This week’s episode of The Mandalorian gave Star Wars fans a moment they have been awaiting for a long time. (Spoilers ahead!)
During a flashback, we learn how the young alien Grogu—better known as Baby Yoda—survived Order 66, the infamous moment from the Star Wars prequel films in which most Jedi were ambushed and wiped out by their former allies, the clone troopers.
Wednesday’s episode, entitled “Chapter 20: The Foundling,” of the Disney+ series revealed that Grogu was rescued and escorted to safety by a Jedi Master named Kelleran Beq. Wielding two lightsabers, he single-handedly fought off several clone troopers, before flying Grogu to safety during a dramatic speeder bike chase over the fictional planet of Coruscant.
What some viewers might not have realized is Kelleran Beq was played by Ahmed Best, the actor best known for portraying Jar Jar Binks in the prequel trilogy. Binks, an alien of the Gungan species who served as comic relief in the films, was widely despised by critics and fans alike and has been described as the most hated Star Wars character.
Best’s appearance in The Mandalorian is a welcome shining moment for the 49-year-old actor, who was subjected to so much vitriol and harassment for playing Binks that he contemplated suicide. Best has remained involved with the Star Wars franchise over the years and has since received an outpouring of support from fans.
Hatred and Harassment Over Jar Jar Binks
Best was 25 when he first portrayed Jar Jar Binks in The Phantom Menace (1999), the first entry in the Star Wars prequel trilogy directed by George Lucas. Best delivered both the voice and the stop-motion performance of the computer-generated character, wearing prosthetics during filming that were later replaced by CGI animation.
The goofy and absent-minded Binks was so despised by critics and fans that several called for the character’s death in the subsequent films. Some analysts said he came to represent everything fans disliked about the prequels, from its over-reliance on CGI to its silly humor oriented toward children. Worse yet, some critics argued the character was a racist caricature, embodying offensive Black stereotypes.
Best, who is Black, said he endured bullying, harassment, and even death threats for the performance. The accusations of racism were the most hurtful to him, particularly because he put so much of himself into the character. He became so depressed that he considered jumping off the Brooklyn Bridge, according to a video interview with Participant.
Several prominent voices defended Best, including Lucas and Best’s co-star Liam Neeson, who called him “one of the funniest guys and talented guys I have ever worked with.” After Best spoke out about contemplating suicide, he was met with what he described as “overwhelming” support and “love and kindness” from the Star Wars community.
Continued Involvement with Star Wars
Outside of acting, Best has spearheaded several entrepreneurial ventures. He is an official with AfroRithm Futures Group, the creators of a AfroRithms world-building card game. He is also a senior fellow at the Annenberg Innovation Lab at USC, is the CEO of BISN Media, and hosts The Afrofuturist Podcast.
Best has also remained heavily involved with the Star Wars franchise, reprising the role of Binks as a voice actor in the animated series Star Wars: The Clone Wars and hosting a children’s game show called Star Wars: Jedi Temple Challenge.
It was on that show that Best first played Kelleran Beq, the same character he portrays in The Mandalorian. Young contestants on Jedi Temple Challenge go through a series of obstacles as part of a “Jedi training course,” and Kelleran Beq is a Jedi Master who serves as a mentor to the contestants.
“Kelleran is the ultimate temple master,” Best said of his character on the game show. “He can appear to be kind of funny, kind of goofy. He gets ribbed a lot by AD-3, the droid. But at the end of the day, what Kelleran Beq is trying to do is make you the best Jedi that you can be.”
When Grogu is fleeing from murderous clone troopers in the most recent episode of The Mandalorian, a door opens to reveal his savior: Kelleran Beq, once again portrayed by Best, marking the character’s first Star Wars appearance outside of the game show.
Praise for Best’s Return in The Mandalorian
In contrast to the backlash he received about Binks, Best’s appearance on The Mandalorian was widely praised by fans on social media. Yahoo Movies UK described it as “full circle” moment for Best, and Kori Outlaw of Comicbook.com compared Best’s return to “the idea of a redemption arc” that has always been pivotal to Star Wars stories.
“It was a huge moment for Best, who finally got to live his dream of playing a canonical Jedi (and a pivotal one at that), and Star Wars fans are absolutely here for it,” wrote Mike Redmon of Uproxx. “Shortly after The Mandalorian episode started streaming, Twitter exploded with love for Best.”
For his part, Best took to Instagram to express his appreciation for the fan support, and his excitement at having appeared in The Mandalorian. “Gratitude! Good to be back,” he wrote. “There is so much to say and share. It’s going to take a couple of days. But, for now, I’ll just say thank you to all that have held me up and made me better.”
How to Watch The Mandalorian
Season 3 of The Mandalorian is currently streaming on Disney+, with new episodes released each Wednesday through April 19.
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is available 24/7 in the United States. Call or text 988 for free, confidential support.
Colin McEvoy joined the Biography.com staff in 2023, and before that had spent 16 years as a journalist, writer, and communications professional. He is the author of two true crime books: Love Me or Else and Fatal Jealousy. He is also an avid film buff, reader, and lover of great stories.