Actor Liam Neeson said he felt a "primal urge" to seek revenge against black men after a close friend was raped 40 years ago, but that he sought help from a priest and exercise and "eventually came down to Earth."
Neeson appeared on Good Morning America Tuesday morning to discuss an interview in the Independent, published on Monday, where the Taken actor revealed that he'd gone out searching for black men to kill.
"I had never felt that feeling before, which was a primal urge to lash out," he said on Tuesday. "It was this primal hatred."
Neeson explained to GMA host Robin Roberts that a close friend — who died five years ago — told him that she'd been raped by a black man she did not know.
"There were some nights I went out deliberately into black areas in the city looking to be set upon so that I could unleash physical violence," said Neeson. "My friend was brutally raped and I thought I was defending her honor."
The actor said he went hunting for black men around four or five times, "until I caught myself on."
In the Independent interview, the actor explained how he'd go looking for men to attack.
“I went up and down areas with a cosh, hoping I’d be approached by somebody – I’m ashamed to say that — and I did it for maybe a week, hoping some [Neeson gestures air quotes with his fingers] ‘black bastard’ would come out of a pub and have a go at me about something, you know? So that I could... kill him," he said.
On GMA, he said he confessed to a priest, spoke to two friends about his violent feelings, and took up power walking.
"Believe it or not, power walking two hours every day. To get rid of this," said Neeson. "It shocked me and it hurt me."
Roberts asked Neeson if he would have had the same violent reaction if his friend had identified her rapist as a white man.
"Oh definitely," replied Neeson. "If she had said an Irish or a Scot or a Brit or a Lithuanian, I know I would have had the same effect. I was trying to show honor, to stand up for my dear friend, in this terrible medieval fashion."
Neeson said the only reason he'd brought up the incident was because a journalist had asked him how he tapped into the idea of revenge, a theme of his new film.
"I’m not racist," said Neeson, explaining that he'd grown up in Northern Ireland during the Troubles and had been surrounded by religious and nationalist conflict his whole life.
"We all pretend we are all politically correct. In this country; my own country, too. You scratch the surface and discover this racism and bigotry," he said.