Lionsgate will not remove a “Mad Men” episode featuring one of its actors in blackface and will instead add a disclaimer at the beginning of the the show, the company told Deadline in a statement. The controversial clip in season three features John Slattery’s character, Roger Sterling, in blackface makeup and singing to his new bride, “My Old Kentucky Home” — the name of the episode.
The studio said the episode from the popular AMC series “contains disturbing images related to race in America,” but stood firm on leaving it without any editing.
“One of the characters is shown in blackface as part of an episode that shows how commonplace racism was in America in 1963,” Lionsgate said to the outlet. “In its reliance on historical authenticity, the series producers are committed to exposing the injustices and inequities within our society that continue to this day so we can examine even the most painful parts of our history in order to reflect on who we are today and who we want to become. We are therefore presenting the original episode in its entirety.”
In the episode, Slattery serenades his wife as coworkers look on and uncomfortably smile to the performance. The song was written by Stephen Collins Foster.
Mad Men will return to streaming on Amazon, AMC, IMDb and Starzplay later this month, according to Deadline.
The decision comes as some entertainment companies have completely removed scenes involving blackface or temporarily removed racist content from the past, only to later add context for viewers.
HBO Max took down “Gone with the Wind” from its platform for two weeks, but added a disclaimer when they brought it back noting that the 1939 Civil War epic “denies the horrors of slavery, as well as its legacies of racial inequality.” “30 Rock” removed blackface scenes after showrunner and star Tina Fey requested them to be taken down. Late night show hosts such as Jimmy Kimmel and Jimmy Fallon also faced criticism after scenes of them portraying blackface in sketches resurfaced. Both have apologized.