Lando Calrissian was one of the central characters of the original Star Wars trilogy, but the movies haven't yet shown what happened to him after the original films ended. Played by Billy Dee Williams, Lando returns in J.J. Abrams' Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker in his first on-screen appearance as the smooth-talking character in years, even though he previously voiced Lando in other Star Wars properties. Naturally, fans have wondered what he's been up to in the years since Return of the Jedi and why he wasn't in the previous films.
Unfortunately, unlike many other characters, Lando has only made a few appearances outside the Star Wars movies (not counting the prequel film Solo: A Star Wars Story). These relatively few appearances after the Battle of Endor continue to build upon the characteristics that were established in the original trilogy while the additional prequel stories paint a picture of a man who is every bit as conceited and self-absorbed as he is in Solo: A Star Wars Story, but who is also someone who can become nobler. And this is precisely what we see in the mythos post-original trilogy, showing a General Calrissian who has both his vanity and his newfound sense of altruism played upon by a Rebel Alliance that desperately wants to transition into the New Republic and to usher in a new era of peace (and profit) for the galaxy at large.
Not only does Lando help the Rebellion become the Republic but he also manages to liberate the oppressed people of Cloud City, which has long since become his home; he also had at least a small influence on young Ben Solo - the boy who was destined, perhaps ironically, to help burn all of the Rebels’ hopes to the ground and establish the First Order’s interstellar hold.
After becoming a hero of the Battle of Endor, the man to destroy the second Death Star, Lando Calrissian decides that he likes the pomp and circumstance his newfound rank in the Rebel Alliance affords him, and he rides those coattails as much as he can in the months immediately following Return of the Jedi. But it’s not all just for flash and show - it turns out that Lando really does care about the cause, as late to it as he may have come. Shortly after the Battle of Endor, Lando and Chewbacca tracked down pirates who were robbing Rebel supply lines, which was far less glamorous than destroying the Second Death Star but very much needed to be done so the Alliance could continue to push forward.
When Operation: Cinder is instituted via posthumous order by Emperor Palpatine as part of his Contingency, targeting several Imperial worlds for complete annihilation, General Calrissian personally intervenes to help save Naboo, its young queen, and General Leia Organa (who is there petitioning the monarch for her support in forming the New Republic). And just to top everything off, Lando almost single-handedly takes out an Imperial weapons cache on Sullust, preventing it from falling into the enemies’ hands and prolonging the Galactic Civil War even further.
Amazingly enough, the former smuggler manages to stay with the Rebels even after they set up the new Galactic Senate on Chandrilla (the Republic’s original capital planet), and he’s still undertaking missions critical for the fledgling democracy’s success. One such errand has him tracking a distress beacon to Rekkana, a manufacturing planet that has advanced automatic systems where a leftover Imperial commodore has designs on making it the center of a revitalized, computer-controlled Imperial Navy. Lando is able to save the world’s chancellor and boot the ragtag Empire out of the sector - and, along the way, he pitches fellow smuggler Jaxxon (a walking, talking green rabbit that was originally introduced in the ‘80s Marvel comics) on why he, too, should hang up his illicit ways and join up with the good guys.
One of Lando Calrissian’s first thoughts after the Battle of Endor is to grandly ride back into Cloud City, the place that he had fashioned into his home, and wrest it back from Imperial control. But before he can do so, the governor of the sector, Ubrik Adelhard, locks down the region into what he famously calls the Iron Blockade – no information in or out, including the news of Emperor Palpatine’s death. (This attempt to carve out a little fiefdom by a mid-ranking Imperial leader is actually replicated all across the many corners of the galaxy - up until the Empire is finally defeated once and for all at the Battle of Jakku.)
An uprising develops at Cloud City along with other locations of interest in the Anoat Sector, and Lando helps from afar, using his dear friend Lobot as an intermediary and cashing in favors with all sorts of scoundrels in order to help furnish and expand the resistance – a necessary, if desperate, move, as the just-forming New Republic refused to commit any military resources to the task, given the greater importance of other targets (a situation which also repeats with the liberation of Kashyyyk, forcing Han Solo and Chewbacca to similarly take matters into their own hands). General Calrissian’s effort, however, is eventually successful, and just as the Empire is formally surrendering at Jakku, Lando is finally able to stride personally into Cloud City, helping to get the final garrison of Imperial holdouts to leave without firing a single shot (except for their leader).
With Cloud City liberated, Lando Calrissian gives up the title of baron administrator, although he retains its attached fancy living quarters (and most of its governing oversight). He now settles for impresario Calrissian, the chief executive officer of Calrissian Enterprises, a designer and manufacturer of droids that formerly went by the name of VylarTech. He establishes his base of operations on Bespin and attempts to set up as many refugees as he possibly can in the floating city, thereby helping people displaced by the Galactic Civil War while generating good PR in the process. It is currently unknown how long this business venture lasts for the impresario, but the ex-smuggler makes it work for at least the next two years after the Battle of Jakku.
When news arrives of Ben Solo’s birth one year after Return of the Jedi, Lando feels obliged to get the Solo family a gift. After anguishing over the decision for a bit, he settles upon the very luxurious gun that he uses to help liberate Cloud City - a Rossmoyne Vitiator pistol, a bolt-thrower from a more elegant age that was engraved by hand “with scrollwork by artisans from the original family.” Calrissian thinks that it’s both practical and beautiful, and that it’s not only the perfect reflection of Uncle Lando, but also of his parents: “Kid’s gotta see what his parents fought for. And I suspect, given his parents, he’s gonna do some fighting himself. Kid’s gonna get into trouble one day. He’s gonna need some help. And that’s where Uncle Lando comes in.”
He keeps the weapon in a locker on Cloud City until Ben comes of age, along with a note that says, essentially, if the young Solo were to ever need help but didn’t want to turn to his father, he could always use the Vitiator – and Uncle Lando. It’s simultaneously endearing and frightening, showing what contradictory influences Ben Solo (later Kylo Ren) had all around him while growing up in the age of the New Republic.
What kind of relationship Lando would have not only with the adolescent Ben, but also with Leia and Han themselves, over the next 23 years is unknown – with one small-but-critical exception. Just six years before Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Leia is a member of the Galactic Senate who is seeking to run for higher office, a leadership position from which she hopes to further push for progressive reforms. Instead, her political enemies - who end up being secretly aligned with the emerging First Order – discover her dark secret, that she is, in fact, the biological daughter of Darth Vader. The news is enough to destroy her political career once and for all, and many of the individuals that Leia thought were her long-time allies and friends abandoned her, except for Lando, who sends her a quick note of encouragement and solidarity. It’s a sign that the ex-general would always be there for her when the chips were down, arriving dramatically into town to help save the day, which could be the very situation that unfolds in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.