Joseph Fiennes, like the entertainment industry at large, is surprised he's been hired to play Michael Jackson in an upcoming, one-off half-hour comedy for Sky TV. "I'm a white, middle-class guy from London," he told Entertainment Tonight. "I'm as shocked as you may be."
The project, Elizabeth, Michael & Marlon, is based on an urban legend – originating from a 2011 Vanity Fair story – about Jackson, Marlon Brando and Elizabeth Taylor embarking on a rental car road trip. The trio, as myth goes, were unable to a make a flight out of New York City due to the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001. Brian Cox has been cast as Brando, with Stockard Channing set to play Taylor. The show is set to air later this year, though no specific release date has been announced.
"Elizabeth, Michael & Marlon is a Sky Arts comedy which takes a lighthearted look at a reportedly true event," a Sky spokesperson tells Rolling Stone, clarifying that the project is neither a drama nor a movie. "Joseph Fiennes is cast as Michael Jackson. It is part of a series of comedies about unlikely stories from arts and cultural history. Sky Arts gives producers the creative freedom to cast roles as they wish, within the diversity framework which we have set."
While Fiennes understands the controversy behind portraying an African-American, he thinks the casting is logical. "[Jackson] definitely had an issue – a pigmentation issue – and that's something I do believe," the 45-year-old told ET. "He was probably closer to my color than his original color … "It's a light comedy look. It's not in any way malicious. It's actually endearing."
Fiennes praised the comedy's "off-the-wall" approach, saying, "The writing is a delight, and the kind of interaction between the three of them is funny, and also full of pathos. 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."