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Arts and Entertainment

Ben Affleck Discusses Slave-Owning Ancestor In Script Scrubbed From PBS

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After the Wikileaks dump revealed that Ben Affleck wanted his slave-owning ancestry scrubbed from PBS' Finding Your Roots, the soon-to-be Batfleck fessed up to it with regret. The interview segment that Affleck didn't want anyone to see and ended up getting nixed from the final cut seemed surprisingly tame and non-confrontational, according to a leaked script.

Gawker reported that they obtained a copy of the script from the deleted scene. In it, Finding Your Roots host and Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. slowly reveals to the surprised actor that he has roots in the deep South and that his third great-grandfather, Benjamin Cole, owned a house in Savannah, Ga. Gates adds that Cole also owned 25 slaves. This is Affleck's reaction:

AFFLECK: God. It gives me kind of a sagging feeling to see, uh, a biological relationship to that. But, you know, there it is, part of our history. GATES: But consider the irony, uh, in your family line. Your mom went back fighting for the rights of black people in Mississippi, 100 years later. That’s amazing.

AFFLECK: That’s pretty cool.

GATES: That’s pretty cool.

AFFLECK: Yeah, it is. One of the things that’s interesting about it is like we tend to separate ourselves from these things by going like, you know, oh, well, it’s just dry history, and it’s all over now, and this shows us that there’s still a living aspect to history, like a personal connection.

By the same token, I think it’s important to recognize that, um, in looking at these histories, how much work has been done by people in this country, of all kinds, to make it a better place.

The leaked email exchange between Gates and Sony Pictures CEO Michael Lynton from last July revealed that Affleck asked them to edit out that segment from the final cut. Although they never mention him by name, they refer to him as Batman. Affleck is starring as the caped crusader in upcoming blockbuster Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

In the Finding Your Roots episode, they ended up only featuring the stories about Affleck's Revolutionary War ancestor, a 3rd great-grandfather who was an occult enthusiast, and his mother who marched for Civil Rights during the Freedom Summer of 1964.

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Gates said the only reason they removed the slave-owner ancestry part was because they thought it was lacking in material, and didn't make for compelling television. It had nothing to do with Affleck's request, he said.

Earlier this week, Affleck released a statement saying that he regretted how he originally felt about wanting to scrub this part of his family history from the show, and explained what he originally thought. "I didn't want any television show about my family to include a guy who owned slaves," he said. "I was embarrassed. The very thought left a bad taste in my mouth."

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