Ahmed Best, the Actor Behind Jar Jar Binks, on How Star Wars Backlash Nearly Drove Him to Suicide
If the Internet owes Megan Fox an apology, we also owe Ahmed Best an apology. The actor who played Jar Jar Binks in the prequel trilogy faced backlash, perhaps even more so than George Lucas did, for playing the character; this led Best to consider taking his own life.
He first opened up about this by posting a photo of himself and his son on the Brooklyn Bridge, standing near where Best nearly jumped into the East River. This led to an outpouring of support from the online community. Now, Best is continuing to talk about his experience in a new, eleven-minute long video.
Best talks about how at age 24, with no agent or manager, he was plucked from the show Stomp and cast in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. He speaks, rightfully so, about how his DNA is in the way we use CGI nowadays, since Jar Jar was on the forefront of CGI and motion capture pioneering in the late nineties when the film was made. Everyone on set told him he would be a star, and Best talks about how he really let himself believe that this would be his big break.
We know how the story went. The Phantom Menace was released and Jar Jar became a lightning rod of controversy. As Best says, people would tell him that they weren’t critiquing him, but rather the character; Best says there was enough of him in the character that it was hard to not take it personally. This is similar to how people would say they weren’t hating on Kelly Marie Tran but rather her character Rose in the film The Last Jedi; Tran later deleted her Instagram account to avoid racist hatred.
Best touched on the racism he faced as well, saying:
“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.”
Best then speaks about the night he attempted suicide, and his ultimate decision not to jump. You can watch his full speech below.
Best’s story is heartbreaking. No actor should be pushed to this extreme by backlash to their role. Jar Jar became a lightning rod for prequel haters to scream about the terrible things George Lucas did to their childhood, but no one stopped to consider what Best went through dealing with that on his own. We all owe him an apology for dismissing his work to complain about how the prequels didn’t live up to our expectations. He and Jake Lloyd both deserved so much more than they received.
Star Wars Celebration should invite Best to do a panel to celebrate the 20th anniversary of The Phantom Menace, and the Internet at large should apologize to him for all he went through on his own. He only deserves the world’s support, and I hope he receives it going forward. The Force is strong with him, and I wish him only the best.
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