Featured image by Sam Nystrom Costales
Danielle Sanchez, Executive Editor and Co-Founder of Historifans and Assistant Professor of History at Colorado College, attended Colorado Springs Comic Con in August 2022. In addition to geeking out over all of the nostalgia, fan art, cosplayers, and merch, she (and Cruz, her 11 year old son) had the opportunity to interview Ahmed Best, who is best known for playing Jar Jar Binks in Star Wars Episodes 1-3 and the animated series, Star Wars: The Clone Wars.
Note: This interview was edited for length and clarity
Danielle Sanchez: I’ve always been curious about this question. How much say did you have in the voice performance for Jar Jar?
Ahmed Best: The voice part, as far as tonal quality and timbre, was very much from me. The dialogue was completely George Lucas, so I just read the dialogue that he gave me. Some of the stuff that I had to read I understood, but a lot of it, I didn’t. He had to explain it to me. The voice was something that I came up with. It was the voice that I used for my little cousins and they really liked it. George’s direction was to make Jar Jar really childlike and someone for kids to really latch onto.
DS: One of my colleagues is a Jamaican historian and wondered how much Jamaican Patois influenced how you performed Jar Jar?
AB: None, really. My background is in Barbados and St. Thomas. My grandparents were immigrants to the United States through the Caribbean. That being said, it’s easy to conflate Patois with the language, but that was all George. I wish I could take credit for some of that, but that wasn’t me at all.
DS: Let’s talk about Star Wars: The Clone Wars. I love the Water Wars arc, especially because Jar Jar is a hero. What was it like doing that episode and others in which Jar Jar saves the day?
AB: Dave Filoni is a really big fan of the history of every character in Star Wars and how they interact with one another. If there is anybody who is closest to George, it’s probably Dave. Throughout The Clone Wars, he would talk to George all the time and would pitch things to him. George would either say “yes” or “no.” He really learned to tell Star Wars stories very proficiently. His ideas for Jar Jar were about that kind of hero arc coming through and saving the day. Jar Jar does this in Phantom Menace as well, with the Gungans and the Gungan Army. Jar Jar really is an unlikely hero. So I think Dave just wanted to interject more of that into The Clone Wars.
DS: Jar Jar gets a lot of hate, but I love that in The Clone Wars he is able to be that unlikely hero and to have a more dynamic presence in the show.
AB: You know, Jar Jar was developed as a combination of Jackie Chan and Buster Keaton, so those were my two biggest influences. I grew up watching Jackie Chan movies and my father is a filmmaker, so I also watched a lot of Buster Keaton movies as a kid. I ultimately put those two guys together and created Jar Jar. George was a huge Buster Keaton fan, so we watched those movies together to come up with moves.
Cruz Sanchez: Can I ask a question?
AB: Yes, Cruz. What’s your question?
CS: Is Jar Jar a Sith Lord?
AB: Jar Jar may or may not be a Sith Lord. We will find out soon enough.
Dr. Danielle Sanchez (she/her/hers) is an Assistant Professor in the Department of History at Colorado College. Her research focuses on the Second World War in Africa, specifically popular culture, consumption, and social movements in wartime central Africa. She teaches a range of pop culture and history courses, but her favorites are Health and Healing in African History, The Empires Strike Back: From Anti-Colonial Resistance to Star Wars, and Writing Graphic Novels. Her nerdy obsessions: knitting, Star Wars, LEGO, contemporary romance novels, and the MCU. Twitter: @drdanisanchez
Cruz Sanchez (he/him/his) is an elementary school student in Colorado Springs, Colorado. As the son of Danielle Sanchez, he gets the opportunity to tag along with his mom at pop culture conventions and occasionally ask questions during interviews. His academic interests include creative writing and history. His current nerdy obsessions include One Punch Man, Dragon Ball Z, Super Mario Kart, and LEGO. His mom does not let him have a social media account.