Ahmed Best entered the Star Wars saga as a 25-year-old street performer who was hellbent on his next big break.
With groundbreaking motion capture technology, a love for the comedic styling of Buster Keaton, and the biggest film franchise in Hollywood history at his disposal, Best was ready for his next big break. Then, Episode I premiered, and it all went downhill. Now, fans want to reward Best for sticking with the saga that made him equally infamous and famous.
Ahmed Best’s worst moment
Fans hated Jar Jar Binks from the moment he stepped on screen. Jar Jar was an amphibious goofball that Lucas wrote to ease the tensions of the intense subject. However, it wasn’t just the character and Lucas that people hated. They hated Best. He started getting hate mail from fans who were old enough to be his dad, but if you ask him today, he was doing his job. He spoke about it with Wired.
“I did my job,” he told the publication. “I was believable enough for you to believe that this character existed. George said, do a thing, I did a thing, you know what I mean? The fact that you hate Jar Jar—I still did the job.”
Best is a Black man in a culture that, nearly a quarter-century later, still grapples with inherent racism. He sees his Jar Jar saga as a microcosm of everything Black men have to go through if they don’t meet the standards of a white audience.
“I did a bunch of movies that I wasn’t 100 percent proud of just to pay the bills,” Best told Wired. “To be honest, failing and being black is very scary because we don’t get a lot of chances, you know? I didn’t get another chance after Jar Jar. No one said, ‘You know, that didn’t work. But I believe in you, and you’re a good actor.’ I didn’t get another chance. I just struck out. But as soon as I started doing my own thing, that’s when things took off.”
When life hands you lemons
Best is open with his struggles. According to him, he nearly jumped off a bridge and ended his life a few years after The Phantom Menace premiered. However, as time flew by and the young fans who liked Jar Jar grew into adulthood, he started getting recognition beyond his infamous character. After all, despite all of the terror that he went through, Best is one of the most forthright cast members in all of Star Wars history.
When Disney planned a Star Wars-themed game show, they decided to give Best another shot—appearing as the host, a fictional character named Kelleran Beq. According to Wookiepedia, Beq a Jedi master and lightsaber savant. As Beq, Best got to use his natural charisma and show fans that he was not, in fact, Jar Jar Binks. He was a real person, a martial artist, a natural speaker, and the perfect leader for the new series.
When a behind-the-scenes photograph was released featuring Best as Jar Jar, fans reckoned with the ugly side of the fandom as it pertains to the Star Wars veteran.
Fans feel bad for Best
Fans on Reddit took the opportunity to thank Best for his continued embrace of Star Wars despite the ugly things he went through. He wasn’t the only cast member to let it all get to his head. Jake Lloyd, whose performance as a young Anakin was maligned from the first day, quit Hollywood when grown fans started bullying him. U/Vaderchad offered their hopes that both have moved on from the harshness.
“Still hurts to read how much Ahmed Best and Jake Lloyd got bullied so much due to their roles. I’m just glad Best is doing better, and I hope Lloyd can recover,” they wrote.
What followed was more praise for Kelleran Beq, a different type of character who many would like to see in the extended canon. Best took a dark moment and made it into something better. Now, if fans get their wish, some would like to see him not behind motion capture but as a character that lets him shine with Best at the center.
Whether or not this happens, Best’s Star Wars story shows both the good and bad of fandom. As such, he might be the person most deserving of a renaissance. After all, as he said, other careers were still born of the prequel trilogy while he was a scapegoat. Luckily, Disney has embraced this. Now, we wait and see if they bring it beyond the game show and allow him to shine brighter in a natural, scripted setting.