The intent of Black Star Wars is to celebrate the accomplishments and achievements of black artists within the realm of Star Wars. As we aren’t in the financial position to contribute yet, we are doing our part to celebrate and amplify black voices.
Ahmed Best is an African American actor, who gained recognition in 1999 for providing the motion capture and the voice for the Star Wars character Jar Jar Binks. Best collaborated with director George Lucas in three films and seven episodes of the animated series, Star Wars: The Clone Wars. He has played three different characters in Star Wars canon; Jar Jar Binks, Achk Med-Beq, and Kelleran Beq. He also has credits in creating, writing, directing, and producing various TV shows and shorts.
Media & Fan Backlash
Best was only 25 years old when he first voiced Jar Jar Binks in Episode I: The Phantom Menace. The role was his first major film, but the reception he received from fans was less than ideal. Jar Jar quickly became a character than people either loved or absolutely hated. Sadly, most fans hated him and the blame fell on Ahmed Best.
For nearly 20 years Ahmed faced a backlash from the media and fans about his portrayal of Jar Jar. The comments and taunting got so bad that in 2018 Best took to Twitter and said that after 20 years of media backlash he almost took his own life. Since that tweet Best has received support from tons of people including Star Wars creator George Lucas and Frank Oz, who was the puppeteer and voice of Yoda.
Star Wars Characters
Jar Jar Binks
Ahmed Best is probably best known for his role as Jar Jar Binks in Episodes I-III. Best did the motion capture for the character as well as the voice. Jar Jar was meant to be a funny character to keep kids entertained. A lot of fans and media outlets criticized Best for playing this silly, childlike character. Jar Jar’s role in the films is actually important. He played a key role in the invasion of Naboo and in the Clone Wars. Jar Jar was once an outcast amongst the Gungan people because of his clumsy behavior, he was a vital part of helping to secure an alliance between the Gungan and Queen Padme Amidala of Naboo.
In Episode II: Attack of the Clones, Ahmed had the chance to play another character on the screen in addition to playing Jar Jar. If you blink during the scene where Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker show up looking for the assassin Zam Wesell you might miss Ahmed’s character. Achk Med-Beq is present in the Outlander Club on Coruscant. He was shown conversing with Ayy Vida and a purple Twi’lek. Beq doesn’t have any lines in the scene and like I said before it is brief.
Ahmed was cast in another role recently, He is hosting a Legends of the Hidden Temple style kids game show called Jedi Temple Challenge. Jedi Temple Challenge is set in the Star Wars universe and allows young padawans to show off their various skills in order to become Jedi Knights. Best was able to develop his own Jedi Master character for the role.
He decided to connect his new character to the prequels by using the family name of his Episode II character, Achk Med-Beq. Best came up with Kelleran Beq, a Jedi Master who served in the Jedi Order and was stationed on the starship Thilia. We do not know much more about his character except that he is related to his Episode II character somehow. Kelleran is often assisted by a protocol droid named AD-3. The show was set to premiere on Wednesday, June 3rd but got pushed back to Wednesday, June 10th. Jedi Temple Challange will air on YouTube.
Career Outside of Star Wars
Outside of the Star Wars universe Best has had many acting, producing, writing, directing, and composing credits to his name. His career began back in the late ’80s as an extra in the movie Lean on Me.
Throughout his acting career, he has appeared on various TV shows such as Alias and Cougar Town. Ahmed has done a lot of voice acting on several animated series like Aluna and Carried by the Wind: Tsukikage Run and in video games such as Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2 and Fallout 76.
Ahmed Best is also a composer and musician. He has composed music for the TV show This Can’t be My Life. Best starred, wrote, directed, and produced an episode of the show in 2008. In 1996, He was cast in the musical Stomp and quickly earned a lead role in the show’s San Francisco company.
One night, Lucasfilm casting director Robin Gurland was in the audience, trying to find someone who could play a new kind of film character, one that would be rendered digitally on-screen, but drawn from an actor’s performance. She eventually invited him to Skywalker Ranch, and the rest is history.
Even though Best got a lot of backlash from his performance as Jar Jar Binks, Best was a pioneer in the CG/Live Action split performance space. This technology was very new at the time. According to casting director, Robin Gurland finding an actor who could really sell the physical aspect of the character, but who also had the acting chops to give it a literal voice was proven very difficult to find. Ahmed Best had the qualities she was looking for and helped pioneer a new acting art form.