Jar Jar Binks is considered to be the most hated character in "Star Wars" history. Not even those damn Ewoks can dethrone the Gungan from "The Phantom Menace". In fact, the hatred directed at the character had such a negative effect on its portrayer, actor Ahmed Best, that he contemplated suicide, “I faced a media backlash that really made me feel like my life was over” the actor says in a recently released video interview, adding, “There was just so much hate and anger and venom directed at me, and I took it personally…I put a lot of me into that work, and if you talk to any artist who really cares about their work, you’re talking about them,” Best says.
“The hardest part for me in that entire situation was all of the criticism that came from a racially motivated point of view. Growing up, being black, and wanting to be an artist — which is a very challenging and brave thing to do, it’s not easy — we’re always faced, as black artists, with this idea of being a sellout. We have our guard up when it comes to being portrayed as an Uncle Tom, a racist stereotype, or anything that makes you, as a black person, look less than."
“It hit me. It came right for me. I was called every racial stereotype you can imagine. There was this criticism of being this Jamaican, broken dialect, which was offensive because I’m of West Indian descent — I’m not Jamaican. It was debilitating. I didn’t know how to respond.”
He then goes on to explain how he was so depressed that he actually contemplated killing himself, “I was just alone and the depression hit me. Hard. I was just broken,” he says. “The only thing I could think of to make me feel better was to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. But this time when I walked across the bridge, I didn’t see the lights of Manhattan.”
“I didn’t see the towers [or] the potential of hard work and ingenuity,” he continues. “I didn’t see anything; I just saw a fog. I felt tired of having to explain myself. I felt tired of having to defend myself and defend my work. I felt tired of having to fight back against racism and the racial stereotypes. I just wanted to play a part. I was exhausted.”
Best isn't the only "Phantom Menace" casualty. I'm sure you all remember 10 year-old Jake Lloyd, who played Anakin Skywalker, and his revelation in a 2012 interview that fan backlash led him to quit acting for good. It didn't stop there, Lloyd also ended up having a short stint at a psychiatric facility. Yikes.
Jar Jar Binks became the laughingstock of many "Star Wars" fans in the summer of 1999. However, I, for the life of me, could not tell you how Ahmed Best looks like or that he even played Jar Jar. I'm assuming hardcore SW fans must have known who he was, but wasn't his performance CGI/motion capture?
Watch his full speech below: