Regina King criticises Liam Neeson amid racial row: ‘Did it change what I think of him? Unfortunately yes'
Exclusive: Oscar-nominated 'If Beale Street Could Talk' actor says Neeson should take responsibility for his remarks
Regina King has offered her view on the Liam Neeson race row days after he told The Independent he once roamed the streets with a cosh, looking for a “black bastard” to kill after the rape of a close friend.
The Oscar-nominated actor was speaking to The Independent about Barry Jenkins’s adaptation of James Baldwin’s 1974 novel If Beale Street Could Talk when she said that Neeson should “absolutely” be responsible for how his remarks have made people feel.
“I don’t know if it’s a forgive-or-not type of situation; I think we have to accept differences,” she said. “Did it change what I think of him [after hearing the news]? Unfortunately yes, it did.”
King said Neeson, whom she branded “ignorant”, shouldn’t be surprised by the backlash to his comments.
“Do you need to be responsible for what you make other people feel because you’re expressing what you feel? Absolutely. So don’t be surprised when someone doesn’t want to work with you… or when you’re not getting a job because they can’t hire any other actors who want to stand beside you. That was a choice that you made.”
King said she learnt about Neeson’s quotes from Richard E Grant – who’s Oscar-nominated for his role in Can You Ever Forgive Me? – at an Academy Award nominee party on Monday during a conversation with Vice star Amy Adams.
“Richard had a sickening look on his face as he was telling this story,” King recalled, adding that Adams went “pale”. She continued: “Richard was like, ‘I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to f*** it up'."
In a follow-up interview on Good Morning America, Neeson said that if his close friend had said she'd been raped by "a Brit, a Scot [or] a Lithuanian", he "would have reacted the same". Referencing this, King said: “If that was the case, you wouldn’t have addressed it as 'a black man.' It would have just been a man. He specifically had to put a race on it, so that’s unfortunate.”
King drew parallels with the plot of new film If Beale Street Could Talk. One scene in the Baldwin adaptation shows a white cop, played by Ed Skrein, targeting a young African-American couple (Stephan James and KiKi Layne). The male, named Fonny, is later charged with a rape he didn’t commit.
“It relates – 45 years ago, James Baldwin wrote this book and here we are,” she said.
If Beale Street Could Talk is in cinemas today – read our five-star review here.