Liam Neeson has insisted he is not racist following an interview in The Independent in which he spoke of roaming the streets with a cosh, wanting to kill a “black bastard” after someone close to him was raped years ago.

The 66 year-old actor said race had not played a part in his actions, claiming he would have reacted in the same way if his friend's attacker had been "a Scot or a Brit or a Lithuanian".

He also said his behaviour was a result of wanting to show "honour" after someone close to him had been assaulted.

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The comments came after The Independent revealed that Neeson had walked the streets after learning of his friend's rape, hoping a black man would start a fight with him so he could kill him.

Speaking to ABC's Good Morning America programme, he said: "I'm not racist."

But he repeated that he had asked his friend the race of her attacker. "She said he was a black man, I thought 'OK'," he said. 

"Then after that I went out deliberately into black areas of the city looking to be set upon so I could unleash physical violence and I did it maybe four or five times until I caught myself on and it really shocked me, this primal urge I had."

The actor said to interviewer Robin Roberts that he visited a priest to discuss the incident and “went power-walking two hours every day” to “get rid” of his feelings. 

“We all pretend we’re all politically correct,” he continued. “In this country, and same in my own, sometimes you scratch the surface and discover this racism and bigotry, and it’s there.

“I remember shooting Schindler’s List, 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, a guy playing Schindler?’ Sometimes we’d see swastikas on walls painted by people who knew we were going to the set.”

Neeson said he was thankful that “no violence occurred” and called the experience ”a learning curve”.

The online reaction to the response was mixed, with many Twitter users concluding Neeson had made things “worse for himself” while others thought the actor came off well.

Neeson revealed the story to The Independent after being asked to give more insight into his Cold Pursuit character Nels Coxman’s need for revenge after his son is killed by a drug gang.

Following the interview’s publication, there was outrage online, with social media users accusing Neeson of racism. 

American film producer Tariq Nasheed said: “Keep in mind that Liam Neeson didn’t say he just has some ‘revenge fantasy’. He actually went out for a week LOOKING for a black person to kill, but he couldn’t find one.”

Liam Neeson: ‘I walked the streets with a cosh, hoping I’d be approached by a ‘black bastard’ so that I could kill him’

Actor Terry Crews, former American football player who stars in Brooklyn Nine-Nine, wrote on social media: “Reminds me of a time I got provoked by a rich white guy I didn’t know. Hoping I would do something.”

Some people came to the actor’s defence, including former England football player John Barnes, who said Neeson should be "given a medal" for saying he had been ashamed of the incident.

The Independent previously contacted Neeson’s publicist for further comment but he declined.

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Read the full interview on The Independent here.