Mahershala Ali has spoken out after his Green Book co-star Viggo Mortensen used the N-word at a screening of their film earlier this week.
Mortensen and Ali were part of a conversation on Wednesday night about their film when Mortensen dropped the slur. 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).
According to Variety, Mortensen was speaking about the continued use of hate speech, and used the N-word specifically as an example of speech that’s no longer common in conversation.
“However well-intended or intellectual the conversation may have been, it wasn’t appropriate for Viggo to say the n-word,” Ali said in a statement. “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.”
In his apology, Mortensen admitted that he had “no right to even imagine the hurt that is caused by hearing that word in any context, especially from a white man. “
“I am very sorry that I did use the full word last night, and will not utter it again,” he added.
In his statement, Ali said the discussion was overshadowed by the slur.
“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.”