MERELY a glimpse of actor Joseph Fiennes playing Michael Jackson proved so controversial, his portrayal was banned from screens.
But now, the British actor is speaking out in defence of his bizarre role.
Fiennes played Jackson in an episode of the TV show Urban Myths, a British-produced series of stand-alone episodes about different celebrity stories that have become “urban folklore”.
Fiennes played alongside Stockard Channing as Elizabeth Taylor and Brian Cox as Marlon Brando and was based on the rumour that the trio had taken a road trip out of New York in 2001 after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
But the jarring sight of Fiennes in full MJ drag was enough to cause controversy — with Jackson’s own daughter Paris slamming all those involved, saying it “makes me want to vomit”.
As outrage among Jackson fans grew, the episode was pulled. Now, a few months later, Fiennes has spoken out in a new interview with Vulture, saying he wished audiences had a chance to watch his depiction before passing judgment.
“Well, it’s a satire, so we have to look at it through that lens. The depiction of the three characters is very satirical, comic, lighthearted, to examine the disconnect of iconic celebrity,” he said.
“But it’s good that people stand up for [what they believe], and I’m all for that. I’m all for that discussion, and it means a lot to me and my fellow actors to talk about casting, getting it right, getting it wrong, and then if there’s a mistake, to examine that mistake and talk about it. Maybe the controversy is good if it brings about discussion. But it is satire. It’s a 20-minute sketch, and it’s lighthearted.”
Fiennes pointed out that many others have played Michael Jackson — including the white, female Amy Poehler on Saturday Night Live — without complaint.
“It’s no less offensive than anything on SNL. That’s the level of offence.”
Despite the uproar, Fiennes said he had no regrets about taking on the unusual role.
“In life, you can’t avoid getting into hot water. It’s all lessons and learning. As an actor, you take on roles, and nobody has seen it, so nobody can even have the full comment because they haven’t witnessed it.”