I’ve been a Star Wars nerd since my old man had me watch the original “holy” trilogy in the early 1980s; I’ve got the comic books, Blu-ray box sets and the Darth Vader coffee mug to show for my fandom.
As a kid, Billy Dee Williams’ portrayal of Lando Calrissian in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi connected with me, since he was the only one in the series that looked like my family and all the people I grew up around in my native Detroit. Williams was largely the “Colt 45, works everytime” guy for people in my generation. But as Lando, dude just exuded cool.
So, when I found out that Donald Glover, a.k.a. Childish Gambino, was playing the young Lando in the Star Wars prequel Solo: A Star Wars Story (out May 25), I thought it was pitch-perfect casting, and became much more excited to watch another Star Wars prequel, especially considering how sleep-inducing 2016’s Rogue One was.
I mean, who else do we know in Hollywood who can better personify Lando Calrissian’s smug nature as a gambler, smuggler and overall purveyor of ill-gotten gains? Who else has Lando’s slim figure, his $8 billion smile and can go toe-to-toe with Han Solo (Alden Ehrenreich), himself a ball of charisma?
— Star Wars (@starwars) May 2, 2018
I fully expect Glover to upstage Ehrenreich in every scene they share, and I hope it’s quite a few. In the meantime, if you’re a Glover/Gambino neophyte, below are five ways he has earned the cool that makes him the perfect Lando.
1. Atlanta is the best show on television
The only bad thing about Solo is Glover’s participation required us to wait damn near a year and a half between seasons of Atlanta, the critically acclaimed show that he created and stars in on FX. I’ll save you the trouble of finding a show that’s as inventive, creative and dripping with unfettered Blackness – there isn’t one. Even Lena Waithe said watching it makes her want to get better. That the show has been nominated for and won mainstream awards despite its somewhat insular portrayal of Blackness, is a testament to its genius.
2. Childish Gambino pulled off a dope funk album in 2017
Awaken, My Love! should not have worked in the current music zeitgeist, in which mumble rap blurs with whatever passes for R&B these days. But Gambino pulled off a solid throwback funk/soul album that gets better the more you listen to it. The Grammys showed him love with an Album of the Year nomination, and he won a statue for the earworm that is “Redbone.”
3. He also had a great debut hip-hop album
People tend to disregard Camp when talking about Gambino’s music career in 2018, and even he largely ignores it in his concerts. But his 2011 debut album ranks as one of my favorite hip-hop debuts ever. Surprisingly, Gambino is a rappin’-ass rapper, always with a dope metaphor or three on deck. Plus, Camp is produced in its entirety by Ludwig Goransson, who helmed the Black Panther score.
4. He steals scenes in his bit roles
Glover brought his understated charisma to his role as Aaron Davis (a.k.a. the cat burglar Prowler), in Spider-Man: Homecoming, managing to jack scenes from the ultra-charismatic Tom Holland as the titular character. Hopefully Glover will portray Aaron in future Marvel Cinematic Universe films – the franchise can keep up its momentum of portraying blackness that it set forth with the incredibly successful Black Panther.
5. He’s got pull in the culture
The Migos’ “Bad and Boujee” was everyone’s favorite cotton candy of 2017 – fun to consume but completely devoid of any substance. Even Quavo, head of The Migos, attributes its success – including heading up the Billboard Hot 100 – to Glover shouting out the group and the song during his acceptance speech for best comedy series (for Atlanta) at the 2017 Golden Globes. Glover is at that level where if he likes your song and lets the world know, you can at least count on a boost in Spotify streams. Plus, who else could pull off doing double duty and being the host and musical guest on Saturday Night Live?
Dustin J. Seibert is a native Detroiter living in Chicago. Miraculously, people have paid him to be aggressively light-skinned via a computer keyboard for nearly two decades. He loves his own mama slightly more than he loves music and exercises every day only so his French fry intake doesn’t catch up to him. Find him at his own site, wafflecolored.com.