Joseph Fiennes defends Michael Jackson portrayal

'Urban Myths' was axed following an outcry led by Michael's daughter Paris Jackson, who branded the programme 'offensive' and 'insulting'.

Actor Joseph Fiennes. Picture: AFP.

LOS ANGELES - Joseph Fiennes insists his portrayal of Michael Jackson wasn't offensive and wishes the Urban Myths show had been broadcast.

The 46-year-old actor had shot an episode of Sky Arts series Urban Myths centred around the late King of Pop's rumoured road trip from New York to Los Angeles with Elizabeth Taylor and Marlon Brando following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, but the show was axed following an outcry led by Michael's daughter Paris Jackson, who branded the programme "offensive" and "insulting".

However, Joseph insists the satirical short was no different to the sort of sketch regularly broadcast on Saturday Night Live, which previously saw Amy Poehler play the Thriller hitmaker.

He said: "It's a satire, so we have to look at it through that lens. The depiction of the three characters is very satirical, comic, lighthearted, to examine the disconnect of iconic celebrity.

"But it's good that people stand up for [what they believe], and I'm all for that. I'm all for that discussion, and it means a lot to me and my fellow actors to talk about casting, getting it right, getting it wrong, and then if there's a mistake, to examine that mistake and talk about it.

"Maybe the controversy is good if it brings about discussion. But it is satire. It's a 20-minute sketch, and it's lighthearted.

"It's funny, because not so long ago, there was an SNL sketch where an actress played Michael Jackson and no one batted an eyelid.

"It's no less offensive than anything on SNL. That's the level of offence."

And though Sky previously said Joseph "fully supported" their decision to scrap the programme, he has suggested he felt it should still have been broadcast.

He told Vulture: "Should we shut down the arts and directors and writers based on that, which has happened?

"If you don't like the comedian, don't go see him, but do you shut him and his satirical material down? Do you become a totalitarian state where you go, that's offensive?"

However, he also admitted he would be "deeply regretful and embarrassed" if people had objected to his casting for race reasons, though he does wish people had had the chance to see the full show.

He said: "If it comes anywhere near that criminal and hateful sensibility, then I'm deeply regretful and embarrassed, but there's a part of me that would love people to see it and get into a discussion.

"I'd love to sit down and examine that as a subject. But that is abhorrent, and if it treads anywhere near that, then it's good that it's shut down."

And the British star insists he has no regrets about taking on the part.

Asked if he regrets the role, he said: "No. In life, you can't avoid getting into hot water. It's all lessons and learning.

"As an actor, you take on roles, and nobody has seen it, so nobody can even have the full comment because they haven't witnessed it.

"But it's all about discussion, and I'm up for having a debate, talking about it, and not shying away from it. If it brings about debate and helps change things for the good, then I'm all for it."