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Ahmed Best frozen out of Hollywood amid hate over his Jar Jar Binks portrayal

The former actor says he received the brunt of the Jar Jar Binks controversy, not director George Lucas
Ahmed Best
Ahmed Best (Photo credit: Bang Media)

Ahmed Best says he was frozen out of Hollywood amid the hate he got for his portrayal of Jar Jar Binks in Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace.

The actor made history in 1999 playing the clumsy Gungan alien but was hammered with abuse from fans, critics and commentators. Many argued the character was based on stereotypes of Black people, especially Jamaicans.

“Everybody came for me. I’m the first person to do this kind of work, but I was also the first black person,” Best said.

“[It was] the first textbook case of cyberbullying. It really wasn’t easy,” Best recalled. “I was very young; I was 26. And it’s hard to have this idea that the thing you’ve been working all your life for. You finally get it; you’re finally in the big leagues and the highest level of the game, and you hold your own.

“All of these years you’re just like, ‘I belong at the top of the game. I belong at the highest level. And then all of a sudden people pull the rug out from under you. And I was just like, ‘What is happening now?’” Best — who is now a teacher and co-founder of anti-oppression organization the AfroRithm Futures Group — told People about the fallout he suffered from the role.

“My career began and ended. I didn’t know what to do, and unfortunately there was really no one that could help me because it was such a unique position. It had never happened before in history,” he continued. “Especially with the Internet component. Now there’s an entire field of psychology based on [the effects of trolling.

“But at the time, what do I say to a psychologist? I just tried to do the best job that I could do. But George [Lucas] is untouchable, and everybody was untouchable. Who wasn’t untouchable? Me. Everyone came at me,” the former actor added, regarding how he struggled to get another job amid the Jar Jar backlash.

Best spoke out as Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace heads back into cinemas to mark the 25th anniversary of its release.

He’s previously opened up about how he contemplated suicide over the Jar Jar controversy as he walked across the Brooklyn Bridge.

“I didn’t want to hurt my family like that. So it was something bigger than me that made me walk away. I still was lost. I still couldn’t find my footing, and I just felt the injustice of it all,” Best said.

“How could I have achieved such a wonderful thing, and then nothing? Nothing. I was longing to continue. I wanted to continue this work. I wanted to continue moving in this direction and seeing what the CGI thing could turn into.” Best told People about why he decided not to end his life.

If you or someone you know needs help, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 (TALK) or text or call the Suicide & Crisis Hotline at 988.

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