(CBS News) – Actor Billy Dee Williams recently sat down for an interview with Esquire and opened up about “being cool,” giving advice and sharing a part of himself he has not yet publicly spoken about – he uses both male and female pronouns when referring to himself.
“I never tried to be anything except myself,” the 82-year-old said during the wide-ranging interview. “I think of myself as a relatively colorful character who doesn’t take himself or herself too seriously.”
Later in the interview, Williams told writer Matt Miller, “I say ‘himself’ and ‘herself,’ because I also see myself as feminine as well as masculine. I’m a very soft person. I’m not afraid to show that side of myself.”
The topic came up when Williams, best known for his iconic role as Lando Calrissian in “The Empire Strikes Back,” was discussing how he learned about “coolness” growing up in Harlem where men had “a little more smoothness about them.”
Miller told Williams that Donald Glover, who also took on the role of Lando Calrissian in the 2018 “Star Wars” prequel “Solo: A Star Wars Story,” had talked about gender fluidity while playing the character.
“Really? That kid is brilliant—just look at those videos,” Williams responded, referring specifically to Glover’s – aka Childish Gambino’s – “This Is America” music video.
In 2018, “Solo” screenwriter Jonathan Kasdan — the son of “Empire Strikes Back” co-writer Lawrence Kasdan — spoke to HuffPost about the character, saying he was pansexual. Glover later confirmed that’s how he approached the role during an interview on Sirius XM’s EW Radio show, stating, “It just didn’t seem that weird to me because I feel like if you’re in space it’s kind of like, the door is open!” Glover said. “It’s like, no only guys or girls. No, it’s anything. This thing is literally a blob. Are you a man or a woman? Like, who cares? Have good time out here.”
People who identify as pansexual are attracted to people of any sex or gender identity. What Williams described in the interview appears closer to the definition of gender fluidity – when a person does not identify with a single fixed gender, and expresses a fluid or unfixed gender identity.
However, Williams did not specifically label himself gender fluid when speaking with Esquire.
Despite Lando’s lasting cultural impact, Williams said that his proudest moment was playing Gale Sayers in the 1971 TV movie “Brian’s Song,” for which he earned an Emmy nomination.
“It was a love story, really. Between two guys. Without sex,” Williams said in the Esquire interview. “It ended up being a kind of breakthrough in terms of racial division.”
At the end of his interview, Williams signed an autograph for the writer. “Nothing but the truth,” Williams wrote.
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