Donald Glover Had To Work Hard To Get Liam Neeson To Make Fun Of His Racism Controversy On ‘Atlanta’

Liam Neeson may be a beloved Hollywood figure, but in 2019 he almost permanently torpedoed his affable ass-kicker image. While promoting his thriller Cold Pursuit, he revealed a bizarre story about how, when he was younger, a friend of his was sexually assaulted by a Black person. He said that prompted him to take to the streets with a weapon, hoping to find a “Black bastard” who would “come out of a pub and have a go at me…so that I could kill him.” He quickly apologized for the anecdote, which he said was supposed to show how he overcame youthful racism and became a better person. He later made fun of it on an episode of Atlanta — a move that took some doing on creator/star Donald Glover’s part.

In a new interview with GQ (in a bit caught by Variety), Glover recalled how he reached out to Neeson after deciding he needed to be on his show.

“When I got in touch with him, Liam poured his heart out,” Glover said. But Neeson was reluctant to return to his screw-up. “He was like, ‘I am embarrassed. I don’t know about this. I’m trying to get away from that.’ And I was like, ‘Man, I’m telling you, this will be funny! And you’ll actually get a lot of cream from it because it’ll show you’re sorry.’  He asked me to let him think about it. Then he sent me an email saying, ‘I don’t think I can do it and best of luck with “Atlanta,” blah-blah-blah.’ ”

But Glover wouldn’t give up. Neeson had told him that after the incident, he reached out to people like Morgan Freeman, Spike Lee, and Jordan Peele. “So I was like…Jordan Peele!” Glover recalled thinking. “I hit Jordan Peele up and I was like, ‘Look, man, I got this idea. He said that he trusted you. Tell him it’s a good idea!’”

That’s what Peele did, and soon Neeson was playing a fictionalized version of himself on the Season 3 episode “New Jazz,” which bowed lat year. In the episode Neeson has a run-in with Brian Tyree Henry’s Paper Boi at a bar called, appropriately, the Cancel Club.

“You might’ve heard or read about my transgression,” Neeson-as-Neeson tells Paper Boi. He continued:

“You know, what I said about what I wanted to do to a Black guy, any Black guy, when I was a younger man in London. A friend of mine had been raped and I acted out of anger. I look back now and it honestly frightens me. I thought people knowing who I once was would make clear who I am, who I’ve become. But with all that being said, I am sorry. I apologize if I hurt people.”

You can watch the Atlanta episode in question on Hulu.

(Via GQ and Variety)