When news broke that Joseph Fiennes, a white, British actor, was cast as Michael Jackson in an upcoming TV drama, heads started spinning.
The reaction on Twitter ranged from disbelief, to anger and confusion, and some suggested this was just another example of Hollywood’s race problem.
Turns out people on Twitter weren’t the only ones who were shocked.
Fiennes, in an interview with Entertainment Tonight, said he was “as shocked as you might be.”
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“I’m a white, middle-class guy from London,” Fiennes said.
And although the casting decision drew criticism, Fiennes said he and Jackson don’t look that different.
“He was probably closer to my color than his original color,” Fiennes said, commenting on Jackson’s “pigmentation issue.”
The role Fiennes will play in “Michael, Elizabeth and Marlon,” based on a 2011 Vanity Fair article, is a “light comedy look,” Fiennes said.
“It's not in any way malicious. It's actually endearing.”
As a result of the casting controversy, a 1993 interview Jackson did with Oprah has surfaced, where Jackson refutes rumors he wanted to be portrayed by a white child in a Pepsi commercial.
“Why would I want a white child to play me?” Jackson said in the interview. “I’m a black American. I’m a black American. I’m proud to be a black American.”
The production company of the movie, however, released a statement in support of the casting choice.
“Sky Arts gives producers the creative freedom to cast roles as they wish,” the company told People.