Viggo Mortensen is apologizing for using the n-word while promoting his new film with Mahershala Ali earlier in the week. Mortensen and Ali appeared at a Q&A screening for Green Book at the Arclight Hollywood Wednesday (Nov. 8), where he used the n-word to explain how nobody really uses the racial slur anymore.
The Danish actor released a statement clarifying that his 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,” Mortenssen said according to Variety. “I am very sorry that I did use the full word last night, and will not utter it again.”
Ali accepted the mea culpa, but noted that Mortensen’s use of the word was inappropriate. “However well-intended or intellectual the conversation may have been, it wasn’t appropriate for Viggo to say the n-word,” Ali said. “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 in the black community has long been debated, and its usage should continue to be examined within the black community.”
Ali added, “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.”
Green Book depicts Jamaican-American pianist Don Shirley (played by Ali) as he tours through the segregated Deep South in 1962, with a white bouncer (played by Mortensen) working as his driver and security guard.
The film is currently in theaters.