It has been a year since Sky Arts announced that Joseph Fiennes would be playing Michael Jackson in an upcoming series – a casting decision that caused some controversy. Now the first footage of Joseph as the late king of pop has finally reached the internet.
Urban Myths: A Brand New Collection of Comedies is a satirical comedy series that tells various "true-ish" tales from the last century – including Elizabeth Taylor (Stockard Channing), Marlon Brando (Brian Cox) and Michael Jackson's fabled journey out of New York immediately after the 9/11 attacks.
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The other stories featured in the trailer centre on Hitler (played by Game of Thrones star Iwan Rheon) and ‘Hitler’s friend (played by Harry Potter actor Rupert Grint) as they work on some early artwork. Another sees Bob Dylan (Eddie Marsan) looking for 'Dave', and Cary Grant (Ben Chaplin) and Dr Timothy Leary (Aidan Gillen) apparently taking LSD.
Joseph's appearance in has certainly caused a stir, with some special media users accusing the show of "whitewashing". But Joseph himself defended the casting decision last year, saying that Michael's skin colour "probably [became] closer to my colour than his original colour," adding: "I'm a white, middle-class guy from London… I am as shocked as you may be."
He stated: "I deal in imagination, so I don't think imagination should have rules stamped on them. If it promotes stereotyping, then it's wrong. I made the distinction that the Jackson project doesn't do that."
Ben Palmer, who directs four episodes of the upcoming comedy series, told the Guardian that the decision to cast Joseph was based on performance, rather than physical appearance.
"We were casting Michael Jackson in 2001 and that obviously is a challenge in terms of the physical resemblance," he said. "We were really looking for the performance that could unlock the spirit, and we really think Joe Fiennes has done that. He's given a really sweet, nuanced, characterful performance."
Ben added that people should not jump to conclusions before watching the episode. "It's a really lovely, sweet film. I'm really looking forward to seeing how people react once they've actually seen it," he said.