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Viggo Mortensen Says Being Accused of Racism After N-Word Quote Was ‘Unfair’ and ‘Damaging’

The Best Actor Oscar contender was asked on camera during in interview with France 24 about using the N-word.

Viggo Mortensen recently joined France 24 for a video interview promoting his new film “Green Book,” and the conversation turned serious when the interviewer brought up the actor’s recent use of the N-word. Mortensen drew backlash for saying the derogatory term aloud during a November post-screening Q&A. The actor once again clarified his intention behind saying the word while also criticizing the way the media jumped on the story and misinterpreted it.

“I would like to say that how it has been explained, that I was simply saying the N-word is not used anymore, that’s not what I was saying,” Mortensen said. “What I was saying was that just because people don’t say that word anymore, it doesn’t mean they don’t still harbor discrimination and racism inside of themselves. Racism tends to evolve and change its vocabulary, its face. That doesn’t mean it has disappeared. We always need to be on guard. That’s what I was saying. The full context.”

Mortensen continued, “One person tweeted I said that word and the room went silent. The room did not go silent. There was no context given, and that’s regrettable. It’s a serious thing to throw around. To accuse someone of being racist without giving context of what they were talking about, that’s not only unfair to me but it’s also damaging to social discourse. As the people who were in the room know, the context in which I used the word, which is shocking to people still, especially coming from a white person, it was to talk about the need for each generation to keep working. It does not disappear. We always have to be wary of it. That’s what I was talking about.”

Following the initial backlash, Mortensen immediately apologized for saying the word and later clarified his intention. Despite the controversy, the actor has remained a top contender to land an Oscar nomination for Best Actor. Mortensen earned a Golden Globe nomination this week for “Green Book,” one of five nominations for the film.

“Green Book” is now playing in theaters nationwide.

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