'A Bad Mistake': Joseph Fiennes Says He Regrets Playing Michael Jackson

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Actor Joseph Fiennes has admitted that his casting as Michael Jackson in a 2017 episode of the British television series Urban Myths was a "bad mistake."

In an interview with The Guardian, Fiennes opened up about portraying the King of Pop in an episode that never made air due to widespread backlash.

“I think people are absolutely right to be upset,” Fiennes told The Guardian of his casting. “And it was a wrong decision. Absolutely.”

“And I’m one part of that ― there are producers, broadcasters, writers, directors, all involved in these decisions," he continued. "But obviously if I’m upfront, I have become the voice for other people. I would love them to be around the table as well to talk about it. But you know, it came at a time where there was a movement and a shift and that was good, and it was, you know, a bad call.”

The 2017 Urban Myths episode titled “Elizabeth, Michael and Marlon” was set to depict a cross-country road trip that Jackson was said to have gone on with actors Marlon Brando and Elizabeth Taylor following the 9/11 terrorist attack. A trailer for the episode sparked condemnation from fans and even Jackson's daughter, Paris.

“I’m so incredibly offended by it,” she said at the time, “as I’m sure plenty of people are as well, and it honestly makes me want to vomit.”

Director Ben Palmer initially defended casting a white actor to portray Jackson, saying Fiennes' performance was “really sweet, nuanced [and] characterful.” For the role, makeup was used to make Fiennes' skin look lighter in what The Guardian said was “possibly the only time an actor could be accused of both blackface and whiteface at the same time."

British broadcaster Sky Arts ultimately moved to not air the episode “in light of the concerns expressed by Michael Jackson’s immediate family.”

“We set out to take a light-hearted look at reportedly true events and never intended to cause any offense,” the broadcaster said in a statement.

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