Actor Liam Neeson attends the premiere for "The Ballad of Buster Scruggs" at Alice Tully Hall during the 56th New York Film Festival on Thursday, Oct. 4, 2018, in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP) Credit: Evan Agostini | Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

Liam Neeson says he once roamed the streets in pursuit of a black person to murder after a close friend of his disclosed that she had been raped by a (different) black person. The actor recalled this “awful” impulse during a recent press junket for “Cold Pursuit,” the latest film in which he plays a wronged man seeking revenge.

“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 maybe for a week, hoping some ‘black bastard’ would come out of a pub and have a go at me about something, you know?” Neeson told the Independent’s Clémence Michallon in an article published Monday. “So that I could … kill him.” (“Cosh” is a British slang term for a bludgeon.)

Michallon noted that she, Neeson and his co-star Tom Bateman all acknowledged that this was a “distressing admission,” which Neeson volunteered out of the blue. The “Taken” star said the impulse lasted about a week and a half before he realized it “was horrible, horrible.”

After Bateman reacted with a concise “Holy s—,” Neeson brought up his upbringing in Northern Ireland during a decades-long period of violence called the Troubles: “I knew a couple guys that died on hunger strike, and I had acquaintances who were very caught up in the Troubles, and I understand that need for revenge, but it just leads to more revenge, to more killing and more killing, and Northern Ireland’s proof of that,” he said. “All this stuff that’s happening in the world, the violence, is proof of that, you know. But that primal need, I understand.”

In “Cold Pursuit,” Neeson plays a snowplow driver who seeks revenge against the drug dealers he believes murdered his son. In “Taken,” which spawned two sequels, he plays a former CIA operative who seeks revenge against sex traffickers who kidnapped his daughter and her best friend. But many have reacted to Neeson’s story in surprise — and disgust — given that the actor had never publicly admitted to this racist impulse before.

Neeson’s publicist has not returned a request for comment.