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Mahershala Ali Responded To His Costar Viggo Mortensen Saying The N-Word

“The use of the word by those who aren’t black, is not up for debate,” said Ali.

Posted on November 10, 2018, at 10:38 a.m. ET

Universal Pictures

Mahershala Ali said he was hurt by his Green Book costar Viggo Mortensen’s inappropriate use of the n-word during a Q&A session on Wednesday to promote the new film, but added that he has accepted his apology.

“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 to Variety. “He has made it clear to me that he’s aware of this, and apologized profusely immediately following the Q&A with Elvis Mitchell.”

In Green Book, Mortensen plays a bigoted Italian American bouncer who befriends Ali’s character, a talented pianist, in the Deep South of the 1960s.

Mortensen uttered the word during an answer he was giving about hate speech that is no longer appropriate.

His use of the slur immediately sent gasps through the audience. “The oxygen immediately left the room,” tweeted one person in attendance.

The actor later said he had been trying to make a point about how casually people used the n-word during the era in which the film is set.

“Although my 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,” he said in a subsequent apology statement provided to BuzzFeed News. “I do not use the word in private or in public. I am very sorry that I did use the full word last night, and will not utter it again.”

Jerod Harris / Getty Images

Ali said Mortensen apologized immediately after the Q&A session, which he accepted.

“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,” Ali said in his statement.

The statement 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 within the black community has long been debated, and its usage should continue to be examined within the black community.

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.


Viggo Mortensen’s name was misspelled in an earlier version of this post.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.