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Joseph Fiennes Addresses Michael Jackson Casting Backlash

01/28/2016 11:28 EST

Joseph Fiennes is playing Michael Jackson in a new TV movie, and he's just as surprised as you.

Addressing those who might question why he was picked to portray a black star in "Elizabeth, Michael and Marlon," the British actor told Entertainment Tonight that he was "as shocked as you may be."

However, he also brought up Jackson's skin colour, which lightened over the years due to a skin condition called vitiligo and what some believed was skin bleaching.

"He was probably closer to my colour than his original colour," said Fiennes.

The Sky Arts TV special centres around a possibly fictitious story about Jackson, Marlon Brando and Elizabeth Taylor taking a road trip after 9/11, according to the Associated Press.

"Why would I want a white child to play me? I’m a black American." —Michael Jackson

In a statement, the network defended Fiennes' casting.

"We believe in giving producers the creative freedom to cast roles as they wish, within the diversity framework which we have set.''

Many started using the hashtag #whitewashing on Twitter after the news, and The Grio's Chris Witherspoon reposted a 1993 interview in which Jackson told Oprah he never wanted to be played by a white actor.

He called a rumour that he wanted a white child to play him in a commercial "so stupid."

"Why would I want a white child to play me? I’m a black American. I’m a black American. I’m proud to be a black American. I am proud of my race."

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