b'Maplewoodian Ahmed Best Returns to a GalaxyFar, Far AwayOstracized as Jar Jar Binks, the actor plays a hero in The MandalorianBY DONNY LEVIT Ahmed Best in The Mandalorian as Jedi Master Kelleran Beq who rescues the youngling Grogu (Baby Yoda) from the Siege of the Jedi Temple.A hmed Best cant recall the ex- music, dance, and theatrical extravaganza. Bestanceived similar criticism for the creation of the Ewoks act movie theater in midtownaccomplished actor, musician, and dancerwent onfor Return of the Jedi).Manhattan where he saw thethe road to San Francisco to perform the leading roleBest is proud to have served a pivotal role in the original Star Wars movie soonin the production. He had no idea that Star Wars cast- way Lucas companyIndustrial Light & Magicafter its release in 1977. Heing director Robin Gurland would catch one of thoseinnovated and utilized visual effects. I was really does, however, remember thatBay Area shows. Gurland was so enamored by Bestskindofthepro-his family arrived late and heperformance that she alerted Star Wars creator GeorgetotypeforCGI had to sit near the front row. I was small and had toLucas. And before long, Best was onsite at Lucas Sky- actingingeneral look up to watch the movie. But as soon as the crawlwalker Ranch where he donned the motion capturebecausenoone came on, it didnt matter what seat I was in, sayssuit for the character of Jar Jar Binks, the comedic,knewwhatwas Best. I was just hooked. children-focused, eye-popping Gungun creature whopossible until they Little did the young Star Wars fan know that aplayed a significant role in the 1999 prequel Star Wars:saw what was pos-few decades later, hed act in a Star Wars feature filmEpisode IThe Phantom Menace. sible,saysBest. while simultaneously contributing to the develop- You dont have to be a Star Wars aficionado toTheyhadthe ment of cutting-edge CGI (computer-generated im- be familiar with the well-documented and painfulideas and they had agery) film technology. That same padawan (thatsodyssey Best withstood because of the backlash inthesoftwareand Star Wars lingo for a young, apprentice Jedi) wouldresponse to Jar Jar Binks. Audiences and critics large- they had the the-also grow up to play quite a powerful Jedi in Seasonly panned the roleaccusing Lucas of creating anory of it. But until 3 of The Mandalorian. African American racial stereotype. Others arguedIgotinthe[Jar In his early twenties, the Columbia High Schoolthe character was written to attract children insteadJar Binks] suit, itAhmed Best, Columbia High graduate joined the New York cast of Stomp, theof focusing on the faithful Star Wars fans (Lucas re- wasnt tangible.School class of 91, got his start with the New York cast of Stomp.14/ matters magazine / school 2023'