Billy Dee Williams Leaves Dancing With the Stars Because of Back Problem

Entertainment Mar. 31, 2014 AT 8:25PM
Billy Dee Williams After struggling for two weeks in a row on Dancing With the Stars, Billy Dee Williams announced his decision to leave the show for medical reasons Credit: Craig Sjodin/ABC/Getty Images

Billy Dee Williams is putting away his dancing shoes. The Star Wars actor, who will be 77 on April 6, is leaving Dancing With the Stars for medical reasons, he revealed on the Monday, March 31, episode.

"I've got this chronic back problem," he said. "I've had a wonderful, brilliant, fantastic blast of a time...Pure joy. And I want to thank every one of you folks for your support."

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Williams, the most senior contestant on the show's 18th season, made it through the first round of eliminations on March 24 but has struggled visibly with his routines and rehearsals. "I'm doing pretty good for a 77-year-old, but I can't do all the things I did when I was a young lad," he said in his week one intro package, noting that he has had two hip replacements.

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The next week -- after earning just 15 out of 30 for his premiere dance, a Star Wars-themed cha cha cha with partner Emma Slater -- he seemed even less sure of himself. "I look like an old man trying to be a young person," he lamented.

Slater, for her part, has praised Williams' resilience, saying, "Billy's commitment and determination is fantastic, and I feel like that's because he has something to prove."

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Unfortunately, that commitment and determination didn't translate on the dance floor. Williams and Slater were the lowest-scoring couple two weeks in a row, and though Carrie Ann Inaba, Len Goodman, and Bruno Tonioli urged him not to get discouraged, they also said he needed to step it up a little to stay in the competition.

Viewers will never get to find out what else he had to offer, but Williams is grateful for the experience nonetheless. "My time on Dancing With the Stars is an epic moment," he said. "This is something I'm going to carry with me."

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