Interview Done By Mike Wilkerson
MW: Please introduce yourself.
CDW: My name is Corey Dee Williams, a.k.a. son of Lando Calrissian, a.k.a. Klaatu
MW: How was it growing up as the son of a legend like Billy Dee Williams?
CDW: Well, I was born in New York City, and I originally lived in Manhattan. Basically I grew up like any other Manhattan kid from Harlem, but I was part of a very artistic and creative family. I watched my father’s career develop over many years, and it wasn’t until I was about 12 years old when he began to gain a lot of notoriety. After the completion of the television movie “Brian’s Song,” his career really began to take off. He starred in a series of Motown films, “Lady Sings The Blues,” “Mahogany”…which increased his popularity. His role as Lando Calrissian came years later. It was very exciting to see all of the changes that took place in my father’s career, as I was growing up.
MW: When did you get introduced to the movie industry first?
CDW: My actual introduction to the movie industry was when my father was working on the television movie “Brian’s Song.” During summer vacation that year, I made my first trip to Hollywood, California, when I was about 11 years old. I went to the studio with my father every day. I remember it being very interesting at first, but I soon realized how tedious the process really is. I began wandering around the studio lot, and going in and out of some of the sets of television shows I watched growing up, like “The Partridge Family,” “The Brady Bunch,” “Bewitched,” and began collecting autographs. Hollywood itself was quite different than I had imagined.
MW: Did your father always take you on the set of movies he was doing?
CDW: Well, sometimes I went with him when I was able to go, but there were many times that he was working while I was in school.
MW: So during “Empire Strikes Back” did you get to hang out on the set?
CDW: I wasn’t able to go with him to Europe during the filming of “Empire Strikes Back,” but I remember how excited we were that he was going to be in a “Star Wars” movie.
MW: What do you remember most from the set?
CDW: What I remember most about the set of “Return Of The Jedi” was the sheer size of the actual set itself, and how it seemed to be out in the middle of nowhere. We had a pretty long drive from the hotel to the set every day. We pulled off of the highway and on to the sand they had compacted to create a road out to the set. The set was massive!! It was gated, and surrounded by 24/7 security.
MW: So on “Return Of The Jedi” you did double duty as Klaatu and as the stand-in for your father. Tell me about being Klaatu?
CDW: Being Klaatu came as a surprise. The costume wasn’t quite as uncomfortable as being a Gamorrean Guard, but it was very hot, 110 degrees plus and a lot of sand blowing around. With the head on, it was somewhat difficult to breathe at times. They would use a hairdryer on cool, to blow air into the masks between takes, when we didn’t have enough time to take them off.
MW: How did you get the gig as Klaatu?
CDW: I originally went there as a stand-in for my father. It wasn’t until much later in the shoot that they asked me to put on Klaatu’s costume and mask. I’m not really sure that he actually had a name at that point, if he did, I don’t think we ever used it. He was just another one of the creatures in that particular scene. A couple of stunt guys had been injured and I think they may have been a few guys short with so many things going on at the same time in such a big action scene.
MW: Was it cool to see a Klaatu action figure when they came out?
CDW: I wasn’t really aware of the action figure until Derek Maki approached me about doing conventions. Since I had a photograph showing me with the head down in front of me, he figured out based on the mask and the costume, that the character actually had a name and it was Klaatu.
MW: You were also a stand-in for your father. What scenes were you in?
CDW: I only worked in the fight scene, that was the battle over the Great Pit of Carkoon, and the Sarlacc, on Jabba’s sail barge, and on the skiff hanging over the side dressed as Lando Calrissian.
MW: What stories can you tell me from the set?
CDW: There are so many stories to tell that many fans suggest that I should write a book about my experience… I remember one day on the set when a sandstorm kicked up, and the trailers we dressed in were rocking back and forth. They had to postpone shooting for several hours, especially due to the fact that camera equipment and sand don’t go well together. It was a long trip back to the hotel so we had to stay on the set and try to wait it out…
MW: How was it working with George Lucas?
CDW: I did get to meet George Lucas, but we didn’t really work with him directly since he wasn’t actually directing the film.
MW: Did it make you proud to be able to work with your father, Billy Dee Williams?
CDW: I am very proud of my father and his achievements as an actor, but I guess we would mostly see these location shoots as a way to spend more time together.
MW: Since Disney owns the right to “Star Wars” now, would you want to be part of the new movie in 2015?
CDW: Certainly, I would welcome the chance to be involved in the movies in any way, shape, or form possible. I would love to do another creature, character or anything like that.
MW: I think that Disney should have you play the part of Lando. What do you think?
CDW: There will only ever be one Lando Calrissian! Ha ha Ha!! My father is synonymous with that role, filling his shoes would be no easy task. It might be cool if Lando had a son who was truly untrustworthy and conniving though. That would be an interesting role to play.
MW: Enough about “Star Wars.” When did you start being a fitness and lifestyle coach?
CDW: I began working as a fitness trainer in 1991 when I started my own business. My father got me into working out when I was about 13, and I also began martial arts training. I studied Hapkido with Hugh VanPutten for a few years, and worked at Century West Club in Century City when I was 18 years old. It was a natural progression for me since I had been involved in fitness for most of my life. I began by studying ACE guidelines for personal training, one of the very first legitimate certifications that you could get at the time. Then I started a small personal training studio.
MW: Please tell me about what you do?
CDW: Well… I began as a Personal Trainer, and I quickly realized that there was much more to it than doing exercises or teaching people routines. So much of what separates those who succeed from those who do not, is attitude and the ability to make permanent lifestyle changes. I have always considered myself to be more than just a personal trainer. So much of reaching a goal is mental and not just physical, and I tend to be more personally invested in people because I genuinely want to see them succeed. I decided to call what I do, Fitness Lifestyle Coaching, because that better describes my approach. It’s really kind of a study of people and what makes them tick or motivates them.
MW: Who have you worked with?
CDW: I have worked with everyone from Jane Fonda to Ice Cube, and WNPF World Bench Press Champion Colonel Craig Berlette. What keeps it interesting to me, is the fact that each individual is completely different so it’s important to adapt what you are doing to suit that individual.
MW: Can you tell me any stories?
CDW: I was working with Jane Fonda’s personal assistant, and in a relatively short period of time she saw tremendous results. She lost 60 pounds in about six or seven months and was getting in the best shape of her life in her late 40’s! One day she told me that Jane was interested in working with me, and I said, “Jane who?” Ha ha Ha. I couldn’t possibly imagine that Jane Fonda would need my help, but she was preparing for a pretty rigorous mountain climb on her 60th birthday and she really needed someone who was very familiar with strength training.
MW: What conventions will you be at this year signing?
CDW: It’s kind of hard to say where I will be next. It’s not entirely up to me – there is a process of booking at these things that is planned out by the promoters involved. They have to keep it interesting and fresh for the fans. The next one I will probably be doing with my father is Crypticon Minneapolis in September. Follow me on Facebook for updates on what I’m doing next.
MW: What would you like to say in closing?
CDW: I must say that I was quite surprised by all of the recent attention I have gotten. I’ve always thought of my participation in “Star Wars” as another fun and very interesting time in my life, but I never could have imagined I would be signing at conventions 30 years after the fact! Connecting with people who appreciate things that you’ve done or were involved in, is a very humbling experience. Thanks for the opportunity to do this interview. See you at the next convention!
May The Force Be With You All!!!