Joseph Fiennes Says Playing Michael Jackson Won’t ‘Promote Stereotyping’

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Fiennes and MJ. Photo: Getty Images

Michael Jackson may have been adamant about not wanting a white person to portray him, but Joseph Fiennes, a white actor who will play the black music icon in a 9/11 road-trip comedy airing on British TV, says his whitewashed depiction of the King of Pop is a case of artistic license. Fiennes tells the AP, "I deal in imagination, so I don't think imagination should have rules stamped on them" — and insists the "colorblind" casting wasn't meant to be offensive: "If it promotes stereotyping, then it's wrong. I made a distinction that the Jackson project doesn't do that."

Still, even Fiennes admits that he "wouldn't be the guy for the job" if the project were anything more than a 20-minute "sweet comedy" sketch. (The project also stars Stockard Channing as Liz Taylor and Brian Cox as Marlon Brando.) "This is territory that is sensitive," he says. "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, lighthearted comedy." He likens his role to a black actress he once saw play Marilyn Monroe at the National Theatre, and decries the "lack of imagination" that kept some critics from accepting the race-bent casting.