Mahershala Ali has accepted an apology from “Green Book” actor Viggo Mortensen for using the N-word on at a screening of their film — but noted that it was not appropriate for his co-star to use the slur.
Mortensen used the word on Wednesday night at the ArcLight Cinemas Hollywood during a conversation moderated by Film Independent programmer Elvis Mitchell. Mortensen was speaking about cyclical and generational use of hate speech, according to several audience members in attendance, and used the N-word specifically as an example of speech that’s no longer common in conversation.
In his subsequent apology, Mortensen said, “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.”
Ali responded on Friday by saying, “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.”
“Green Book” centers on a tour of the Deep South in the 1960s by Jamaican-American pianist Don Shirley (portrayed by Ali) and a bouncer serving as security (played by Mortensen).
“An excellent and poignant thought was unfortunately overshadowed by voicing the word in its fullness. Which for me, is always hurtful,” Ali said. “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.”
He concluded, “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.”
Ali won the Best Supporting Actor Academy Award last year for “Moonlight.” Mortensen was nominated for the Best Actor Academy Award for “Eastern Promises” and “Captain Fantastic.”