Joseph Fiennes on playing Michael Jackson: We need 'colorblind casting'

Before you go, we thought you'd like these...
Before you go close icon
Joseph Fiennes Defends Playing Michael Jackson

White actor Joseph Fiennes understands why "people are up in arms" over his portrayal of Michael Jackson in the upcoming Sky TV comedy "Elizabeth, Michael and Marlon," but he takes the outrage as a reminder of the importance of "colorblind casting."

Fiennes recalls seeing a play in the National Theatre, where a black woman portrayed Marilyn Monroe in "After the Fall." He also recalls critics refusing to even see the play because of the casting choice.

SEE ALSO: David Bowie also turned down a Dave Grohl collaboration

"From that moment, I realized how important colorblind casting was, and when I went to drama school and went through my career in theater, I've known nothing but colorblind casting," he told The Hollywood Reporter. "It might offer something new and fresh and funny; as long as it doesn't become disenfranchising, racial or rude or stereotypical, then it's the wrong place. But if it's offering something else that's positive in discussion, we have to entertain colorblind casting at all levels."

The Internet was buzzing with outrage with the news broke that Fiennes — a white, British actor — playing Michael Jackson in the upcoming Sky Arts production, "Elizabeth, Michael and Marlon." However, Fiennes believes that the only reason the casting is an issue is because of the current Oscar diversity debate, where lack of diversity has been brought to the forefront of conversation after the Academy failed to nominate a single person of color for the second year in a row.

