Joining General Hospital’s regular staff of doctors and nurses is the legendary Billy Dee Williams. As head janitor Toussaint DuBois, Williams brings a little mystery to the Night Shift. I sat down with the former Lando Calrissian in his temporary digs, the dressing room normally home to John Ingle (Edward Quartermaine), for a quick chat about getting used to a faster pace, where he’d rather be on a Friday afternoon, and Billy Dee-crazy ladies.
What’s the story of Toussaint DuBois?
He was very well known at some point, but at some point, his life started going downhill. He bounces back, and recreates himself at some point … and ends up becoming pretty philosophical about everything. And he’s into everybody’s business! He knows everything that’s happening at the hospital.
How do you like the pace of daytime?
It goes so fast! I’m ready to go for another take. [Sometimes] I know what I just did is not satisfactory, at least from my perspective.
Has it been tough coming into an established cast?
No, not really. I’m happy to meet everybody that I’m working with. This is a wonderful company. You’ve got your producers and your writers, and they’re all very lovely people. I think when you have that kind of an atmosphere, everything is good.
What would you normally be doing on a Friday afternoon?
I’d rather be outside. Or at a restaurant having lunch and some vino! Either that or I’d be in the gymnasium.
What else is on your plate?
I have a fragrance that’s going to come out. I had a fragrance in the 80s, through Avon, and I decided to do another one. I also paint. I sold a lot of paintings to this company that auctions paintings on cruise lines.
So you’ll be going on a little working vacation?
I’m not a vacation person. I prefer working, or being busy doing this. I’ve been fortunate; I end up going on vacation when I’m working. I just got back from Australia and New Zealand. I was signing autographs for a sci-fi thing. It’s a pretty interesting way to exist!
Will you always be Lando Calrissian to fans?
People know me for a lot of other things: Lady Sings the Blues, Mahogany, lots of movies. There’s a pretty wide variety of [my] characters that people are really into, but certainly Lando. After Lady Sings the Blues, I became this kind of matinee idol, and women used to do lots of crazy things. Well, I won’t tell any of those stories!
After talking to the folks on the Night Shift set, it’s clear that it’s not just Lady Sings the Blues fans who can’t get enough Billy Dee. Feel the love.
Bradford Anderson, on the last time he was starstruck: “Last week, when I met Billy Dee Williams! It was more of an honor and a privilege to meet him. One of the actresses on our show was short of breath. I was able to breathe, but really honored to be in the same [scene as him.]
Steve Burton, on how it’s been to work with Billy Dee: “Great. He’s cool as heck, man. It’s crazy! I wouldn’t say I was nervous, but he’s definitely got a charisma about him. You can see why he is who he is. It’s cool. Even when you’re an actor … you watched him [as you were] growing up and you’re like, ‘Wow!’ Anyone on that big screen … He’s a very nice guy, very low key. I don’t know if he’s reserved more than shy. This is a whole new ballgame for him; I said, ‘I like this pace,’ and he was like, ‘Are you crazy?’”
Dominic Rains: He’s a great human being. He’s very relaxed, very perceptive, very … he’s got this interesting energy about him; you can tell he’s seen it all. I wanted to pick his brain as much as I could the first day, but I got to the point where I was like, ‘Wait a minute – he probably thinks you’re a lunatic!’”