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Urban Myths’ Episode With Joseph Fiennes as Michael Jackson Canceled

Image:Joseph Fiennes and Michael Jackson
British Actor Joseph Fiennes and Pop star Michael Jackson. Fiennes was set to play the late singer Michael Jackson in "Elizabeth, Michael & Marlon," a one-off, half-hour comedy. STRINGER / KLEIN / Reuters

European pay-TV company Sky has ditched plans to air the controversial footage from British comedy series "Urban Myths" in which Joseph Fiennes plays the singer Michael Jackson.

In a statement, a company spokesperson said: "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 offence. Joseph Fiennes fully supports our decision."

The backlash comes after Joseph Fiennes, white, portrays Jackson, who is African American. His skin is darker as a child, but becomes lighter because of the skin disease vitiligo. In a 1993 interview with Oprah Winfrey, Jackson addressed questions over his lighter skin and rumors he wanted a young white boy to play him in a Pepsi commercial.

"Why would I want a white child to play me? I'm a black American," Jackson told Winfrey. "I'm proud to be a black American. I am proud of my race. I'm proud of who I am. I have a lot of pride in who I am and dignity."

The singer's daughter, Paris Jackson, has called the portrayal "shameful" after viewing a trailer for the series. She tweeted: "I'm so incredibly offended by it, as I'm sure plenty of people are as well, and it honestly makes me want to vomit."

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Michael Jackson's nephew Taj Jackson joined the condemnation. "Unfortunately this is what my family has to deal with. No words could express the blatant disrespect," he tweeted.

In the episode, Michael Jackson is seen making a road-trip across the U.S. with Elizabeth Taylor and Marlon Brando after 9/11. Stockard Channing plays Taylor and Brian Cox is Brando.

Paris Jackson also objected to the portrayal of Taylor, a close friend of her father's and her godmother. "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," Jackson tweeted.

She added: "Where is the respect? They worked through blood, sweat and tears for ages to create such profound and remarkable legacies. Shameful portrayal."

TJ Jackson said the decision is a "great victory" for his uncle.

Taj Jackson also expressed thanks for the decision not to air the episode.