Joseph Fiennes’ casting in the British special Elizabeth, Michael & Marlon led many people to question why a white actor would take on the role of Michael Jackson. The 45-year-old Brit defended the part to Entertainment Tonight last month, saying Jackson had a “pigmentation issue” and was “probably closer to my color than his original color.”
Now, Fiennes tells the Associated Press he’s excited for the challenge and doesn’t believe his portrayal of the King of Pop in the 9/11 road trip comedy will encourage stereotyping. “This is territory that is sensitive,” the Shakespeare in Love star admits to the AP. “One must determine if this portrayal is one that is going to be positive entertainment, and one that will not bring about division and put anyone’s noses out of joint, so I went with the mind that this was a positive light-hearted comedy.”
The half-hour special is set to air on Sky Arts later this year as part of a series of comedies telling unlikely stories from arts and cultural history. Fiennes calls the project a “very sweet comedy” and feels that limiting the casting based on race limits art.
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“I deal in imagination, so I don’t think imagination should have rules stamped on them,” Fiennes continued to the AP. “If it promotes stereotyping, then it’s wrong. I made a distinction that the Jackson project doesn’t do that.”
Neil Forsyth will write Elizabeth, Michael & Marlon, with British actor Ralf Little producing. The special does not yet have a release date.