Actor responds to backlash after racist admission

Liam Neeson said he hoped that sharing the nearly 40-year-old story would encourage more frank talk about race.
1:56 | 02/06/19

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Transcript for Actor responds to backlash after racist admission
James, thank you. Back here at home now, and to actor Liam Neeson, defending himself to our robin Roberts after what he said. The actor revealing a very personal experience of rage, revenge and race after a friend had been brutally raped decades ago. Neeson saying who he had the urge to kill. Here's ABC's linsey Davis tonight. Reporter: Just hours before hitting the red carpet for the premiere of his latest movie "Cold pursuit" -- ?????? Reporter: Neeson speaking out for the first time since sparking backlash after this startling admission after learned a friend had been raped. He was engaged when he learned the attacker was black. 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. Reporter: He initially shared the story during an interview about the film where he plays a man out for revenge. I'm not racist. Reporter: Today on "Good morning America," he tried to explain. If she said an Irish or a Scot or a Brit or a Lithuanian, I know I would have had the same effect. Reporter: You've learned from that. But have to also understand the pain of a black person hearing what you said. Of course. Of course. Absolutely. You're absolutely right. Yeah. Around and at the time, even though it was nearly 40 years ago, I didn't think about that. Reporter: His hope now is that this will encourage more frank conversation about race. We all pretend we're all kind of, you know, politically correct. I mean, in this country, it's same in my own country, too, you sometimes just scratch the surface and you discover this racism and bigotry and it's there. Reporter: Neeson admits that his actions were, quote, awful. He also says that he did seek help and confessed to a priest. David? Linsey Davis tonight. Linsey, thank you.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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