By: Lana K. Wilson-Combs

There will be a few fresh faces on the BET show, “Being Mary Jane” when it makes its debut July 18 at 10 p.m.

Former National Football League star turned actor, Fred “The Hammer” Williamson will join the cast for three episodes of the show this season.

Prior to becoming a Hollywood star, producing, directing writing and starring in a string of hit movies throughout the 1970s such as “Black Caesar,” Hell up in Harlem” and “Three the Hard Way,” Williamson also enjoyed success in the NFL.

Williamson played defensive back for the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl I in 1967 against the Green Bay Packers. He was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers in 1960. He played four seasons for the Oakland Raiders, making the AFL All-Star team in 1961, 1962, and 1963. He also had a stint with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Williamson, 79, and fit as can be, took a break from golfing to talk with about his role on “Being Mary Jane” and working with the show’s stars Gabrielle Union, Richard Roundtree and Margaret Avery.

“The Hammer” also discussed the key to his longevity in show business and weighed in on the upcoming NFL season, the Colin Kaepernick saga and the teams Williamson follows.

Here’s what else Fred “The Hammer” Williamson had to say.

Q. “Being Mary Jane” returns to BET on July 18. How did you become part of this year’s show? Where you surprised to be asked and can you talk about your role?

A. Surprised? Why? The choice to be a romantic lead guest star was obvious. Believe it or not, an agent finally got me a job. This agent was an ex agent of Richard Roundtree (“Shaft”) who stars in “Being Mary Jane” too. The character I play is an old friend of “Tree” (Richard Roundtree) and Margaret Avery who plays his wife. I did three episodes of “Being Mary Jane” this season. There hasn’t been any discussion of me doing any future shows. I'm not committed to any TV shows or made any appearances on any other shows. I'm noted for film work not TV.

Q. Can you talk about your experience working with some of the cast of “Being Mary Jane” like Gabrielle Union and Michael Ealy or anyone else on the show?

A. Working on any show is the same for me. I don’t judge or pre-judge any actor. However, working with “Tree” was a hoot especially the cigar breaks. Margaret Avery was definitely a delight once more as she played my wife in one of my “Black Caesar” projects. All the others were pleasant too.

Q. Were you a fan of “Being Mary Jane” prior to signing on with the show? What do you like about it?

A. I’m a fan of any black show with black leads and co-stars and those that even have black producers and directors. I don’t judge the content, just the positions of power. It shows the progress being made that I helped to achieve over the years. I took many blows to show how it’s done and passed the baton on to those that were watching me even if they don't admit it.

Q. You are among of handful of veteran African-American actors who have been able to adapt to a very evolving entertainment landscape.
You’ve been on TV from the 1960s (“Julia” and “Star Trek”), transitioned from pro football into movies (“Hell up in Harlem” and “Starsky & Hutch” remake) and are still going strong. What’s been the key to your success and longevity? Surely there’s more than the “cool” factor at work, here right?

A. The key to any success is to learn the business of the business you are in so eventually you work more for yourself and control your creativity. The cool factor? You fail. Stay cool. You win. Stay cool. It’s short lived. Fortunately, for me I came that way. (LOL).

Q. With your bigger than life persona and magnetic personality, I could see you having your own reality show. Would that be something you’d consider? What would a Fred Williamson reality show be like?

A. A reality show? That's ridiculous!! Why would I want to expose THE HAMMER to the whole damn world? Forget about it!!!

Q. What other projects do you have cooking besides “Being Mary Jane?” Will we ever see Black Caesar/Tommy Gibbs in some capacity back on the big or small screen any time soon? Have you considered doing any off or on Broadway plays about “Hell up in Harlem?

A. Plays are too much work with no pay. A TV star you can forget that too. A star in films, yes. Here's what I want to do. Make films, travel, play golf and smoke cigars. Again, make films travel play golf smoke cigars. That’s all folks.

Q. Football season is right around the corner. And I would be remiss as a former sportswriter to not ask a former NFL star like you to share your thoughts about this upcoming season. Are you excited about some of the draft pics and teams this year? How do you think your former teams, the Oakland Raiders with Derek Carr and the addition of Marshawn Lynch, the “Kaepernick-less” San Francisco 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs will do? Do you think “Kap” will wind up on another team or has he been blackballed from the league because of his political stance?

A. Pro football doesn’t interest me as much as college football. I don't follow individual players. Just show me a good hard played game without a lot of stupid mistakes and half-ass efforts. Sometimes I think their pockets are too heavy. For me the game has changed and not for the better. The Oakland Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs are my teams. All others are mere folly. As far as “Kapponinkel” is concerned, he should have been cut after his first kneel down. I wouldn't call what he did a political stance. He kneeled, remember?

Q. What else is on the horizon for you on the movie front?

A. I have a new movie out called “Checkpoint” which stars William Forsythe (TV’s “Chicago Justice”). Stay tuned. More to follow.

Editor’s Note: Be sure to catch Fred “The Hammer” Williamson in the new season of “Being Mary Jane” July 18 on BET at 10 p.m.

Photos: Courtesy of Fred Williamson and BET.