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MIB's Tessa Thompson and Liam Neeson discussed his race outburst

MIB actress says co-star explained his February remarks, appreciates his bravery

PARIS Men In Black: International actress Tessa Thompson said she "appreciates the bravery" of co-star Liam Neeson in facing up to his racist feelings in the past.

The African-American actress said she had been in contact with Neeson since he admitted harbouring thoughts about killing a random black man after a woman close to him was raped.

"I had many conversations via e-mail with Liam," said Thompson, who plays new recruit Agent M opposite Chris Hemsworth in Men In Black: International, now in cinemas.

"I realised that in speaking to the press, sometimes there can be a huge chasm between what you intend and what your impact is," she said.

Thompson, who has also starred in Creed and the Marvel blockbusters Thor and Avengers, told AFP she found Neeson, 67, "very responsive" to her concerns.

"I expressed to Liam the importance in my mind of clarifying his heart, because many people who do not have proximity to him would not understand it, and his words would have confused them and for many, really hurt and alienated them," Thompson added.

Neeson holds up a memory eraser used by the agents in the poster for the film, with social media wags saying that Hollywood executives probably wished it was real after the outcry he sparked in February while promoting the revenge thriller Cold Pursuit.

Neeson has been conspicuously absent for the publicity tour to launch the blockbuster.

A handful of fans demanded he be cut from the movie, as Kevin Spacey was from All The Money In The World after being hit by multiple sexual harassment claims.

MAJOR ROLE

Neeson has a major role in the film as High T, the head of MIB's London bureau charged with protecting the "Earth from the scum of the universe".

Thompson said she hoped lessons have been learnt from Neeson's confession, with the actor denying he was a racist and saying he was merely trying to "open up" about latent "racism and bigotry".

"I appreciate his bravery in talking (about)... something that happened in his past," Thompson said.

"I don't feel a responsibility to speak for him," she added, "but it did allow a real conversation to happen and it was a teachable moment."

"I think we all need to be conscientious that our words can have a huge effect, particularly if we are in a position of power that celebrity gives.

"I am glad he has taken the time to clarify them."

Thompson was guarded about her own reaction to Neeson's admission, admitting that she has "more to say than time allows".

"But I will acknowledge that because of his experiences (growing up in Northern Ireland) there are some cultural differences."

Neeson has frequently said that he was made to feel like a second-class citizen growing up a Catholic in Northern Ireland during the Troubles. - AFP

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