Billy Dee Williams is an American actor best known for his appearances in the films from the Star Wars franchise. He is also a stage and voice actor, a writer, a musician, a singer, a painter, and a visual artist. His extensive career in entertainment began in 1943, and he has now become a rich man. It is estimated that Billy Dee Williams is now worth $9 million, and here is how he accrued his wealth.
His Early Life
Later known as Billy Dee Williams, William December Williams Jr. was born in New York City on April 16, 1937. He was interested in performing from a young age and made his Broadway debut in ‘The Firebrand of Florence’ at the age of just seven. Williams studied at The High School of Music & Art before gaining a scholarship to the National Academy of Fine Arts and Design. He was one of the most talented students, and he won the Halligarten Prize for painting. However, his painting was expensive, and he needed more art supplies, so he returned to acting to buy the supplies he needed. Thus, Williams began careers in several fields simultaneously, including painting, stage acting, and television work.
His Early Career
Williams began his adult acting career in 1959 when he made his film debut in ‘The Last Angry Man.’ A year later, he returned to Broadway when he landed parts in ‘The Cool Word’ and ‘A Taste of Honey.’ The 1960s were a professionally difficult time for Billy Dee Williams due to the scarcity of leading roles for black men. Many of the parts for which he auditioned went to Sidney Poitier. It was particularly difficult for him to break into film, although he was still getting television and stage work.
He rose to prominence when he played the Chicago Bears star football player Gale Sayers in ‘Brian’s Song’ in 1971, and Williams was nominated for an Emmy Award for his performance. It also led to him winning a seven-year contract with Berry Gordy, and Williams went on to become one of the best-known black actors of the 1970s. He starred in films such as ‘Lady Sings the Blues’ and ‘Mahogany.’ Williams also continued to work on stage during this period, including playing Martin Luther King Jr. in the 1976 Broadway production of ‘I Have a Dream.’
Williams’ Career from 1980 Onwards
In 1980, Billy Dee Williams was cast in the role of Lando Calrissian in the Star Wars film ‘Star Wars: Episode V- The Empire Strikes Back’. He reprised the role in the 1983 film ‘Return of the Jedi’, and ‘The Rise of Skywalker’ in 2019. Other films in which Billy Dee Williams appeared during the 1980s include ‘Nighthawks’ and ‘Batman’. In this decade, he also continues with his television career, with roles in ‘Gideon’s Crossing’, ‘Dynasty’, ‘The Jeffersons’, ‘227’, and The Hughleys.’
Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, Billy Dee Williams continued to appear in both television and film. Some of the series in which he appeared included ‘That ‘70s Show’, ‘General Hospital’, General Hospital: Night Shift’, and Jimmy Kimmel Live!’ Furthermore, he has provided his voice to characters in episodes of popular animations, including ‘Titan Maximum’ and ‘The Boondocks. His career took a different turn in 2014 when he competed in the 18th season of ‘Dancing with the Stars’. He was paired with professional dancer Emma Slater, but unfortunately, the couple had to withdraw from the competition after three weeks as Williams had injured his back. Williams’ last television appearance was playing Tito in the ABC TV movie ‘Dirty Dancing’ in 2017.
His Other Ventures
In addition to his acting career, Billy Dee Williams has also ventured into many other careers. One of these is painting, which has always been one of his passions. He resumed his painting during the 1980s. He became the honorary chairman of the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jaz, and the organization has used Williams’ artwork at its competition programs since 1990. Williams showed his first solo exhibition in 1991 and has continued to exhibit his work around the world to the present day.
Another of his ventures was into the music industry. He recorded an album of swing standards called ‘Let’s Misbehave’ in 1961. He then sang on a celebrity charity single ‘Voices That Care’ in the early 1990s. Williams has also provided the voice of Lando Calrissian for the video games that are part of the Star Wars franchise. However, this is not the only video game work Williams has done, as he also played a live-action figure for ‘Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars’. Two other ventures are appearing in an Internet video as his Star Wars character Lando Calrissian, and writing two books, one of which was co-written with Rob McGregor. It demonstrates that Billy Dee Williams has a diverse range of skills and talents.
Billy Dee Williams’ Net Worth
According to Celebrity Net Worth, Billy Dee Williams has a net worth of $9 million. He has predominantly made this money through his work on television and in film. However, he has also accrued some of his vast wealth through stage acting, and for his other careers as a musician, writer, painter, singer, musician, and visual artist.
His Personal Life
In his personal life, Billy Dee Williams has been married three times. He was married first to Audrey Sellers from 1959 to 1963. From his first marriage, he has one son, Corey Dee Williams, who was born in 1960. Williams married for the second time in 1968. His second wife was model and actress Marlene Clark. Unfortunately, the couple divorced in 1971. Finally, Williams married Teruki Nakagami in 1972. She had a daughter from her previous marriage to musician Wayne Shorter but went to have another daughter, Hanako, with Williams in 1973. Although the couple divorced in 1993, they later reconciled and lived together from 1997 onwards.