Billy Dee Williams cancels Expo appearance, perhaps the strongest indication yet he’ll be in Episode IX

The Star Wars sequel trilogy has brought back many familiar faces, from Luke Skywalker to Han Solo to Leia Organa to Admiral Ackbar to the beloved droids (R2-D2 and C-3PO) and many others.  But one major figure from the original trilogy has been conspicuously absent: Lando Calrissian.

The scoundrel returned to the big screen in this year’s Solo: A Star Wars Story film, portrayed wonderfully by Donald Glover.  That sparked an influx in interest about Lando, including a novel featuring Han and Lando in the post-Endor time period.  But so far, Lando hasn’t made his way to the sequel trilogy.

That may be changing, however.

With Star Wars Episode IX set to start filming later this summer, it figures that J.J. Abrams should just about be finished casting for the movie.  And according to a report from Fantha Tracks in June, Billy Dee Williams is reprising his role as Lando Calrissian in the 2019 blockbuster.

That report has recently gained more credence, too, as last week the Saskatchewan Entertainment Expo posted on their Facebook page news of Williams’ cancellation: “We’ve got some sad news for you all today. Due to a film schedule conflict, Billy Dee Williams will not be able to appear at Sask Expo this year. He sends his regrets, and hopes to make it up to his Saskatchewan fans in 2019.”

That is very, very interesting.  As far as we know, Williams does not have any major filming obligations coming up, as nothing has been announced, so it’s strange for that to be the reason… unless there’s a major production that he’ll be working on that has yet to be announced.  Like Star Wars.  The timeline of the filming would also line up, with the Saskatchewan Entertainment Expo set to take place on September 15 and 16, which figures to be right during the filming of Episode IX.  And it wouldn’t be the first time that a Star Wars actor cancelled an appearance in order to film a Star Wars film, as Carrie Fisher had to cancel on the Denver Comic Con in 2016 to film The Last Jedi.

All things considered, this is easily the strongest confirmation we’ve gotten yet that Billy Dee Williams will be appearing in Episode IX.  I expect we’ll get an official cast announcement sometime this month, and announcing that Williams will be returning is the biggest announcement that could possibly be made, save for perhaps an announcement that Harrison Ford would return for a flashback cameo (though it’s likely that it wouldn’t be announced and would instead be a surprise, if they were to do it).  We know that Mark Hamill will be back, so that won’t be surprising, so announcing that Williams is back would be the exciting spark and attention-drawer for Episode IX’s casting announcement.

As to what Lando’s role in Episode IX would be, that’s more up for speculation.  We know that in the post-ROTJ world Lando served the Rebellion for a time as a General, commanding the Battle of Naboo and serving on an infiltration mission on Sullust, but he eventually returned to Cloud City and took back control of the City from the Empire.  He began manufacturing droids and selling them, growing to know droids quite well.  Two years later, Lando teamed up with Han Solo once again on a mission to stop Fryzen Gor from turning all droids in the galaxy against their masters.  After that, Lando and his girlfriend, the Twi’lek Kassha, were ready to settle down together.  We also know that the young Ben Solo considered Lando as an Uncle, and then we know that, as late as 28ABY, Lando sent Leia a message of support after the news broke that Vader was her father.

It seems that the most natural way to include Lando in Episode IX is as an ally to the Resistance, rallying to support Leia and her cause after the events of The Last Jedi and Luke Skywalker’s heroism.  And considering Lando’s backstory with Chewbacca and the Millennium Falcon, it would make sense to have Lando reunite and/or team up with the Wookiee and fly his old ship – since there aren’t many others who would know Lando.

However they decide to do it, I’m really hoping that Billy Dee Williams returns as Lando Calrissian in Episode IX.  And considering this latest development, that is sure looking likely!

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