Sky Arts made the announcement Friday, via Twitter, saying it had elected not to air the episode "Elizabeth, Michael & Marlon" due to "concerns expressed by Michael Jackson's immediate family." The episode was scheduled to broadcast on Jan. 19, and would have featured Stockard Channing as Elizabeth Taylor and Brian Cox as Marlon Brando.
Though many people expressed skepticism when Fiennes, a white actor, was cast to play Jackson, a black singer, the "concerns" referenced by Sky Arts are likely in reference to the reaction after the first footage of Fiennes as Jackson was released earlier this week, to much horror and Internet hilarity. Members of Jackson's family, including his daughter Paris, took great offense to the images. His nephew Taj accused Sky Arts of "blatant disrespect."
@TheMJCast 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.— Paris-Michael K. J. (@ParisJackson) January 11, 2017
@TheMJCast 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— Paris-Michael K. J. (@ParisJackson) January 11, 2017
@TheMJCast where is the respect? they worked through blood sweat and tears for ages to create such profound and remarkable legacies. shameful portrayal— Paris-Michael K. J. (@ParisJackson) January 11, 2017
Urban Myths is a new comedy series that puts its own spin on "(mostly) true stories," according to Sky Arts. The Michael Jackson episode was slated to be the series premiere.
According to Sky Arts' tweets, Fiennes "completely supports" the network's decision not to air the episode. See the network's full statement below.
@SkyArts 1/4 We have taken the decision not to broadcast Elizabeth, Michael & Marlon, a 30min episode from the Sky Arts Urban Myths series.— Sky Arts (@SkyArts) January 13, 2017
@SkyArts 2/4 This decision was taken in light of the concerns expressed by Michael Jackson's immediate family.— Sky Arts (@SkyArts) January 13, 2017
@SkyArts 3/4 We set out to take a light-hearted look at reportedly true events & never intended to cause any offence.— Sky Arts (@SkyArts) January 13, 2017
@SkyArts 4/4 Joseph Fiennes fully supports our decision.— Sky Arts (@SkyArts) January 13, 2017