Liam Neeson is setting the record straight. The Cold Pursuit star appeared on Tuesday’s Good Morning America, where he spoke with Robin Roberts about the controversial comments he made in a recent interview.
The 66-year-old actor shared a story with Britain’s The Independent about a time when he once sought revenge after an unnamed female loved one told him she had allegedly had been raped by a black man. “I went up and down areas with a cosh, hoping I’d be approached by somebody,” he told the publication. “I’m ashamed to say that — and I did it for maybe a week, hoping some ‘black b*****d’ would come out of a pub and have a go at me about something, you know? So that I could… kill him.”
On GMA, Neeson noted that the incident in question took place “nearly 40 years ago” and involved “a very dear friend of mine” whom he said was “brutally raped” and has since passed away.
The Taken star then began to recount the same story he told The Independent, recalling that after his friend told him that her alleged attacker was black, he “went out deliberately and to black areas in the city, looking to be set upon so that I could unleash physical violence.”
“I did it for, I’d say maybe four or five times, until I caught myself on,” he admitted to Roberts. “And it really shocked me, this primal urge I had. It shocked me and it hurt me.”
The actor says he “did seek help” following the incident, and “went to a priest and had my confession.”
He also noted that he spoke with two good friends about his feelings at that time and added that “power walking” two hours a day helped him get through his anger.
Neeson fervently denied being racist, telling Roberts outright, “I’m not racist. This was nearly 40 years ago, and because I was brought up in the North of Ireland and brought up in the Troubles, the ‘60s, ‘70s, and early ‘80s, there was a war going on in the North of Ireland, and I had acquaintances who were involved in the Troubles, the bigotry. One Catholic would be killed, the next day a Protestant would be killed. One Catholic pub would be bombed and then a Protestant pub bombed. I grew up around that, but was never part of it.”
Roberts asked Neeson why he specifically asked about his friend’s attacker’s race, and he said he also inquired about other physical descriptors. The GMA anchor went on to inquire if he’d have had the same reaction if his friend was attacked by a white man.
“Oh, definitely,” Neeson replied. “If she said Irish, Scott, a Brit, I know I would have the same effect. I was trying to show honor to stand up for my dear friend in this terrible medieval fashion. I’m a fairly intelligent guy, that’s why it kind of shocked me, and then I came down to Earth after having these horrible feelings. Luckily, no violence occurred ever. Thank god.”
Roberts then asked, “Do you think you actually would have done it if an innocent black man didn’t do anything wrong?”
Neeson answered, “Yes. Yes. That was my feeling. I did want to lash out. Yes. Because my friend was brutally raped and I thought I was defending her honor. And I admit that. It’s a learning curve.”
Neeson added that he hopes his confession will lead others to deal with their anger in a non-vengeful manner. “To talk about these things. We all pretend we are politically correct. In this country, sometimes you just scratch the surface and discover this racism and bigotry and it’s there,” he told Roberts. “I remember when shooting Schindler’s List in Poland 26 years ago and hearing remarks from drivers who were taking us to the set, thinking to myself, ‘Am I hearing this right? This guy is making anti-Jewish comments to me, who is playing Oscar Schindler in the back of a car?’ and it happened several times.”
Meanwhile, the reaction to Neeson’s interview with The Independent has been widely negative as people have called for the actor to be “canceled.”