Last week word broke the J.J. Abrams had cast The Americans’ Keri Russell in his upcoming Star Wars: Episode IX. According to The Hollywood Reporter, another actor has joined the project, as well: Billy Dee Williams as Lando Calrissian.
Williams originally joined the franchise back in 1980, in The Empire Strikes Back. Calrissian, a smuggler and friend of Harrison Ford’s Han Solo, quickly became a fan favorite. The character was recently brought back to the screen in a younger iteration by Donald Glover in Solo: A Star Wars Story. That movie left the door open for its own sequels, and potentially even a Glover-led Lando spin-off. However, Solo failed to meet box-office expectations, with Lucasfilm reportedly deciding to put development on all of its standalone movies on hold while attention turned to Abrams’ film.
While the casting of Williams will no doubt be exciting for fans just out of sheer nostalgia, it also potentially offers a solution to some of the emotional loose ends Star Wars finds itself facing. Han Solo was killed in The Force Awakens, and Luke Skywalker died in The Last Jedi, which in theory set up Episode IX to focus largely on General Leia Organa. The unexpected death of Carrie Fisher, however, took that option off the table, leaving the franchise without any elder stewards. Calrissian could end up serving as an unlikely bit of connective tissue, giving characters like Rey (Daisy Ridley), Finn (John Boyega), and Poe (Oscar Isaac) a tether to the events in the original films — while also responding to the dual loss of Leia and Han in a truly personal way. Star Wars: Episode IX is scheduled for release on December 20th, 2019.