It’s been nearly a year since the announcement that Joseph Fiennes would play Michael Jackson in a TV episode based on a possibly apocryphal story about him, Elizabeth Taylor, and Marlon Brando going on a road trip after 9/11, a year during which the incandescent insanity of that idea has gradually faded away. But now it’s back and burning bright, thanks to the trailer for Sky Arts’ Urban Myths, an eight-part TV series that includes the already infamous Jacko/Liz/Brando episode.
The trailer, which draws from several different episodes, only gives us a short glimpse of Fiennes’ M.J., but that’s enough to show that he’s been made up with skin the color and texture of uncooked pizza dough and a nose that looks like an unintentional tribute to Jackson’s character from The Wiz. In short, it’s a nightmare, even before you take the implications of having a white actor play a man who, whatever his skin tone, was never not black, into account.
The series other characterizations look similarly loopy, if more intentionally (and less offensively) so: Eddie Marsan as Bob Dylan; Iwan Rheon, Game of Thrones’ Ramsay Bolton, as Adolf Hitler (talk about typecasting); Brian Cox as Marlon Brando. Stockard Channing’s Liz Taylor, by contrast, looks like it might be legitimately great—it’s certainly a role she was born to play. Too bad you won’t be able to watch her episode without wincing at Fiennes’ Jackson as well.