RELATED GALLERY: See photos of Michael Jackson through the years

27 PHOTOS
Michael Jackson (Through the Years)
See Gallery
Joseph Fiennes on playing Michael Jackson: We need 'colorblind casting'
CIRCA 1969: R&B quintet 'Jackson 5' pose for a portrait in circa 1969. Clockwise from bottom left: Michael Jackson, Tito Jackson, Jackie Jackson, Jermaine Jackson, Marlon Jackson. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
American singer Michael Jackson poses at a hotel while on tour with Jackson 5, London, England, November 1972. (Photo by Express Newspapers/Getty Images)
American pop singer Michael Jackson attends the opening of the stage musical 'Dream Girls,' In Los Angeles, 1983. (Photo by Frank Edwards/Fotos International/Getty Images)
Undated picture of US pop singer Michael Jackson. Michael Jackson died on June 25, 2009 after suffering a cardiac arrest, sending shockwaves sweeping across the world and tributes pouring in on June 26 for the tortured music icon revered as the 'King of Pop.' AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read /AFP/GettyImages)
(FILES) US pop star and entertainer Michael Jackson (R) and actress Brooke Shields arrive at the shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles where Jackson is expected to run away with a major part of the Grammy awards on Febuary 28, 1984. Michael Jackson died on June 25, 2009 after suffering a cardiac arrest, sending shockwaves sweeping across the world and tributes pouring in on June 26 for the tortured music icon revered as the 'King of Pop.' AFP PHOTO/Alan ZANGER (Photo credit should read BERTRAND GUAY/AFP/Getty Images)
American singer Michael Jackson (1958 - 2009) performing on stage, circa 1987. (Photo by Dave Hogan/Getty Images)
American singer Michael Jackson performing, 1987. (Photo by Dave Hogan/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
LANDOVER, UNITED STATES: American pop music star Michael Jackson sings 13 October 1988 at the Capital Center in Landover, Maryland. AFP PHOTO/Luke FRAZZA (Photo credit should read LUKE FRAZZA/AFP/Getty Images)
(FILES) US pop star and entertainer Michael Jackson performs during the opening concert of the Asian leg of his 'Dangerous' world tour in National Stadium in Bangkok on August 24, 1993. Michael Jackson died on June 25, 2009 after suffering a cardiac arrest, sending shockwaves sweeping across the world and tributes pouring in on June 26 for the tortured music icon revered as the 'King of Pop.' AFP PHOTO/Pongsak CHAIYANUWONG (Photo credit should read PONGSAK CHAIYANUWONG/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 7: Singer Michael Jackson (R) and guitarist Slash of 'Guns and Roses' perform the opening number at the 1995 MTV Video Music Awards 07 September held at the Radio City Music Hall in New York. Jackson and sister Janet Jackson have been nominted for 11 awards for their video 'Scream.' AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images)
US pop star and entertainer Michael Jackson performs during a concert at Vincennes hypodrome on September 13, 1992. Michael Jackson died on June 25, 2009 after suffering a cardiac arrest, sending shockwaves sweeping across the world and tributes pouring in on June 26 for the tortured music icon revered as the 'King of Pop.' AFP PHOTO/Bertrand GUAY (Photo credit should read BERTRAND GUAY/AFP/Getty Images)
(FILES) US pop star Michael Jackson waves to photographers during a press conference in Paris on March 19, 1996. Michael Jackson died on June 25, 2009 after suffering a cardiac arrest, sending shockwaves sweeping across the world and tributes pouring in for the tortured music icon revered as the 'King of Pop.' AFP PHOTO / VINCENT AMALVY (Photo credit should read VINCENT AMALVY/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 7: Michael Jackson (C) performs at Madison Square Garden in New York 07 September, 2001. It was the first of two performances in New York as part of his '30th Anniversary Celebration, the Solo Years.' AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read BETH A. KEISER/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, UNITED STATES: (FILES) This 06 July, 2002, file photo shows pop singer Michael Jackson (L) waving from his limo to fans in the Harlem neighborhood of New York. The child molestation trial against Jackson is scheduled to start 31 January, 2005, in Santa Maria, California. The star has denied 10 charges, including child molestation, plying a child with alcohol to seduce him and of conspiring to kidnap and falsely imprison a child and his family at his Neverland Ranch. He is free on a three million USD bail. AFP PHOTO/Doug KANTER/FILES (Photo credit should read DOUG KANTER/AFP/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, UNITED STATES: US pop singer Michael Jackson salutes the audience after recieving the Artist of the Century Award during the 29th Annual American Music Awards at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles 09 January 2002. AFP PHOTO/Hector MATA (Photo credit should read HECTOR MATA/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, UNITED STATES: US singer Michael Jackson and guitarist Dave Navaro perform during the Democratic National Committee (DNC) benefit concert, 'A Night at the Apollo', at the world-famous Apollo Theater 24 April 2002 in New York. The concert was to kick off a nationwide voter registration drive. AFP PHOTO/TIMOTHY A. CLARY (Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)
404248 10: Musician Michael Jackson performs at the taping of 'American Bandstands 50th...A Celebration' television special honoring the music show April 20, 2002 in Pasadena, CA. (Photo by Vince Bucci/Getty Images)
BERLIN - NOVEMBER 19: Singer Michael Jackson holds his son eight-month-old son Prince Michael II over the balcony of the Adlon Hotel November 19, 2002 in Berlin, Germany. Jackson is in Berlin with his three children to accept a lifetime achievement award. (Photo by Olaf Selchow/Getty Images)
BERLIN - NOVEMBER 19: Singer Michael Jackson appears at the balcony of the Adlon Hotel with an unidentified child November 19, 2002 in Berlin, Germany. Jackson is in Berlin with his three children to accept a lifetime achievement award. (Photo by Olaf Selchow/Getty Images)
SOWETO, SOUTH AFRICA - JULY 18: US musician Michael Jackson holds a child 18 July in Soweto, South Africa, where he laid a wreath at the memorial for students who died in an uprising on 16 June. Jackson sang a happy birthday song to South African President Nelson Mandela at a surprise meeting with the president shortly after he arrived in the country. AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read WALTER DHLADHLA/AFP/Getty Images)
SANTA MARIA, UNITED STATES: (FILES) This 13 November, 2002, file photo shows pop singer Michael Jackson arriving inside the Santa Maria Superior Court for a trial in which he is accused of canceling concert appearances and costing the promoter several million dollars. The child molestation trial against Jackson is scheduled to start 31 January, 2005, in Santa Maria, California. The star has denied 10 charges, including child molestation, plying a child with alcohol to seduce him and of conspiring to kidnap and falsely imprison a child and his family at his Neverland Ranch. He is free on a three million USD bail. POOL/SPENCER WEINER/FILES (Photo credit should read SPENCER WEINER/AFP/Getty Images)
SANTA MARIA, CA - NOVEMBER 14: Musician Michael Jackson signs autographs for fans as he arrives at his civil trial in Santa Maria Superior Court November 14, 2002 in Santa Maria, California. The artist is being sued for $21 million by his longtime promoter for backing out of two concerts. (Photo by Bryan Chan-Pool/Getty Images)
SANTA MARIA, CA - NOVEMBER 15: Pop star Michael Jackson testifies during his civil trial in Santa Maria Superior Court on November 15, 2002 in Santa Maria, California. The pop star is being sued for $21 million by his longtime promoter for backing out of two concerts. (Photo by Ed Souza-Pool/Getty Images)
SANTA MARIA, CA - DECEMBER 4: Singer Michael Jackson testifies during the morning session of his civil trial in Santa Maria Superior Court on December 4, 2002 in Santa Maria, California. The artist is being sued for $21 million by his longtime promoter for backing out of two concerts. (Photo by Jim Ruyman-Pool/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS - OCTOBER 27: (TABLOIDS OUT) Singer Beyonce' Knowles and singer Michael Jackson, winner of the 2003 Humanitarian Award, hug onstage at The 2003 Radio Music Awards at the Aladdin Casino Resort October 27, 2003 in Las Vegas, Neveda. For more information on Jackson's humanitarian efforts, go to musicforgiving.org. (Photos by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
SANTA MARIA, CA - APRIL 30: Singer Michael Jackson gestures while departing the courthouse after his arraignment on April 30, 2004 in Santa Maria, California. Jackson plead not guilty to the grand jury indictment of numerous child molestation charges. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

