The controversy surrounding Nate Parker’s 17-year-old rape case has seemingly overshadowed his upcoming film The Birth of a Nation. On Sunday night, the actor sat down with Anderson Cooper on CBS’ 60 Minutes to discuss the historical film — based on Nat Turner’s unsuccessful 19th century slave revolt — and the rape allegations.
When Parker was a 19-year-old sophomore at Pennsylvania State University, he and his former roommate and friend, Jean Celestin, were accused of rape by a female classmate. Parker was acquitted, while Celestin, who helped create The Birth of a Nation, was found guilty of sexual assault. Celestin’s conviction was eventually overturned. In 2012, the accuser committed suicide after several failed attempts, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
Cooper asked Parker, now 36, if he feels any guilt and if he wanted to issue an apology.
“I don’t feel guilty … I’ll say this. I do think it’s tragic, so much of what happened and [what] the family had to endure with respect to this woman not being here. I don’t want to harp on this and be disrespectful of them, but at some point I have to say it: I was falsely accused. I went to court, and I sat in trial. I was vind— [choking up]. I was vindicated. I was proven innocent, and I feel terrible that this woman isn’t here. Her family had to deal with that, but as I sit here, an apology is — no.”
Parker has been attempting to focus the attention back on the film despite the possibility that many people won’t see the movie because of the actor’s own controversy. “I do feel that’s unfortunate. I think that Nat Turner, as a hero, what he did in history, is bigger than me. I think it’s bigger than all of us,” Parker said.
The Birth of a Nation will be released in theaters nationwide this Friday.