Twentieth Century Fox has dropped Kian Lawley from upcoming film The Hate U Give after video surfaced of the former YouTube star making racist comments.
The Hate U Give, based on Angie Thomas’ best-selling young-adult novel of the same name, centers on the life of Starr Carter, a young black teen, after she witnesses a childhood friend getting killed by a police officer. Amandla Sternberg was slated to play Starr, and Lawley to play her prep school love interest, Chris.
Variety published the story on Monday night with a link to the YouTube clip. In it, Lawley, hanging out in a room with his friends, looks at the camera and says, “We’re all black drinking purple Kool-Aid and eating Kentucky fried motherfucking chicken.” He also says the n-word, which is bleeped out.
The YouTube user who posted the video says it is “three to four” years old, meaning that the 22-year-old Lawley would have been in his late teens at the time.
Lawley first responded to the backlash over the weekend via his Twitter account.
“If you don’t learn from your mistakes, you can never grow as a person,” Lawley wrote. “I’ve learned a lot and I am grateful to have the power to change. I never want to be who I was yesterday.”
“Use your voice as your weapon,” Lawley added—an allusion to a prominent line in The Hate U Give novel, which focuses on themes of police brutality and racism.
Following 20th Century Fox’s decision to fire him, Lawley issued the following statement to Variety:
Words have power and can do damage. I own mine and I am sorry. I respect Fox’s decision to recast this role for The Hate U Give as it is an important story, and it would not be appropriate for me to be involved considering the actions of my past. I understand the impact and I have grown and learned since then. From now on I plan to use my voice for positive change.
The studio says that it will recast the role. The all-star cast will also feature Issa Rae, Regina Hall, Russell Hornsby, Algee Smith and Common.