Here’s an interesting bit of casting: English actor Joseph Fiennes will be portraying pop icon Michael Jackson in an upcoming British television movie.
But before you get too confused, it should be noted the film isn’t purported to be a biography. Elizabeth, Michael and Marlon is instead a comedy based on a Vanity Fair article that depicts Jackson, Elizabeth Taylor and Marlon Brando renting a car and taking a road trip as they leave New York City post-September 11.
Brian Cox (Manhunter, X2: X-Men United) will play Brando and Stockard Channing (The West Wing) is set as Taylor in the movie, which will be broadcast on the UK’s Sky Arts channel at a future date.
Still, Fiennes – whose past roles include Monsignor Howard in FX’s American Horror Story: Asylum, FBI agent Mark Benford in ABC’s FlashForward and Merlin in Starz’s Camelot – understands the swift outrage over a white actor portraying a person of color.
“I’m as shocked as you may be,” Fiennes reportedly told Entertainment Tonight when the news broke. The actor added, “[Jackson] definitely had a pigmentation issue…He was probably closer to my color than his original color.”
Fiennes is a very solid actor, so his performance as the King of Pop will at least be engaging and the self-described “huge fan” of Jackson sounds like he is going into the project with good intentions.
The movie certainly seems to be more quirky than anything else. But at the same time, it returns to a recurring issue as to whether or not an actor’s race should matter in their role. When Idris Elba – a fantastic actor who also happens to be black – was cast as the Norse god Heimdall in Marvel’s Thor, there was controversy.
The same happened when Michael B. Jordan assumed Chris Evans’ former role as Johnny Storm/Human Torch in the recent Fantastic Four reboot. Of course, the important distinction in both cases is that neither were playing a real person and Fiennes is.
What do you think of the decision to cast Joseph Fiennes as Michael Jackson? How much do you think an actor or actress’s race should be relevant in the casting process? Leave us your comments below.