Joseph Fiennes Regrets Playing Michael Jackson in Pulled TV Episode: A ‘Wrong Decision’ and ‘Bad Mistake’

Joseph Fiennes wants to take back ever having played the King of Pop — even if the episode never saw the light of day.

In a new interview with The Observer, Fiennes expressed regret about the time he played Michael Jackson in a pulled episode of the Sky Arts’ anthology series “Urban Myths” in 2017. A trailer for the episode at the time stirred accusations of whitewashing, with backlash to white actor Fiennes playing the Black singer. The episode centered on a road trip after September 11 in which Fiennes’ Jackson is joined by Brian Cox as Marlon Brando and Stockard Channing as Elizabeth Taylor.

“I think people are absolutely right to be upset,” Fiennes told The Observer. “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. 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. A bad mistake.”

The episode of the U.K. Anthology series was pulled amid outcry from the Jackson family, with his daughter Paris Jackson tweeting at the time, “It honestly makes me want to vomit.” The singer died in 2009.

Fiennes also confirmed his involvement in getting the episode pulled.

“And, just to say, I asked the broadcaster to pull it,” Fiennes said. “And there were some pretty hefty discussions, but ultimately people made the right choice.”

The “Handmaid’s Tale” and “Shakespeare in Love” star originally defended the casting choice in an interview with Entertainment Tonight (via Inside Edition) ahead of the episode’s intended release.

He called the project “fun” and “lighthearted,” adding that 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.”

“Bohemian Rhapsody” producer Graham King is currently prepping a Michael Jackson biopic with director Antoine Fuqua — and with the imprimatur of Jackson’s estate. Dan Reed, director of HBO’s four-part documentary “Leaving Neverland,” which shed light on molestation allegations against Jackson, condemned the biopic, writing in a recent op-ed, “By sidestepping the question of Jackson’s predilection for sleeping with young boys, you are broadcasting a message to millions of survivors of child sexual abuse. That message is: if a paedophile is rich and popular enough, society will forgive him.”

Jackson’s nephew Jaafar Jackson has been cast to play him in the Fuqua-directed movie.

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