Mahershala Ali has now spoken about his Green Book co-star Viggo Mortensen using the N-word during a panel about the film last week.
The Q&A panel took place after the Film Independent Presents screening of the film at Arclight Hollywood. Mortensen was with Ali and director Peter Farrelly for the panel when he began to speak about racial progress in the country. “For instance, no one says n**ger anymore,” Mortensen said, per Film Independent member Dick Schulz. “Viggo just started talking, and it got away from him quickly. He started talking about how, in this climate, the world today, progress isn’t going to happen quickly, it’s going to happen slowly, but the movie is going to mean a lot for a long time because we’re constantly coming up against racism and how racism is almost human nature and these things come in waves,” Schulz told The Hollywood Reporter last week.
Mortensen released an apology that reads in part, “In making the point that many people casually used the ‘N’ word at the time in which the movie’s story takes place, in 1962, I used the full word. Although my intention was to speak strongly against racism, I have no right to even imagine the hurt that is caused by hearing that word in any context, especially from a white man. I do not use the word in private or in public. I am very sorry that I did use the full word last night, and will not utter it again.”
Accepting his co-star’s apology, here’s what Ali said about Mortensen’s blunder:
“However well-intended or intellectual the conversation may have been, it wasn’t appropriate for Viggo to say the N-word. He has made it clear to me that he’s aware of this, and apologized profusely immediately following the Q&A with Elvis Mitchell. Knowing his intention was to express that removing the N-word from your vocabulary doesn’t necessarily disqualify a person as a racist or participating in actions or thoughts that are bigoted, I can accept and embrace his apology.” He continued, “An excellent and poignant thought was unfortunately overshadowed by voicing the word in its fullness. Which for me, is always hurtful. The use of the word within the Black community has long been debated, and its usage should continue to be examined within the Black community. The use of the word by those who aren’t Black, is not up for debate. The history of discrimination, slavery, pain, oppression and violence that the word has come to symbolize only causes harm to members of the Black community and therefore needs to be left in the past.”