It matters if you’re black or white: Joseph Fiennes calls playing Michael Jackson in TV movie a “bad mistake”

Harmony Gerber/FilmMagic

Some years ago, Joseph Fiennes said he was “as shocked” as anyone that he was cast as Michael Jackson in a 2017 made-for-TV anthology movie called Urban Myths.

Now he’s saying sorry.

His section of the film dealt with the likely apocryphal story that MJ, and his besties Marlon Brando and Elizabeth Taylor were grounded due to airspace restrictions after September 11, 2001, and decided to flee New York by car.

The comedy Elizabeth, Michael and Marlon also starred eventual Succession Emmy winner Brian Cox as Brando and Grease‘s Stockard Channing as Taylor.

Backlash to the casting was immediate after a trailer was released, and at the time Fiennes caught heat not just for being in it, but for explaining to Entertainment Tonight that Jackson “definitely had a pigmentation issue … so he was probably closer to my color than his original color.”

Jackson battled vitiligo during his life.

Ultimately, Sky TV caved to the backlash and pulled the film before broadcast.

To Variety, The Mother star now explains, “I think people are absolutely right to be upset. And it was a wrong decision. Absolutely.”

Fiennes added, “And I’m one part of that – there are producers, broadcasters, writers, directors, all involved in these decisions. But obviously, if I’m upfront, I have become the voice for other people.”

The Handmaid’s Tale star expressed of the movie, “But you know, it came at a time where there was a movement and a shift and that was good, and it was, you know, a bad call. A bad mistake.”

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.