Actor Robert Downey Jr. has defended his role in Tropic Thunder, a satirical take on Hollywood blockbusters, in which his character appears in blackface. The Avengers: Endgame star appeared on a recent episode of The Joe Rogan Experience podcast to discuss his career and promote his new film, Dolittle, when the controversial host brought up the twelve-year-old film. In the 2008 satire of the film industry, Downey plays a white, Australian actor who undergoes cosmetic surgery so he can play a black army sergeant.

Written by, directed and starring Ben Stiller the film, a send-up of many Hollywood tropes, was a hit. From the stereotypically sleazy film producer to the unfortunate decision many white actors make to don blackface (a choice that continues to happen even as recently as the 2012 Oscars, wherein Billy Crystal donned black face paint and an oiled wig to portray Sammy Davis Jr.), Tropic Thunder was a relentless critic of many Hollywood stereotypes. Downey’s character embodies many of the worst aspects of celebrity culture, but none of them worse than the hubris it takes for a white man to play a black character.

Downey opened up about the role on The Joe Rogan Experience, saying, “I think having a moral psychology is job one. Sometimes, you just gotta go, ‘Yeah I effed up.’ In my defense, ‘Tropic Thunder’ is about how wrong [blackface] is, so I take exception.” The star says he was hesitant to take the role when it was offered to him, adding, “My mother was horrified.”

His mother’s dismay aside, Downey ultimately accepted the role. “I thought, ‘Hold on, dude. Get real here. Where is your heart?’” he told the host. “My heart is, A, I get to be black for a summer in my mind, so there’s something in it for me. The other thing is I get to hold up to nature the insane, self-involved hypocrisy of artists and what they think they’re allowed to do on occasion."

The actor also acknowledged that while it was “impossible to not have it be an offensive nightmare of a movie,” he felt confident in the role. “90 percent of my black friends were like, ‘Dude, that was great.”

Tropic Thunder ended up being a huge comeback for Downey who also starred in Iron Man, which was released the same year. The problem is that while the film tried to make a point about race, it simultaneously used one of the most racist aspects of the industry to prove its point. Even while the film is still generally appreciated today, it’s important to remember that it was written by three white guys (Stiller alongside Justin Theroux and Etan Cohen), and that the only actual black character in the film is Brandon T. Jackson’s Alpa Chino, a send-up of the rapper-turned-actor trope.

Even Downey himself acknowledges that the depiction wasn’t for everyone, when he tells Rogan that “the other 10 percent” of his black friends didn’t appreciate the blackface. “I can’t disagree with them,” he said. “But I know where my heart was.”

More: Ben Stiller Continuing ‘Tropic Thunder’ Tradition With ‘Fake Trailer Project’

Source: The Joe Rogan Experience