Joseph Fiennes says he regrets playing Michael Jackson: ‘I asked the network to cancel it’

Photo credit: Sky Arts

Actor Joseph Fiennes recently revealed in an interview that he regrets playing Michael Jackson in a 2016 episode of a dramatized anthology series: “I asked the network to do the role.”

During a recent in-depth interview with The guardActor Joseph Fiennes regrets his decision to play Michael Jackson in an episode of a dramatized anthology entitled urban myths for Sky Arts in 2016. The episode told the fictional story of Jackson, who embarked on a post-9/11 road trip with Marlon Brando (Brian Cox) and Elizabeth Taylor (Stockard Channing).

Fiennes’ face was “caked with makeup” to make his skin appear even fairer – “perhaps the only time an actor has been accused of blackface and whiteface at the same time,” writes the Guardian’s Stuart McGurk. Michael Jackson’s daughter Paris even tweeted that the portrayal “frankly makes me vomit.”

“I think people are absolutely right when they’re upset,” says Fiennes, now considering the role. “And it was a wrong decision. Absolutely. And I’m a part of it – producers, broadcasters, writers and directors are involved in these decisions. But when I’m open, I’ve naturally become a voice for other people.”

“I would be happy if they would also sit at the table and talk about it. But, you know, it came at a time when there was a movement and a change, and that was good, and it was, you know, a bad decision. A bad mistake.”

Sky Arts pulled the episode before it aired, saying in a statement that the decision was made “in light of concerns raised by Michael Jackson’s immediate family.”

“And just to say it,” Fiennes adds in an interview with The Guardian, “I asked the broadcaster to retract it.” And there was some pretty heated debate, but ultimately people made the right choice.”

Fiennes also spoke about pushing back during filming The story of the maid when he found a rape scene involving his character “particularly outrageous”. He lobbied against the scene and sent producers a series of lengthy emails to support his case.

“It’s a different collaboration,” he says, explaining the difference between starring in a long-running TV show and making a one-off film project. “You get more voice after it’s been on TV for a few years. In the film you are locked out. If the Politburo says it is, then it is.”