Now that the Internet has had a day to digest the news that Joseph Fiennes will play Michael Jackson in a British TV special, the actor himself is speaking out about the unorthodox casting.
In an interview with Entertainment Tonight, Fiennes shared in fans’ surprise that he will play the late pop star. “I’m a white, middle-class guy from London,” he said. “I’m as shocked as you may be.”
Joseph Fiennes to Play Michael Jackson in British TV Comedy
While Fiennes and Jackson are different races, he said his appearance isn’t too far removed from Jackson’s in 2001 — the year the half-hour comedy special is set. “[Jackson] definitely had an issue — a pigmentation issue — and that’s something I do believe,” Fiennes told ET. “He was probably closer to my color than his original color.”
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Elizabeth, Michael and Marlon — set to air on the U.K.’s Sky Arts, with no release plans for the U.S. yet — is based on a Vanity Fair article about Jackson’s alleged post-9/11 road trip with Elizabeth Taylor (Stockard Channing) and Marlon Brando (Brian Cox). Despite all the controversy surrounding Fiennes’ casting, the actor insists that the project is only intended to be lighthearted.
“It’s kind of off the wall, but the writing is a delight, and the kind of interaction between the three of them is funny, and also full of pathos,” he said. “It’s people who are so iconic, but also can be detached. You know, you can get detached from society. So it’s examining that kind of wonderful and mad detachment,” adding: “It’s a light comedy look. It’s not in any way malicious. It’s actually endearing.”