Critically-acclaimed meta surreal series “Atlanta,” created by star Donald Glover, didn’t shy away from having Neeson address his past statements about seeking out a “Black bastard” who raped his friend 40 years ago. “It was horrible, horrible, when I think back, that I did that,” Neeson told The Independent in 2019. However, his film “Cold Pursuit” subsequently canceled its premiere soon thereafter and Neeson publicly apologized for trying to avenge his female friend.
Now, in 2022, Neeson stars opposite Brian Tyree Henry in a new “Atlanta” episode penned by Glover. The scene includes Henry as rapper Paper Boi sitting at a bar called Cancel Club talking to Neeson, who plays a fictionalized version of himself, as reported by People.
“You might’ve heard or read about my transgression — you know, what I said about what I wanted to do to a Black guy. Any Black guy, when I was a younger man. A friend of mine had been raped, and I acted out of anger,” Neeson says in character. “I look back, man, it honestly frightens me. I thought people, knowing who I once was, [that it would] would make clear who I am, who I’ve become.”
Neeson adds, “But, with all that being said, I am sorry. I apologize if I hurt people.”
Paper Boi (Henry) responds, “Well, between you and me, I still fuck with ‘Taken’,” before laughing. “It’s good to know that you don’t hate Black people.”
Neeson quips in return, “What? No, no, no, I can’t stand the lot of you. Now I feel that way, because you tried to ruin my career. Didn’t succeed, mind you. I’m sure one day I’ll get over it, but until then, we are mortal enemies.”
Paper Boi says back, “But didn’t you learn that you shouldn’t say shit like that?”
Neeson concludes his cameo with, “Aye. But I also learned that the best and worst part about being white is you don’t have to learn anything if you don’t want to.”
The “Widows” actor previously spoke out about his past comments in 2019.
“The horror of what happened to my friend ignited irrational thoughts that do not represent the person I am,” Neeson wrote in a statement. “In trying to explain those feelings today, I missed the point and hurt many people at a time when language is so often weaponized and an entire community of innocent people are targeted in acts of rage.”
He later told “Good Morning America” host Robin Roberts that he is “not a racist” and would have searched for any male fitting the description his friend told him.
“If she’d have said an Irish, or a Scott, or a Brit or a Lithuanian, I know [it] would’ve had the same effect,” Neeson said. “I was trying to show honor — to stand up for my dear friend in this terrible medieval fashion…It was a learning curve.”