After the first footage of Joseph Fiennes playing Michael Jackson in TV show Urban Myths surfaced earlier this week, Sky Arts has announced it will not air the controversial episode featuring the pop legend.
The British anthology series pulled the show which centred on a rumoured trip that Jackson, Marlon Brando and Elizabeth Taylor took after the Sept. 11 attacks. Many people were not impressed with the depiction of the late-singer.
“We have taken the decision not to broadcast Elizabeth, Michael & Marlon, a 30min episode from the Sky Arts Urban Myths series,” the network tweeted from its official account on Friday. “This decision was taken in light of the concerns expressed by Michael Jackson’s immediate family. We set out to take a light-hearted look at reportedly true events & never intended to cause any offense. Joseph Fiennes fully supports our decision.” The episode was scheduled to air on Jan. 19.
Fiennes was cast in the role last January and controversy over the decision to have the white actor play Jackson, who was African-American, followed.
This week, the first footage of Fiennes playing Jackson was released, which increased the uproar. Jackson’s nephew Taj Jackson and Jackson’s daughter, Paris-Michael Katherine Jackson, criticized the Urban Myths episode as “blatant disrespect” and a “shameful portrayal.”
“Unfortunately this is what my family has to deal with. No words could express the blatant disrespect,” Taj wrote on Twitter.
Fiennes has not commented on the Jacksons’ remarks over the episode but he didn’t see a problem with his casting as Jackson, reports The Wrap, especially because the iconic singer in his later years had lightened skin due to the skin condition vitiligo.
“It’s not a biopic, and it’s not Michael in his younger days,” said Fiennes. “It’s Michael in his last days when he did look, quite frankly, rather differently than when we grew up with him in the ’80s or earlier. So it’s Michael as we last remembered him. The decision with the casting and the producers — I wrangled with it, I was confused and shocked at what might come my way, and I knew the sensitivity, especially to Michael’s fans and to Michael’s family. It doesn’t negate who he was.”
With files from Chris Jancelewicz