Jar Jar Binks is one of the most cheerful characters in all of “Star Wars,” but playing the Gungan had the opposite effect on the man behind him. The intense vitriol directed at Jar Jar had such a dispiriting effect on actor Ahmed Best, in fact, that he contemplated suicide. In a new video interview, the actor opens up about his experience: “I faced a media backlash that really made me feel like my life was over.”
It wasn’t just the hatred, though — it was where it came from. “There was just so much hate and anger and venom directed at me, and I took it personally…I put a lot of me into that work, and if you talk to any artist who really cares about their work, you’re talking about them,” Best says.
“The hardest part for me in that entire situation was all of the criticism that came from a racially motivated point of view. Growing up, being black, and wanting to be an artist — which is a very challenging and brave thing to do, it’s not easy — we’re always faced, as black artists, with this idea of being a sellout. We have our guard up when it comes to being portrayed as an Uncle Tom, a racist stereotype, or anything that makes you, as a black person, look less than.”
“It hit me. It came right for me. I was called every racial stereotype you can imagine. There was this criticism of being this Jamaican, broken dialect, which was offensive because I’m of West Indian descent — I’m not Jamaican. It was debilitating. I didn’t know how to respond.”
As for the moment he actually contemplated suicide, Best says he “was just alone and the depression hit me. Hard. I was just broken,” he says. “The only thing I could think of to make me feel better was to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. But this time when I walked across the bridge, I didn’t see the lights of Manhattan.”
“I didn’t see the towers [or] the potential of hard work and ingenuity,” he continues. “I didn’t see anything; I just saw a fog. I felt tired of having to explain myself. I felt tired of having to defend myself and defend my work. I felt tired of having to fight back against racism and the racial stereotypes. I just wanted to play a part. I was exhausted.” Watch his full speech below: