As the saying goes, hindsight is 20/20, and when Nate Parker looks back on the controversy he was previously embroiled in over past allegations of rape, he feels he could have handled things a lot differently.
While promoting his newest film and perhaps his comeback project, American Skin, the 39-year-old took time out at a press conference for it to apologize for being “tone deaf” in his response to backlash over the old allegations. In 2016, information came out about a woman claiming Parker and former wrestling teammate, Jean McGianni Celestin, raped her while they were students at Penn State University in 1999. The actor always maintained his innocence and was found not guilty of all the charges against him (Celestin was found guilty), but he wasn’t apologetic about the circumstances he put the accuser in at the time (including having her identity exposed when they were in school), or the fact that she killed herself in 2012. All of the drama that encircled him over his past happened right before the Me Too Movement took full form, but his career still took a hit. The film he directed and was promoting at the time, Birth of a Nation, which was about Nat Turner, tanked at the box office and didn’t receive any awards season love after being a critical darling at Sundance Film Festival.
“The last three years have been such a learning experience for me,” Parker said. “Three years ago I was pretty tone deaf to the realities of certain situations that were happening in the climate. And I’ve had a lot of time to think about that, and I’ve learned a lot from it. And being tone deaf, there were a lot of people that were hurt in my response, in the way I approached things. I apologize to those people.”
“I’ve learned, I’m continuing to learn,” he added. “I’m 39 years old now. Hopefully I have a long way to go. The hope is that I can continue taking the wisdom from people who care enough…and help me to be introspective about where I am and what I’ve been through.”
Parker certainly seems to have come a long way since he can admit that he wasn’t sensitive enough in his response to everything. At the time, while on the defense, he said there was nothing he felt like he needed to apologize for.
“I was falsely accused…I went to court…I was vindicated,” he said in a 2016 interview with 60 Minutes. “I feel terrible that this woman isn’t here…her family had to deal with that, but as I sit here, an apology is—no.”
Glad to hear he had a change of heart.
As for American Skin, Parker directed and stars in the film as an ex-Marine who takes justice into his own hands after seeing his unarmed son killed by police. Despite the personal drama that hindered his first feature film as director, he still doesn’t plan on shying away from telling important, tough stories.
“I’m still learning and growing and still feeling the need to make films that speak to things that need to change in our country and the world,” he told the AP. “And this topic was very dear to me.”