In the latest episode of “The Mandalorian,” longtime “Star Wars” fans were given a major surprise when Ahmed Best — the actor behind CGI prequel trilogy character Jar Jar Binks — made a return to the franchise as a different character, Jedi Master Kelleran Beq.
But while Best’s casting may be a shot of nostalgia for many viewers, the actor himself had his reservations about heading back to the galaxy far far away.
“Honestly, I had to think about it,” Best said in an interview with the official StarWars.com website. 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.”
Jar Jar, a comical Gungan alien that Best played in all three prequel films from 1999 to 2005, is notorious as one of the most hated characters in the “Star Wars” franchise. Best has been open about how the backlash against the character, and racist harassment against him from haters, has affected his mental health; in 2019, he spoke about how the backlash caused him to contemplate suicide. Best opened up about his experiences during similar racist hate campaigns against other “Star Wars” actors, including Kelly Marie Tran and John Boyega.
In spite of his difficult experiences with the franchise, Best said he was still a fan of “Star Wars,” and part of his hesitation when he got the offer from “Mandalorian” executive producers Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni to join the show came from worries about how he would fit into the overall story.
“I mean, I was excited. I don’t think people really understand how much I care about ‘Star Wars.’ Like, I really care,” Best said. “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.”
Ultimately, Favreau and Filoni’s support convinced Best to go ahead and join the show. Best previously played Beq in the 2020 YouTube kids’ game show “Star Wars: Jedi Temple Challenge,” and spoke about his hopes for reprising the role in future “Star Wars” projects.
“Coming back, being in ‘The Mandalorian,’ part of me doesn’t want to let it go. In ‘The Phantom Menace’ days, you had to let it go. It was just George [Lucas] doing it. Now, you can do it for a while. You can tell stories in ‘Star Wars’ and have them be in multiple mediums,” Best said. “As a writer, as a director now, as a teacher now, there is so much more that I want to do that this universe is perfect for, that I don’t want this to be the end of legacy. I don’t want this to be the end of the story. I want this to be the beginning, and a new beginning. Especially through Kelleran Beq.”