"It's an important conversation I want to go into in-depth because it demands that — that I shot this last autumn, and the Internet had the information at the end of last year, for a long time," he said. "It was only in doing a little publicity that it got caught up in the whole Oscar conversation — which is a good conversation, but I think it's a different conversation, but in the same discussion."

However, Fiennes doesn't want to dismiss the importance of having the conversation about diversity in the industry, and believes that these particular conversations "shape our industry."

"The reaction is important — I'd never shy away from that," he added. "I share this industry with my brothers and sisters right across the board, and I only want a level playing field. I think outrage is good, as long as it doesn't get into a violent shouting match. These conversations are really important and they shape our industry. It's vital to have them. I kind of welcome it. You can't do this and not welcome it."

In the past, Fiennes has said that he didn't see anything wrong with the idea of playing a black man while he himself is white. At a junket with TheWrap for his upcoming film, "Risen," Fiennes said, however, that he admittedly did have some reservations when first approached about the project. "I was like, 'Wait a minute, I think someone's got this wrong. I mean, really?'" Fiennes recalled with a laugh. "The budget was too low to do prosthetics or anything, so it literally is straight-forward makeup. And it's really saying, 'Look, audiences, it's tongue-in-cheek.' No one's trying to do an exact impersonation, but it's just a sense of the fun of the road trip. If it did happen, maybe it happened like this. That's all it is, a lighthearted take."

Now, he adds that "Elizabeth, Michael and Marlon," a dramatization of an urban legend about Jackson, Marlon Brando and Elizabeth Taylor escaping New York City via rental car following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, focuses more on Jackson in his later years, when he "did look quite frankly rather differently."

"It's less about Michael; it's almost about the three of these amazing, iconic characters and what it's like to have that disconnect at that kind of echelon of fame," he said. "It's not a biopic, and it's not Michael in his younger days. It's Michael in his last days when, I have to say, he did look quite frankly rather differently than when we grew up with him in the '80s or earlier. So it's as Michael as we last remembered him and how he looks. The decision with the casting and the producers — I wrangled with it, I was confused and shocked at what might come my way, and I knew the sensitivity, especially to Michael's fans and to Michael's family. It doesn't negate who he was."

Read original story Joseph Fiennes on Playing Michael Jackson: We Need 'Colorblind Casting' At TheWrap

More on AOL.com:
Watch Adele perfectly prank these Jamba Juice employees
Kanye West offered job by Philadelphia police to get out of debt
Watch Zayn make his solo TV debut singing 'It's You'



Read Full Story

Sign up for Entertainment Insider by AOL and get the top celebrity, movies, music and TV news delivered to your inbox daily!

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.

From Our Partners