Joseph Fiennes on Casting Backlash: ‘Michael Jackson Was Probably Closer to My Color’

Joseph Fiennes
Joseph Fiennes George Pimentel/Getty Images

Joseph Fiennes is just as shocked as everyone else is. On Tuesday, January 26, The Guardian announced that the British actor would portray music legend Michael Jackson in an upcoming TV movie, and the internet went wild.

Fiennes spoke out for the first time since the news broke on Wednesday, January 27.

“I’m a white, middle-class guy from London,” the 45-year-old actor told Entertainment Tonight. “I’m as shocked as you may be.” (Jackson is a major icon within the African American community).

But Fiennes doesn’t think his casting is completely unbelievable, given that his skin tone matches the late pop singer’s.

“[Jackson] definitely had an issue — a pigmentation issue — and that’s something I do believe,” he said. “He was probably closer to my color than his original color.”

Jackson, who was 50 when he died in 2009, had a chronic condition known as vitiligo, which lightened the color of his skin.

Michael Jackson
Michael Jackson Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

Fiennes added that the movie will be a comedic, tongue-in-cheek look at the story of how Jackson, Marlon Brando and Elizabeth Taylor all banded together on a rumored road trip from New York to Ohio post-9/11. Given that the movie is not a true-to-life drama, Fiennes said, it shouldn’t be taken too seriously.

“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 of the project, titled Elizabeth, Michael & Marlon. “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.”

On Tuesday, social media erupted after Fiennes’ casting announcement, with users referencing it as another incident that adds credence to the recent #OscarsSoWhite controversy.

“Joseph Fiennes can play Michael Jackson. (A real person). But Idris can’t play James Bond (a fake spy for awake agency)? Cool, cool, cool,” one user wrote.

“Read about Joseph Fiennes playing Michael Jackson, and checked the calendar,” another tweeted. “Thought I slept 2 months & it was April 1st.”

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