The actor Liam Neeson said in an interview with a British newspaper last month that he once spent a week walking the streets with a club looking for a black man to kill after a woman close to him was raped by someone she said was black.

“She handled the situation of the rape in the most extraordinary way,” Mr. Neeson said of the episode, which he said happened years ago. “But my immediate reaction was, did she know who it was? No. What color 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,” the Northern Ireland-born Mr. Neeson said, using a British word that describes a clublike weapon. “I’m ashamed to say that, and I did it for maybe a week — hoping some black bastard would come out of a pub and have a go at me about something, you know? So that I could kill him.”

Mr. Neeson made the comments, which were published in The Independent on Monday with an audio recording of the interview, during a press event to promote his new film, “Cold Pursuit.” The remarks were immediately met with public outrage.

“It’s unfortunate and sick that Liam Neeson would in response to a tragedy simply seek out any black person to murder,” Malik Russell, a spokesman for the N.A.A.C.P., said in an email. “Pain suffered is not an excuse for racism.”

“If black people responded this way regarding all the times our ancestors were lynched, raped, mutilated, tortured or shot down by police brutality, there would be too many bodies to count,” Mr. Russell added. “The fact that black people have been able to not blame every white person for the deeds of racist whites is a tribute to our character as a people.”

Mr. Neeson, 66, responded to the outrage over his remarks on Tuesday. In an interview on “Good Morning America,” he said he later felt awful about his “primal urge” to hurt someone after the woman told him she had been raped.

“If she would have said an Irish or a Scot or a Brit or a Lithuanian, I know I would have had the same effect,” Mr. Neeson said on Tuesday. “I was trying to show honor to my — stand up for my dear friend in this terrible, medieval fashion.”

He said, “I’m not a racist.”

Mr. Neeson said he sought help, eventually talking about the episode with his priest and friends. He also said he found an outlet to shed his violent thoughts by taking brisk two-hour walks every day. His friend died five years ago, he said.