Everyone on Twitter has an opinion about Joseph Fiennes (American Horror Story) playing Michael Jackson in an upcoming British TV production — including the actor himself.
But before we get to his latest comments, here’s a refresher for those going “huh?” right now: A 2011 Vanity Fair article alleged that Jackson, Elizabeth Taylor and Marlon Brando road-tripped to Ohio — California was their intended destination — shortly after the 9/11 attacks. That story is now being retold in Elizabeth, Michael and Marlon, a “half-hour, one-off comedy” airing on the UK’s Sky Arts, with Fiennes playing Jackson, Stockard Channing (The Good Wife) playing Taylor and Brian Cox (War & Peace) playing Brando.
“I’m a white, middle-class guy from London,” Fiennes tells Entertainment Tonight. “I’m as shocked as you may be.”
Many people were outraged over the idea of a white actor playing a black character, especially considering the current scandal with the Oscars’ whitewashed pool of nominees, but Fiennes maintains that color shouldn’t be an issue in this case: “[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.”
In addition to defending his casting, Fiennes is also defending the production, which he calls a “light, tongue-in-cheek look” at what could be merely an urban legend.
“It’s kind of off the wall,” Fiennes admits, “but the writing is a delight, and the kind of interaction between the three of them is funny, and also full of pathos. … It’s not in any way malicious. It’s actually endearing.”
There are currently no plans for Elizabeth, Michael and Marlon to air stateside.
Your thoughts on Fiennes’ casting? Drop ’em in a comment below.