White, British actor Joseph Fiennes doubled down on his defense of playing the late, black, pop-music icon Michael Jackson in a new project and advocated for “colorblind casting” at “all levels” of entertainment this week.
Last month it was announced Fiennes will play the King of Pop in an upcoming British TV production titled Elizabeth, Michael and Marlon. The Sky Arts production is based on a rumored Vanity Fair story about how Jackson attempted to flee New York City, along with stars Marlon Brando and Elizabeth Taylor, following the September 11, 2001, terror attacks.
During a wide-ranging interview with The Hollywood Reporter this week, the actor elaborated on his reasoning for accepting the role, and said the subsequent outrage is part of an “important conversation” about diversity in entertainment.
Saying that he understands why people are “up in arms,” he explained the outrage is a reminder of the importance of “colorblind casting.”
Fiennes then recalled witnessing a National Theatre act in which a black actress played Marilyn Monroe in “After the Fall,” which he said critics refused to watch over the casting choice. He added:
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. I think it’s essential, otherwise we wouldn’t get amazing actors to play Hamlet and even changing sex as well. It’s important because all actors bring something fresh and new. We’re looking for imagination and interpretation, and it doesn’t steal anything away from the true identity of that person. 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 thing is, the playing field is not fair right now, and that’s absolutely evident. This is quite right, why people are up in arms. I’m a full believer in making the playing field fair. When it is fair, we can have a conversation about this project and it wouldn’t cause outrage.
Fiennes added of his upcoming role’s relation to this year’s #OscarsSoWhite controversy: “The reaction is important — I’d never shy away from that. 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.”
Read the rest of the interview here.