Liam Neeson has admitted that he harboured violent thoughts about killing a black person after someone close to him was raped.

The actor said he walked the streets armed with a weapon hoping he would be approached by someone so that he could kill them.

Neeson, who was promoting his latest film Cold Pursuit, told the Independent that he was ashamed by his actions.

The actor was discussing how his character turns to anger when he said: "There's something primal - God forbid you've ever had a member of your family hurt under criminal conditions. I'll tell you a story. This is true."

He said the rape happened some time ago and he found out about it after he came back from a trip abroad.

He said of his friend: "She handled the situation of the rape in the most extraordinary way.

"But my immediate reaction was ... I asked, did she know who it was? No. What colour were they? She said it was a black person.

"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 for maybe a week, hoping some [Neeson gestures air quotes with his fingers] black bastard would come out of a pub and have a go at me about something, you know? So that I could kill him.

"It took me a week, maybe a week-and-a-half, to go through that. She would say, 'where are you going?' and I would say, 'I'm just going out for a walk'. You know? 'What's wrong?' 'No no, nothing's wrong'.

"It was horrible, horrible, when I think back, that I did that. And I've never admitted that, and I'm saying it to a journalist. God forbid.

"It's awful. But I did learn a lesson from it, when I eventually thought, 'What the f*** are you doing', you know?

"I come from a society - I grew up in Northern Ireland in the Troubles - and, you know, I knew a couple of guys that died on hunger strike.

"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.

"All this stuff that's happening in the world, the violence, is proof of that, you know. But that primal need, I understand."