Actor Joseph Fiennes has said he is “shocked” to have been cast as Michael Jackson for a new TV programme.

The film will follow the story of Jackson, who apparently travelled across the US by car with Marlon Brando and Elizabeth Taylor following the 9/11 attacks.

Fiennes has responded to criticism of his casting as Jackson, as some say his skin colour makes him unsuitable for the role.

He said he thinks the ‘Thriller’ singer was “probably closer to my colour than his original colour”, when the TV show is set.

US Actress Elizabeth Taylor (L) with sin

According to Sky Arts, which is producing the programme, its team had “creative freedom” in the casting decisions.

Fiennes told Entertainment Tonight: “I’m a white, middle-class guy from London – I’m as shocked [about the casting] as you might be.

“It’s a light comedy look. It’s not in any way malicious. It’s actually endearing. And the more I actually looked at Michael – it’s great, as an actor, to have so much to copy and look at in interviews – the more I kind of fell in love with him.”

He said he believed Jackson had a “pigmentation issue”, meaning the issue of race should not be brought up.

The 30-minute programme, called ‘Elizabeth, Michael and Marlon’, will follow the characters as they leave New York the night before 9/11.

“I don’t know if this is an urban legend or if it’s true, but the three of them couldn’t get out because air space was shut down, so the three of them jumped in a car and went on a road trip,” said Fiennes.

Taylor will be played by Stockard Channing, known for Grease and The West Wing.

Many took to Twitter, using the hashtag ‘#whitewashing’ to show their displeasure at the casting decision.

Others have said they thought the casting announcement was a story from the satirical magazine The Onion.