Jar Jar Binks actor opens up about the toll public criticism played on his mental health

I was 11 years old when Star Wars Episode 1: Phantom Menace came out. I didn't grow up a Star Wars kid, not seeing the original three films yet. But I remember, there was one reason I finally wanted to see a Star Wars movie — Jar Jar Binks.

I loved how awkward he was considering, as a pre-teen, I was the epitome of awkward (although, who are we kidding, that hasn't changed much). The character made me laugh, and his voice made me smile. So, I was disappointed when I found out that almost everyone hated the character who was my favorite. And actor Ahmed Best was more than disappointed with the public's reaction to his character. He was devastated.

Picture this - you get a role in Star Wars - freakin' Star Wars - your first ever role in a film! You're ecstatic! And then, after the film is released, nobody likes your character. Ahmed took the insults to heart, as if people weren't just making fun of Jar Jar but, instead, were making fun of him.

“I never thought it was a possibility to be in that movie. … I was a 24-year-old young actor, looking at my career and my future. (I thought), ‘Here we go. This is going to open the doors to so many different opportunities,’” Ahmed said in a video by SoulPancake.

“Then the movie came out. And there was just so much hate and venom and anger, directed at me. And I took it personally. … I put a lot of me into that work.”

Ahmed got online death threats, was told he ruined people's childhoods and was called "every racial stereotype you can imagine." Without an agent, Ahmed said he had no idea how to react or how to respond.

"I felt tired of having to defend myself and my work. … I just wanted to play a part,” he said.

One day, Ahmed went to the Brooklyn Bridge, stood at the edge and seriously considered jumping.

"A gust of wind came by, and it was really strong. It knocked me off balance. I caught myself, and that’s when I woke up. … Something in my consciousness said, ‘You have to make it to tomorrow.'"

And he continued to make it through every day that followed.

Life has gotten better for Ahmed, who is married, has a 10-year-old son and is set to be the host of Disney Plus' Star Wars game show later this year. A lot has happened that never would have if he chose to end his life. And now, at age 46, about 20 years after the darkest moment of his life, Ahmed has decided to open up on social media about his battle with depression.

"I never really thought anybody cared. ... But (then), people were calling me and talking about it, (giving) support that I never thought was there," he said.

"I'm glad I shared this moment because, the responses that I got back were from people who shared a similar moment who are all here now. We made it through the next day. I can get through 20 more years of next days."

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