Close your eyes, think for a minute and consider the following question: if you could sum up everything you hate about the Star Wars prequels in one scene, or character, what would it be? Do you really have to think about it, or is your default answer going to be Jar Jar Binks, the accident prone Gungan that, through no fault of his own, gave Palpatine the power to take over the universe? You may hate Jar Jar, you may have dedicated a Facebook page or a Tumblr to that hate, but you should know there’s a real guy named Ahmed Best behind Jar Jar, and he’s gotten the message.
In an interesting new YouTube series called These Are The Actors You’re Looking For, Jamie Stangroom diligently tracks down Star Wars‘ greatest thespians, who appeared in the series in all parts big or small, and asks them to talk about their experience. His most recent guest was Best, who showed a lot of courage by giving fans a face to associate with Jar Jar other than a duck-billed, yellow-eyed lizard with floppy rabbit ears. And by the way, if you hated the Star Wars prequels, you and Best have something in common.
Star Wars was my first ‘most hated’ title in anything really. It was painful. One of the biggest reasons I took it was because of the challenge of it—there was no Andy Serkis and Gollum, Navi from Avatar, Martians, John Carter.
I was to be the template for this, so I was kinda working with George to pioneer this new character form of acting and storytelling. On set we were all just so focused on the challenge of it and having so much fun that the post-Star Wars stuff was a surprise. Even though you play characters, you put a lot of your own personality into it, you get emotionally and personally invested in the work that you do, it’s your work and you take pride in it. So when your work is criticized negatively, you feel a hit.
Later in the interview, Best says that he would never return to the Star Wars franchise even if he were asked as he’s been so ill-affected by the backlash (although he did voice Jar Jar for a Clone Wars episode, which was notable for not making Jar Jar overbearingly annoying). Best does make a good point though. He did beat Serkis to mo-cap by a couple of years, but when the book is written about the dawn of that film technology, Best will likely be a footnote. Why? Everybody hates Jar Jar, which is the fault of George Lucas, not Ahmed Best. Gollum was a well-written, compelling and multi-dimensional character, Jar Jar was not.
Feel sorry for Jar Jar Binks yet? Who knew?
You can watch the recent episode of These Are The Actors You’re Looking For below.