Joseph – best known for the film Shakespeare In Love - appears alongside Stockard Channing as Elizabeth Taylor and Brian Cox as Marlon Brando in an upcoming episode of the British comedy series Urban Myths.
The show re-enacts rumoured events in the lives of real people such as Bob Dylan, Muhammad Ali and Samuel Beckett. In Joseph’s episode, the story follows a rumoured road trip that Michael Jackson, Elizabeth Taylor and Marlon Brando supposedly took in September 2001 in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.
Watch the trailer for the comedy show below. Story continues after the video.
A trailer for the episode was released earlier this week, and quickly drew a storm of criticism online – including from Michael’s daughter Paris.
Taking to Twitter, Paris wrote: “I’m so incredibly offended by it, as I’m sure plenty of people are as well, and it honestly makes me want to vomit.”
She went on to criticise the portrayal of both her father and her godmother, Elizabeth Taylor.
“Where is the respect?” she asked, adding that it was a “shameful portrayal”.
Paris isn't the only member of the Jackson family making their opinions known. T.J. Jackson, son of Michael's brother Tito, told The Insider in a statement that Michael as "incredible proud of his heritage and of who he was".
"He was proud to be a black man who suffered from the skin disease vitiligo.
"He loved all people as my entire family does. But for a white actor to play my uncle, a black man, is insulting to him, his family, his fans and really the entire black community. This isn't comedy, it's disgusting mockery with no taste," he said.
T.J.'s brother Taj Jackson also took to Twitter to blast the show, writing, "Unfortunately this is what my family has to deal with. No words could express the blatant disrespect."
However, a director who worked on the show has defended Joseph’s casting in an interview with The Guardian.
“We were casting Michael Jackson in 2001 and that obviously is a challenge in terms of the physical resemblance,” Ben Palmer told the publication.
“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.”
Since debuting online earlier this week, the clip has already been met with calls for a boycott from Michael Jackson fans.
As for Joseph himself, the actor previously defended his decision to take on a “wonderful challenge” when the news first broke last year.
“I felt this was a wonderful challenge, I read the script and it’s very funny,” he told AFPTV.
“It’s a satire, it’s just a 20-minute satire. It’s a sketch about a story that could have been a legend or could have been true. So we’ll see what the audience make of it.”