Last year, the upcoming UK series Urban Myths received criticism when actor Joseph Fiennes (American Horror Story) was cast as the late pop superstar Michael Jackson. The King of Pop was a Black man who suffered from the melanin-depleting disease vitiligo, which caused his skin to lose color. In response to the casting of Fiennes, many criticized the series for whitewashing Jackson - the act of casting white actors in roles that are historically non-white. Fiennes responded to the casting controversy in 2016, saying his performance was "not in any way malicious. It’s actually endearing.”
Earlier this week, Sky Arts released the first trailer for Urban Myths, which featured Fiennes in costume as Jackson, reigniting the discussion around his casting. For her part, Jackson's daughter Paris voiced her opinion of the trailer on Twitter, stating she is "incredibly offended by it." Now, Sky Arts has officially responded to the criticism surrounding this particular episode of Urban Myths.
TVLine is reporting Sky Arts has decided not to air the episode of Urban Myths that featured Fiennes portraying Michael Jackson. In an official statement, a company spokesperson explained their decision:
"We have taken the decision not to broadcast ‘Elizabeth, Michael and Marlon,’ a half-hour episode from the Sky Arts Urban Myths series, 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 and never intended to cause any offense. Joseph Fiennes fully supports our decision."
Entitled 'Elizabeth, Michael, and Marlon the Urban Myths', the episode was based on a 2011 Vanity Fair article alleging that Jackson, Elizabeth Taylor, and Marlon Brando had gone on a road trip to Ohio together shortly after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Considering the immense backlash to the episode, especially following the release of the first trailer, many may agree with Sky Arts' decision to pull 'Elizabeth, Michael, and Marlon the Urban Myths'.
Though others may have hoped to see Fiennes' performance as Jackson in full in hopes that it would offer insight into the casting decision, it remains to be seen if Sky Arts will release the episode in another way. Still, Urban Myths features a number of other stars in the roles of famous historical figures and celebrities. Other cast members of Urban Myths, as introduced in the trailer, include Eddie Marsan as Bob Dylan, Ben Chaplin as Cary Grant, Aidan Gillen as Dr. Leary, David Threlfall as Samuel Beckett, Iwan Rheon as Adolf Hitler, and Rupert Grint simply credited as “Hitler’s Friend”.
Urban Myths premieres January 19 on Sky Arts.
Source: TV Line