Yesterday, Joseph Fiennes became the target of outrage when it was announced that the white actor — best known for playing William Shakespeare in the 1999 Best Picture winner Shakespeare in Love — would be playing black musical icon Michael Jackson in a new telefilm for the U.K. network Sky Arts. Not a joke! Now, the actor is speaking out in defense of his casting in the film, which would dramatize an alleged post-9/11 roadtrip Jackson took with friends Elizabeth Taylor (to be played by Stockard Channing in the film) and Marlon Brando (Brian Cox).
“[Jackson] definitely had an issue — a pigmentation issue — and that's something I do believe,” Fiennes said in an interview with Entertainment Tonight. “He was probably closer to my color than his original color.” Additionally, the actor defended the film by saying it's “a light comedy” that's “not in any way malicious. It's actually endearing.”
Endearing. Phew, we didn't realize! Our bad, Joseph!
Sky Arts also defended Fiennes' casting in a statement released to the Associated Press:
“We believe in giving producers the creative freedom to cast roles as they wish, within the diversity framework which we have set.”
All good, then?