TELEVISION Liam Neeson Addresses Previous Racist Comments in New “Atlanta” Cameo

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The popular show, “Atlanta,” featured actor Liam Neeson on its episode that screened on Thursday, May 5. Neeson made a cameo appearance to seemingly readdress his racist comments he made back in February 2019. For context, in 2019, Neeson was interviewed to discuss his process of coming into character for the film, “Cold Pursuit,” wherein he needed to portray a character who turned to anger. As he recalled how a friend told him that she was raped, Neeson immediately asked her “what color” the offender was. He then stated that he was so angry, that he spent a week carrying a baton with hopes that he would run into a “black bastard” so that he could “kill him.” 

Though Neeson made these racist comments back in 2019, he appears in this recent episode of Atlanta to recount the incident again. His cameo came at time during the segment when the cast member, Brian Tyree Henry (“Paper boi”), has stumbled into a bar in Amsterdam called the “Cancel Club,” where Neeson is also customer. The bar appears to gratify and accommodate people who have been called out on their inappropriate behavior, so upon meeting “Paper boi” at the bar, Neeson explains why he is a customer:

“You might’ve heard or read about my transgression—you know, what I said 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 stated in the scene.

“I look back, man, it honestly frightens me. I thought people, knowing who I was once was, would make clear who I am, who I’ve become.

“But, with all that being said…I am sorry. I apologize if I hurt people,” Neeson stated.

After hearing the story and subsequent apology, Henry’s character, Paper Boi, facetiously tells Neeson, “Well between you and me…I still fuck with ‘Taken,’” and they both share a laugh.

Paper boi also added, “It’s good to know that you don’t hate Black people.” And at this juncture of the scene, Neeson further exposes what was under the veneer of his 2019 comments and the criticism that ensued.

“What? No, no, no, I can’t stand the lot of you,” Neeson asserted. “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 asks, “But didn’t you learn that you shouldn’t say shit like that?”

Neeson confidently responds: “Aye. But l 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.”

Now, this scene appeared to take a dark comedic turn; however, Neeson’s response in this scene and his comments back in 2019 are no laughing matter. In fact, historically, we have seen the justification of Black death at the ends of white supremacists who view Black men as inherently violent. The reviews about this most recent episode are varied, but the hubris Neeson approaches this dialogue with reflects the arrogance and impunity of white people.

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