Joseph Fiennes Addresses 'Sensitive' Michael Jackson Casting

"I deal in imagination, so I don't think imagination should have rules stamped on them," actor says of playing black singer

Joseph Fiennes defends the colorblind casting for his role as Michael Jackson in 'Elizabeth, Michael & Marlon' Credit: Adela Loconte/Getty

Joseph Fiennes has been taking heat for being cast in the role of Michael Jackson in Sky TV's upcoming comedy, Elizabeth, Michael & Marlon. On Wednesday, he discussed the controversial, "sensitive" topic with the Associated Press.

The forthcoming half-hour TV special is based on an urban legend involving Jackson, Marlon Brando (played by Brian Cox) and Elizabeth Taylor (played by Stockard Channing) who flee New York on a rental road car trip after the terrorist attacks on September 11th, 2001.

"I deal in imagination, so I don't think imagination should have rules stamped on them," he told AP. "If it promotes stereotyping, then it's wrong. I made a distinction that the Jackson project doesn't do that."

He added that he was surprised by the show's choice to cast him. "It was a shock," he said. "I thought someone had got it wrong."

Fiennes acknowledged that he's treading a tricky path that he is trying to balance in his role. "This is territory that is sensitive," he said. "One must determine if this portrayal is one that is going to be positive entertainment, and one that will not bring about division and put anyone's noses out of joint, so I went with the mind that this was a positive light-hearted comedy."

Elizabeth, Michael & Marlon, which Fiennes described as "a very sweet comedy that looks at Michael, Marlon and Taylor," is slated to air later this year, though no release date has been announced.