Liam Neeson cameoed on Donald Glover's Atlanta over guilt for making racist statements.
Multitalented artist, actor, and television series creator Donald Glover recently sat down for an interview to discuss career highlights such as the upcoming Community movie and his work on the recently concluded FX series Atlanta. Per a write-up from Indie Wire, Glover revealed that one of Atlanta‘s biggest Season 3 cameos came about courtesy of a guilty conscience and a little bit of elbow grease from Nope director Jordan Peele. Liam Neeson, who appeared in the Season 3 episode “New Jazz,” only agreed to appear as himself in the hit series due to his own guilt from comments he made, which nearly got him cancelled by Hollywood.
The comments in question came from Liam Neeson’s 2019 media appearance to promote his film Cold Pursuit. While on the press trail for the film, the Taken actor decided to tell what he thought was an innocuous story about how a black man sexually assaulted his friend, causing the actor to seek revenge, much like the many scorned tough guys he plays on the big screen. While describing the unfortunate gut reaction he experienced as a troubled youth, Neeson explained that he went out searching for any random “black bastard” he could take his aggression out on.
Obviously, these comments paint a horrific picture of a person at their lowest moment, but Liam Neeson would go on to explain that he was explaining how he felt at the time and that he did not intend to present any racist thoughts or feelings toward people of color. Of course, the damage had already been done, as fans rapidly took to the internet to call the actor out, damaging his career prospects in the short term.
In his Atlanta appearance, series lead Alfred, as portrayed by Across the Spider-Verse actor Brian Tyree Henry, happens upon Liam Neeson in a hip underground bar called the Cancel Club. At the Cancel Club, celebrities of various controversies can drown their sorrows while laying low from the limelight, licking their wounds while trying not to damage their careers. When Alfred first meets Liam Neeson, who portrays a fictionalized version of himself in the appearance, the pair make small talk regarding Neeson’s controversial comments, allowing him to take responsibility for the irresponsible phrasing he used while telling the story, as well as poke a little fun at himself for the whole misunderstanding.
However, the meeting takes a sharp turn when Alfred explains that he still supports Liam Neeson’s career and never truly believed that the actor held any ill will towards the black community. In a hilarious turn of fate, Liam Neeson explains that he never initially felt any malice for black people until the comments jeopardized his career, revealing that after the controversy, he has become a full-on racist as a knee-jerk reaction to being attacked online. The interaction leaves Alfred speechless as Neeson finishes his drink and departs from the bar.
Obviously, the move was highly risky for Liam Neeson, as some fans could misconstrue the farcical nature of his appearance as a real admission. Neeson had many reservations before signing on for the cameo, until Jordan Peele worked as a middle man between Neeson and Donald Glover to reassure him the appearance would be well received. After much debate, Neeson finally agreed, leading to one of the most iconic cameo appearances from the show’s four-season run.