TVGuide reports that Billy Dee Williams has been cast in the CBS drama NCIS. In the episode airing this October, the actor will portray LJ, described as "a World War II veteran and close friend of the Gibbs clan."
Commented the show's executive producer Gary Glasberg, "This is a very rich, emotional story and we couldn't be happier to have Billy Dee Williams bringing this character to life. Mr. Williams appeared in some of my favorite films from Lady Sings the Blues and Brian's Song to the Star Wars saga [The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi]. Watching him work with Mark Harmon and Ralph Waite [as Gibbs' father, Jack] will be a real treat."
Williams appeared on Broadway in 1945's The Firebrand of Florence and returned in 1960 in the play version of The Cool Word. He appeared in A Taste of Honey in 1961. A 1976 Broadway production, I Have a Dream, was directed by Robert Greenwald and starrEd Williams as Martin Luther King, Jr. His most recent Broadway appearance was in August Wilson's Fences, as a replacement for James Earl Jones in the role of Troy Maxson in 1988.
He rose to stardom after starring in the critically lauded blockbuster biographical TV movie, Brian's Song (1971), in which he played Chicago Bears star football player Gale Sayers, who stood by his friend Brian Piccolo (played by James Caan), during his struggle with terminal cancer. The film became so popular that it was given a theatrical release. Both Williams and Caan were nominated for Emmy Awards for best actor for their performances.
Williams became America's leading black film actor in the 1970s after starring in a string of critically acclaimed and popular movies. In 1972, starred as Billie Holiday's husband Louis McKay in Motown Productions' Holiday biopic Lady Sings the Blues. The film was a box office blockbuster, becoming one of the highest grossing films of the year and received five Academy Award nominations. Diana Ross starred in Lady Sings the Blues opposite Williams; Motown paired the two of them again three years later in the successful follow-up project Mahogany.
The early 1980s brought Williams the role of Lando Calrissian, which he played in Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back and in Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi.