TV Network Cancels Episode That Featured White Actor Joseph Fiennes as Michael Jackson
British network Sky Arts has decided to pull the plug on the controversial episode of its upcoming TV anthology series featuring actor Joseph Fiennes' performances at late music icon Michael Jackson
The decision comes a day after Jackson’s 18-year-old daughter Paris spoke out about the show’s first trailer, calling it “insulting” and “shameful” after the white actor was cast as Jackson, who was black.
Urban Myths: A Brand New Collection of TV Comedies billed itself as an eight-part series recreating rumored tales about celebrities. Feinnes’ performance as Jackson came in the episode titled “Elizabeth, Michael & Marlon” — depicting the story of an alleged road trip that Jackson took with Elizabeth Taylor and Marlon Brando after flights were grounded in the wake of the September 11th terrorist attacks of 2001.
“We have taken the decision not to broadcast ‘Elizabeth, Michael & Marlon,’ a 30 minute episode from the Sky Arts Urban Myths series,” Sky Arts wrote in a series of tweets on Friday. “This decision was taken in light of the concerns expressed by Michael Jackson’s immediate family. We set out to take a light-hearted look at reportedly true events & never intended to cause any offense. Joseph Fiennes fully supports our decision.”
The first trailer for Urban Myths caused fan outrage when it first dropped over the racial issues.
Paris was “so incredibly offended” by Fiennes’ casting. “It honestly makes me want to vomit,” she wrote on Twitter. “It angers me to see how obviously intentional it was for them to be this insulting, not just towards my father, but my godmother Liz as well.”
“Where is the respect? They worked through blood sweat and tears for ages to create such profound and remarkable legacies. Shameful portrayal,” she continued, concluding, “He made a point of it plenty of times to express his pride in his roots. He would never have wanted this.”
Paris’ cousin Taj, who is the son of Michael’s brother Tito Jackson, also tweeted his reaction. “Unfortunately this is what my family has to deal with. No words could express the blatant disrespect,” he wrote.
On the decision to cast Fiennes, production company Sky Arts previously told PEOPLE in a statement: “It is part of a series of comedies about unlikely stories from arts and cultural history. Sky Arts gives producers the creative freedom to cast roles as they wish, within the diversity framework which we have set.”
Fiennes defended his role last year, telling Rolling Stone, “I deal in imagination, so I don’t think imagination should have rules stamped on them.”
Urban Myths is set to debut Jan. 19 on Sky Arts.