The newest episode of The Mandalorian, “The Foundling,” featured the show’s latest surprise cameo. We now know who rescued Grogu from Order 66. That character’s unexpected arrival was much bigger than just a single episode or TV show, though. The actor who plays that heroic Jedi is a Star Wars‘ alum whose own journey in the franchise has been a long and difficult one.
Who Plays Jedi Kelleran Beq on The Mandalorian?
Ahmed Best—who played Jar Jar Binks in the Star Wars prequel trilogy—returned to the franchise as Jedi Knight Kelleran Beq on The Mandalorian. He was the previously unknown Jedi who ultimately rescued Grogu from Coruscant during Order 66. Other Jedi gave their lives getting the child to Kelleran for escape.
Proficient at using two lightsabers once, Kelleran fought back clone troopers long enough to dash away to an awaiting Royal Naboo Security Forces ship. There the Naboo guards fought the arriving clone troopers so Kelleran and Grogu could flee the planet. They left to find the Jedi’s unnamed “friends.”
The History of Kelleran Beq in Star Wars
Best originally debuted as Jedi Kelleran Beq in an unusual way. The fictional Jedi Knight hosted the Star Wars kids gameshow Jedi Temple Challenge. It ran for 10 episodes on YouTube in the summer of 2020. There, Best’s character served as guide and mentor to contestants as they competed against one another in Jedi training exercises. The gameshow also featured Kelleran’s two droids, his AD-3 protocol droid and his astromech LX-R5.
The kids’ show revealed facts about Beq (who served aboard the Athylia starship) that proved important on The Mandalorian. Kelleran used to remind his sassy protocol droid he earned the nickname “The Sabered Hand” as a Padawan himself for deftly using two lightsabers at once. Those skills were on full display during Grogu’s rescue—as was his ability to look after younglings. It’s only fitting that Kelleran Beq saved the wee baby Grogu.
In a moving interview with StarWars.com about why he ultimately starred on The Mandalorian, Best also offered further insight into the character. That included how Kelleran feels and moves with the Force like someone swimming in water. He also discussed why Jedi Beq wanted to teach Padawans and what makes him such a good fighter.
Best has previously said his Jedi character is also related to Coruscant resident Achk Med-Beq. There is no official, canonical fact to back up that claim. However, there is still a pretty significant connection between the two. Best played both characters. He was also Med-Beq in Attack of the Clones. The brief background appearance allowed the actor to show his actual face on screen, something he didn’t get to do as Jar Jar. But this turn as Kelleran means much more than that small cameo long ago.
Why Ahmed Best’s Return to the Franchise Means So Much
The intense fan backlash to Jar Jar Binks is infamous. It was also extremely hard on Ahmed Best himself. He had been very proud of what he and George Lucas accomplished in creating one of cinema’s first fully motion-captured characters. But the over-the-top vitriol he received for playing the Gungun nearly led Best to take his own life.
Fortunately he overcome those struggles, and over the last few years he has opened up about his journey. He even shared how he went from standing on the Brooklyn Bridge thinking about jumping to years later taking his son to the very same spot.
He didn’t need to save Grogu to know what devoted Star Wars fans really think about him, though. Best got a standing ovation when he apparated at 2019’s Star Wars Celebration. But seeing his Jedi Knight save the possible future of the Jedi from Order 66 is still a triumphant return that would have felt impossible not that long ago.
No one in the franchise deserved a moment like this than Ahmed Best. He has always deserved so much better than he got from Star Wars fans long ago.
This post originally published on March 22, 2023.
Mikey Walsh is a staff writer at Nerdist. You can follow him on Twitter at @burgermike. And also anywhere someone is ranking the Targaryen kings.