The Michael Jackson movie, a made-for-TV episode of an upcoming British anthology comedy series called Urban Myths, is continuing to cause controversy. Following the release of the series’ trailer and images of Joseph Fiennes portraying Michael Jackson, people were outraged by the casting of a white actor as the late, African American singer. Urban Myths director, Ben Palmer, now speaks in favor of the controversial casting.
Michael Jackson died at the age of 50 in June 2009. But his daughter, 18-year-old Paris Jackson, took to Twitter to voice her disgust with the TV movie’s casting.
@TheMJCast i'm so incredibly offended by it, as i'm sure plenty of people are as well, and it honestly makes me want to vomit.
— Paris-Michael K. J. (@ParisJackson) January 11, 2017
Paris Jackson’s twitter feed wasn’t the only place with relatives criticizing the Michael Jackson movie. Michael’s nephew, Taj Jackson, also took to Twitter to voice his disdain, saying Fiennes’ portrayal is disrespectful.
— Taj Jackson (@tajjackson3) January 11, 2017
Urban Myths: A Brand New Collection of Comedies is an anthology comedy series coming from British TV network Sky. Each episode will tell the story of a famous urban legend related to a well-known figure.
The episode featuring the Michael Jackson movie is based on a story from 2001. According to myth, following the 9/11 attacks, Michael took a road trip in a cheap rental car with his good friends Elizabeth Taylor (played by Stockard Channing) and Marlon Brando (Brian Cox) in order to get out of New York.
— Sky Arts (@SkyArts) January 8, 2017
In addition to the Michael Jackson story, the trailer shows glimpses of several of the other stories depicted in the series, including a meeting between Bob Dylan and a stranger he mistook for Eurythmics’ member Dave Stewart, the story of Cary Grant taking LSD with Timothy Leary, and Game of Thrones’ Iwan Rheon as none other than a young Adolf Hitler.
In light of the Michael Jackson movie controversy, Ben Palmer, who directed four episodes of the series, spoke to The Guardian in defense of Joseph Fiennes’ casting.
“We were casting Michael Jackson in 2001 and that obviously is a challenge in terms of the physical resemblance.”
“We were really looking for the performance that could unlock the spirit, and we really think Joe Fiennes has done that. He’s given a really sweet, nuanced, characterful performance.”
Despite accusations of “white washing” by casting a white actor in an African American role, Palmer urged people not to jump to conclusions before they watch the actual episode.
“It’s a really lovely, sweet film. I’m really looking forward to seeing how people react once they’ve actually seen it”
Joseph Fiennes, the actor in the middle of the Michael Jackson movie controversy, portrays Michael on Urban Myths with heavy prosthetics on. Last year, he explained to Entertainment Tonight that he was “shocked” to get the role of Michael, understanding how some people will have their reservations about it – though he might not have anticipated the harsh attacks on Paris Jackson’s Twitter.
“I’m a white, middle-class guy from London. I’m as shocked as you may be. [Jackson] definitely had an issue – a pigmentation issue – and that’s something I do believe. He was probably closer to my color than his original color.”
The late Michael Jackson himself, however, would have probably objected to a white actor portraying him. In an interview with Oprah Winfrey back in 1993, The Inquisitr reports, Michael responded to a rumor claiming that he had requested a white boy to portray him in a Pepsi commercial.
“That is the most ridiculous, horrifying story I’ve ever heard. It’s crazy! Number one, it’s my face as a child. Why would I want a white child to play me? I’m a Black American and I am proud to be a Black American.”
Urban Myths was set to debut on the U.K.’s Sky Arts channel on January 19, and viewers were hopeful it will eventually air in the United States as well, so we could all actually see the episode with the Michael Jackson movie, and make our minds regarding the controversial portrayal.
[Featured Image by Kevork Djansezian-Pool/Getty Images]