Between two guys. Without sex. It ended up being a kind of breakthrough in terms of racial division,” he said.
A pioneer in the expansion of diversity in TV and film, Williams said that today’s constant barrage of racism and sexism is something that, unfortunately, he is all too familiar with.
"You’re always going to have people making stupid comments," he told Esquire. "One deals with indignities all the time. Do you sit around with vengeance in your soul? You can’t do that. I’m not forcing people to listen to my point of view, but if I can present it in some creative fashion — I’m the painter, tweaking, adding, contributing, putting in something that you haven’t thought about, maybe."
Williams is set to channel his chic, charming, cool energy on the big screen, as he reprises his role as Lando in the worldwide theatrical release of the final installment of the Star Wars saga, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, on December 20, 2019.