Unfortunately, your eyes will never be able to un-see this clip after you press play. You may have heard the controversy surrounding Joseph Fiennes, a white Englishman portraying Michael Jackson in an upcoming episode of Urban Myths. And after viewing the trailer that aired Tuesday (Jan. 10), we can now confirm that fans’ concerns were warranted because the 50-second clip is just plain weird.
The episode, titled “Elizabeth, Michael & Marlon,” supposedly tells the semi-true story of a road trip that the King of Pop took with Elizabeth Taylor and Marlon Brando following the Sept. 11 terror attacks. In the short clip, Fiennes, along with Stockard Channing (who plays Taylor) are seen cruising down an open road. “I sense danger,” Fiennes’ character said during the road trip. As the camera focused on his face, the actor appeared to have had his face painted in a ghostly color and his nose was horribly plastered with extra prosthetic skin to resemble the late singer’s nose.
As you could imagine, prior to the trailer’s debut, many critics jumped online to debate whether it was appropriate for a white actor to portray Micahel Jackson, an African American man, despite his pigmentation issues or facial enhancement procedures. In response to the harsh criticism, Fiennes commented on his casting. “This is territory that is sensitive,” he told the Rolling Stone in February 2016. “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 light-hearted comedy.” Fiennes later justified him playing Jackson in the series, saying that the legend “definitely had an issue — a pigmentation issue.” “He was probably closer to my color than his original color,” he added.
While viewers should keep in mind the fact that Urban Myths is a comedy series, the trailer could be blurring the lines between humor and flat out disrespect. The directors could have at least got a better make up artist. Nevertheless, the “Elizabeth, Michael & Marlon” episode will debut Jan. 19 on Sky Arts TV. Check out the trailer below.