After sparking a torrent of online hate over the casting of a white actor as the late pop icon Michael Jackson, the U.K. broadcaster Sky Arts announced today that it will not air the episode at the center of the firestorm.
The episode of the British comedy program “Urban Myths” features Joseph Fiennes in the role of the pop superstar. As we reported Thursday, Jackson’s daughter Paris and other family members were among those expressing outrage over the casting of Fiennes.
A trailer that was released to promote the program has been pulled from circulation.
Sky released a statement today saying: “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 lighthearted look at reportedly true events and never intended to cause any offense.”
The episode, which had been scheduled to air Jan. 19, focuses on the urban myth of a 2001 road trip that involved Jackson along with Elizabeth Taylor (played by Stockard Channing) and Marlon Brando (Brian Cox).
The Hollywood Reporter notes that a petition was launched to boycott the episode, and had drawn more than 20,000 signatures.
Fiennes commented on the controversy, telling THR he understood why people were “up in arms.”
The publication quotes Fiennes saying: “The decision with the casting and the producers — I wrangled with it, I was confused and shocked at what might come my way. And I knew the sensitivity, especially to Michael’s fans and to Michael’s family. It doesn’t negate who he was.”