If you are aware Ahmed Best was the motion capture actor behind Jar Jar Binks in The Phantom Menace, you also likely know that the actor suffered for portraying what was (and maybe still is) the most reviled character in Star Wars history. And if you know that, there’s also a decent chance that you were delighted by seeing Best in this week’s episode of The Mandalorian, and knowing he finally had a chance to have a positive experience in the Star Wars universe—but his appearance wasn’t an easy decision for him.
If you don’t know, Best has talked openly about his mental health struggles after Star Wars fans castigated him for years because he played Jar Jar (much as his Phantom Menace co-star Jake Lloyd suffered, unfortunately). So when he was approached to play the Jedi Kelleran Beq—who Best co-created for the Star Wars game show Jedi Temple Challenge—in Disney+ series The Mandalorian, he was understandably hesitant. From an interview over at StarWars.com:
“Honestly, I had to think about it. I’ve been in the Star Wars world for such a long time and my story is such a rollercoaster ride of emotions. So coming back to Star Wars wasn’t an easy decision for me. It wasn’t something I could have immediately said yes to. I did have to marinate over it for a bit. I mean, I was excited. I don’t think people really understand how much I care about Star Wars. Like, I really care. I really, really care about the storytelling, about the mythology, about the fans. I really want Star Wars to deliver, and if I become an obstacle to that, then I shouldn’t be in it. I don’t want to be bigger than the story. I don’t want to be bigger than the mythology. I want to contribute, I want to add to it. So it took me a minute.”
I’m never going to be a Jar Jar Binks apologist, but I also think the character came 100 percent from George Lucas’ head, or at least Lucas approved everything that went on screen. I don’t blame Best at all. So to hear him say he was worried his appearance might detract from the franchise is honestly heartbreaking to me. The idea that he would put Star Wars above anything, after the franchise took such a toll on him, is just... astounding.
After more than 20 years of abuse, no one should pretend that a guest appearance on The Mandalorian makes up for what Star Wars fans put Best through, no matter how delighted they might have been now to see him, or whether they consider his reappearance as some sort of redemption story. But bringing Kellran Beq into the Star Wars canon—and making him a pivotal character in Grogu’s story—is the best thing The Mandalorian has done in quite some time. No pun intended.
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