Jar Jar Binks is the epicentre of so many people’s rage about the issues of the Star Wars prequels, or even Star Wars in general. But people often forget that under the CG alien was actor Ahmed Best—and he’s spent over a decade having to deal with Jar Jar’s reputation.
A new interview with Best conducted by Jamie Stangroom for a new YouTube series called These Are The Actors You’re Looking For, where he hunts down stars big and small who appeared in the Star Wars saga and asks them about their time with the franchise.
Most people he’s interviewed so far have been happy to discuss their connection with one of the biggest franchises in pop culture history. However, the ten-minute chat with Best paints a pretty miserable picture after years and years of people lashing out about Jar Jar Binks’ role in the prequel movies:
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.
It wasn’t just fan reaction after the release of The Phantom Menace that soured Best’s time with Star Wars. Jar Jar was prominently featured in the merchandise for the movie—leading to some ridiculous products being attached to his character, including an infamously lewd-looking Jar Jar lollipop:
Apparently the item was so poorly regarded, Best was apologized to by marketers just for it actually existing.
The worst one was a lollipop dispenser, that was ridiculous, I saw that thing and ran. That was bad, the head of marketing actually called me to apologize for that one.
You can’t help but feel sorry for the guy.
For those fans that loathed Jar Jar, Best provides some good news by confirming he’d say no if he was ever asked back to reprise the character. (He has briefly voiced Binks in the Clone Wars animated series, though.). But still, while it’s very easy to look at the flaws Jar Jar represents, it’s twinged with sadness when you see how Best feels about it all these years later.