The British satirical series Urban Myths threw us into a tizzy last year when it announced it had cast notable white person Joseph Fiennes as Michael Jackson in its upcoming batch of new of episodes. Now, via Deadline, the first trailer has been released — including the first look at Fiennes in the role of the pasty-faced, late-stage Jackson.
The role has whipped up so much discussion and controversy that it’s overshadowed all other casting choices in the series of comedic imaginings of famous urban legends — including Game of Thrones‘ Iwan Rheon, a.k.a. Ramsay Bolton, as Adolf freaking Hitler. (And Harry Potter‘s Rupert Grint as “Hitler’s friend.”)
The Michael Jackson segment is centered on a mythical car trip that Jackson supposedly took with Marlon Brando (played by Brian Cox) and Elizabeth Taylor (a perfectly cast Stockard Channing) from New York to the West Coast following the 9/11 attacks. (The unsubstantiated story was first reported by Vanity Fair in 2011.)
The Urban Myths trailer includes a brief shot of Fiennes-as-Jackson, sitting in the passenger’s seat next to Liz Taylor, who’s driving. Not surprisingly, the choice to cast a white actor as Jackson has led to accusations of “whitewashing,” which director Ben Palmer has denied. He recently told the Guardian, “We were casting Michael Jackson in 2001 and that obviously is a challenge in terms of the physical resemblance.” He added, “We were really looking for the performance that could unlock the spirit, and we really think Joe Fiennes has done that. He’s given a really sweet, nuanced, characterful performance.”
The series premieres in the U.K. on Jan. 19 on Sky Arts; there’s no word yet on a U.S. premiere date or channel.